Deerfield Beach veterinarian Dr. Susan Kelleher has been bitten by birds, possums, skunks, rabbits, lizards … the list goes on. Actually, it might be simpler to name the animals she hasn’t been bitten by.
“I’ve needed stitches, but there’s been nothing horrific,” says Kelleher, of Broward Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital, who, let’s just say, keeps current with her rabies vaccinations.
It’s that calm demeanor, her love for animals and 30 years of expertise that last year attracted cable’s Nat Geo WILD to Kelleher for a reality show. Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER recently wrapped shooting its second season, which will air this fall.
Filming or not, Kelleher and her staff never know what to expect on any given day: Patients have ranged from a 6-gram chameleon (the size of three pennies) to a 350-pound tiger (“That was interesting,” she says), to a number of iguanas (fun fact: they can be potty trained).
She’s performed abdominal surgery on a koi fish, a type of nose job on a bunny, and wellness checks on rats, monkeys and ferrets. Her most unusual client to date: An anteater.
“It’s never boring,” says Kelleher, who lives in Loxahatchee with her firefighter/paramedic husband, three kids, three birds, two dogs, two cats, two turtles and a tortoise.
Even as a kid in Buffalo, N.Y., she took in strays. “People would bring me baby birds and bunnies and I would try to raise them,” says Kelleher, 47.
She practices a holistic approach, constantly educating owners about how best to care for their pets. “For example, a bird needs fresh air, sunshine, the right diet and a rich environment,” she says. “When an owner is compliant and you see that bird get well before your eyes, and their dull feathers begin to shine … There’s nothing better.”
–Felicia S. Levine