No Dogs or Cats Allowed. (Ferrets, Wallabies and Lizards, Fine.)


Story and photos by Jacqueline Silberbush

Two weeks after adopting my precious Bruce the Bunny, I noticed she could not stand up. I’ve had rabbits half my life, but never considered them to be an exotic pet until after seeing two vets yesterday.  I was finally referred to a specialist in “birds and exotics”.

After the second vet told me, “Our plan of action really depends on how invested you are in the animal,” I began to doubt seeing another person was igoing to help. But when I finally arrived at the Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics in Bedford, staff were rushing towards Bruce and taking care of her right away.

Within minutes, they updated me on her status and kindly explained the severity of her condition. When it came time to decide what to do, I had three veterinarians in the room with me holding my hand, guiding my decision, and talking me through it.

One of the most important things I learned from Dr. Laurie Hess, the owner of the Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics, is that all animals require check-ups. Most veterinarians are specialized only for dogs and cats.

This hospital takes  birds, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, chinchillas, smaller rodents (rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, degus), reptiles, amphibians, and less commonly seen exotic species such as wallabies, kinkajous, fennec foxes, and opossums. They do not treat dogs or cats.

“The insides of an exotic animal are nothing like a dog or cat.” says Hess. “Things have changed a lot in the medical field and it’s a lot to keep up with.  Most owners wait until their animals get sick then don’t know where to go and end up taking them to a vet or to pet stores whose employees don’t know enough.”

One of the reasons Bruce’s case became so severe was that she was previously looked at by a vet who did not know enough about rabbits to detect anything unusual.

“What we do is very serious, says Hess. “Pets are luxuries and should be thought about ahead of time.”

The Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics is the only bird and exotics specialty referral hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in NY and one of only three in the world.

Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics, 709 Bedford Road,  Bedford Hills

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