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Meet America’s Top 10 Veterinary Professionals And Vote For Your Favorites!

Voting now open for the 2019 American Humane Hero Veterinarian
and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards™, sponsored by Zoetis Petcare

WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, May 9, 2019 — American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, is pleased to announce that voting is now open in the sixth annual American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards™, sponsored by Zoetis Petcare (a U.S. business unit of Zoetis). Following the review of more than 250 nominations from animal lovers across the country, a blue-ribbon judging panel of veterinary professionals and animal care experts has selected 10 of the country’s top veterinarians and veterinary nurses as finalists. Pet owners and animal lovers alike are invited to visit every day between now and August 8 at 12 pm Pacific Time to vote for 2019’s top American Hero Veterinarian and American Hero Veterinary Nurse.

The winners will be flown to Los Angeles to be honored on October 5 as part of the ninth annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards®, sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and Zoetis Petcare. The Hero Dog Awards will air nationwide as a two-hour special on Hallmark Channel this fall.

“These 10 finalists are inspiring examples of the veterinary community,” said Tara Bidgood, DVM, PhD, DACVCP, executive director, Zoetis Petcare Veterinary Professional Services. “The American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards are Zoetis Petcare’s way of helping to put a spotlight on their vital work. Congratulations to these extraordinary finalists and all our veterinary professionals who so work hard every day to protect and give better, healthier lives to the beloved animal members of our families.”

“Animals are often heroes to us, and we need to honor and recognize those who are heroes to them,” said Robin Ganzert, Ph.D., president and CEO of American Humane. “These dedicated professionals work behind the scenes to keep our best friends happy and healthy, and for that we thank them.”

To read each of the finalists’ stories, as told by the people who nominated them, and to vote daily for one of the five finalists in each of the American Hero Veterinarian and American Hero Veterinary Nurse categories, please visit

Meet the 10 heroic veterinarian and veterinary nurse finalists!

Here are the nomination essays written by their supporters:

American Hero Veterinarian finalists

Dr. Terry Morris (Durham, NC) – Dr. Terry Morris, MS, DVM, PhD is my nominee and deserves the title of American Hero Veterinarian for many reasons, however the key reason I am nominating her today is because she is the founder and driving force behind the nonprofit, Vets to Vets United (, which pairs service members with rescue dogs and helps to train, rehabilitate, support and develop teams that not only help this initial pairing, but also serve the greater community. Dr. Morris is a veterinarian and the Gold Star daughter of a U.S Airman killed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Her passion, drive, incredible skills and community focus are creating a ripple effect not only in Durham, North Carolina but one that expands past this boundary in multiple ways. Dr. Morris has led initiatives for mental health support for veterans, and supports local rescue dogs through this nonprofit she founded (see link above). I have been involved in supporting Vets to Vets United, and have seen Dr. Morris in action, training new dogs, pairing veterans with these pups, providing outreach to families facing the deployment of service members, providing therapy to wounded soldiers – the list…endless. Her impact…indescribable. Her passion…unstoppable. Choosing Dr. Morris as the American Hero Veterinarian is not only a wise choice, it also would be an amazing choice and one that would honor her, the veterans, the shelter pups, and more. Thank you for your consideration!

Dr. Matt O’Connor (Chicago, IL) – Dr. Matt O’ Connor, senior staff veterinarian at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, oversees the care of 32,000 animals at the aquarium, which includes everything from a 700-pound California sea lion to a less-than-10-gram juvenile Amazon dart frog. Through his commitment to providing animals with the best possible care, he works closely with a variety of teams from aquarists and trainers to researchers and students. Dr. Matt also works tirelessly on a wide spectrum of research and fieldwork – a key pillar of the responsibilities of Shedd’s role in innovating and furthering animal care knowledge and processes at the aquarium. This past year, Dr. Matt flew to Madagascar with the Turtle Survival Alliance to provide onsite medical care and relocation assistance for nearly 10,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises. He also joined a collaborative head-start program with a local forest preserve district to benefit a state endangered species, welcoming 23 Blanding’s turtle hatchlings for a year until they are big enough to be released back into the wild at a protected site. Prior to his time at Shedd, he completed conservation medicine projects involving health assessments of the amphibians in Georgia, mortality rates of red-eyed tree frogs in Costa Rica and radio tracking of endangered populations of indigo snakes and hellbenders. He also helped in the recovery and release of a critically endangered turtle species in the Philippines when thousands of the turtles – once thought to be extinct – were found kept by smugglers.

Dr. Jamie Peyton (Davis, CA) – Dr. Jamie Peyton is a Critical Care Veterinarian and the Chief of Integrative Medicine at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Her innovative approaches to providing pain relief and wound healing have benefitted companion animals and wildlife alike, in many instances, literally saving their lives. She focuses on a whole-patient approach to pain by incorporating treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, laser, TENS, and underwater treadmill therapies to help rehabilitate animals following surgery or those suffering from chronic painful conditions such as osteoarthritis. In 2018, Dr. Peyton helped save the lives of three bears and a mountain lion that suffered severe burns in the California wildfires by applying tilapia skins to their badly burned paws. These animals survived and were successfully released back into the wild. She went on to treat companion animals and pets severely injured in the 2018 Carr wildfire. My German Shepherd, a three-legged dog with severe congenital joint issues, has been receiving treatment under Dr. Peyton’s guidance twice a week since April 2016. Without this care, he would not be able to maintain a high quality of life. There are countless other companion animals benefiting from this service. Dr. Peyton also maintains a private rescue/sanctuary at her ranch in Northern California, special needs animals a home and providing the physical and emotional care that they require. Few people’s dedication and innovative techniques impact the lives of those in need (domestic animals, their owners, and wildlife) as Dr. Peyton does.

Dr. Bryan Waldridge (Versailles, KY) – Dr. Bryan Waldridge is the American Humane Hero Veterinarian of the year in the eyes of the technicians who have had the privilege to work with him. Dr. Waldridge graduated from Auburn University. He has worked at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital and Kentucky Equine Research, where he participated in equine nutrition research, development of new products, and withdrawal times of commonly used equine drugs. He was a treating veterinarian at the Atlanta Olympic Games and a regulatory veterinarian at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup. In 2016, he joined Park Equine Hospital at Woodford where he shares his wisdom, knowledge, and experience with his coworkers. He has dedication and drive like no other, as a volunteer veterinarian at Old Friends Thoroughbred Farm for retired racehorses to caring for many rescued horses that survived and were rehomed. One such case was an emaciated older Tennessee Walking Horse mare that had to be admitted into her stall upon a rescue glide because she was unable to stand and walk. After weeks of constant care, she went on to a local equine adoption center with a chance for a better life. Through his involvement with this horse, he was able to meet and work with a Kentucky state representative to help change equine cruelty laws. He has been there for animal owners in times of need, whether they are saying goodbye to their horse, llama, or goat, and offers a shoulder to cry on. He is a mentor for youth in 4-H. He is the definition of a hero veterinarian.

Dr. Jacob Rehard (Montrose, CO) – I have worked with Dr. Jake for almost 10 years in our rural mountain community. He is a kind, quiet soul with a sense of humor appreciated by all who know him. In a time when student debts are soaring and rural veterinary medicine is underserved, he has committed his life to serving the ranchers and pet owners in our community. Less than two years ago, he opened Black Canyon Veterinary Clinic, and every year since, this amazing team he built has won the prestigious distinction of “Best Veterinary Clinic in the Valley.” I am honored to work alongside this man who grew his business knowledge in his spare time in order to manage in an honest and responsible manner, and who believes that providing emergency care 24/7 to our community is important enough to give up 50 percent of his personal time, and who also has served as the local shelter vet for several years providing help to low-cost clinics. Jake also plans to start an emergency clinic in our small town to provide relief to the other veterinarians who are suffering the same work burden. At BCVC, where we fight for a healthy culture of positivity, peace and healing, good work/family balance, I have seen him become a man who stands up for what is right and good, starting with the workplace he has built.

American Hero Veterinary Nurse finalists

Julie Antonellis (Leesburg, VA) – Julie Antonellis, LVT, VTS(ECC) is a role model in our field. She has a passion for emergency critical care and shares this passion with her team and our community. In her decades of work as an LVT and Veterinary Technician Specialist in Emergency Critical Care, Julie is an advocate for her patients and skillfully cares for those who are critically ill. She has served as our technician and assistant supervisor for over 10 years. Julie has provided many continuing education events to our referring community and is often requested by name. In 2018 she was appointed as the Northern Virginia Regional Director of Virginia Association of LVTs. Julie was also appointed by ACVECCT as a mentor for those seeking to obtain their Veterinary Technician Specialist credential in Emergency Critical Care. Later in 2018 she joined Penn Foster as an adjunct instructor for their veterinary technician program. Her passion continues as she coordinates our 11 student technicians’ learning experience by organizing study groups, online article review, and observation hours with other veterinary specialties. She recently submitted a Critical Care Boot Camp proposal to immerse primary care veterinarian employees in critical care nursing training, the goal being to create opportunity to save lives outside of the ER/CC setting by educating our DVM care teams. We are very proud of Julie and her accomplishments. She is making a mark on our industry and we are fortunate to have her as one of our own.

Angel Martin (Lawrenceville, GA) – We became part of the Russell Ridge Animal Hospital family through unfortunate circumstances but now consider the events leading up to our introduction to be a true blessing. As a new rescue organization with no budget, when we encountered a senior bloodhound with an advanced mammary tumor at animal control with her card already flipped (kill listed), saving her seemed impossible. We reached out to many places asking for assistance, including our regular service providers, but were turned away. In what became an extraordinary moment in our organization’s history, Angel Martin with Russell Ridge Animal Hospital, where we had no previous relationship, agreed to fund the surgery through their CARE Fund (Companion Animal Rescue & Emergency Fund) just based on photographs. Today, this bloodhound, who had been hours away from death, is healthy and has found her forever home. Some months later, another of our hard-luck cases was accepted by the CARE Fund and had survived a bullet wound to his head. Angel is an integral part of an amazing clinic staff that prides itself on community involvement. Some of Angel’s other exceptional contributions include organizing an annual 5K event to grow contributions for the CARE Fund, hosting a pet pictures with Santa event and maintaining the clinic’s active social media presence. Angel is also an integral part of the hospital’s AAHA accreditation, 4.9 out of a 5.0- star rating on google reviews and multi-year “Best of Gwinnett” award wins.

Kayla Meyer-Pope (Travelers Rest, SC) – Kayla has been an incredible vet tech and animal hero for years. She spearheaded the successful effort to raise money to cover the costs of a severely injured dog hit by a car on the highway and brought to CPAH for its medical issues. She raised enough money and more to cover Cleo’s surgery and rehabilitation. I ultimately adopted Cleo. When another of my dogs ate a pencil that perforated her intestine, I was away and couldn’t be with my dog during this traumatic experience. The heartbreaking decision was made to euthanize, and Kayla sat with my Minnie speaking to her and loving on her as she passed. Kayla knew it devastated me to both lose Minnie and not be there for her. Kayla stood in my stead and helped Minnie pass covered in love. Not only this, the next week Kayla comes to my home one evening with a framed picture of my precious pup and her paw print in clay. These are just two instances of Kayla going above and beyond. And I’m just one person who takes their pet to Cleveland Park, many others have similar stories. Kayla deserves recognition for her selfless dedication to animals and their healthcare.

Amy Edwards (Roswell, GA) – Amy is an exceptional veterinary nurse and helps to maintain a high standard of care regarding animal dentistry and surgery. She spends her spare time traveling and teaching others in her field veterinary dentistry. She has helped to bring a massive amount of awareness regarding the importance of including veterinary nurses in dentistry training and also takes on students wishing to become credentialed in veterinary dentistry. Amy has the right amount of patience and kindness to deal with difficult clients and patients. Working with her is an honor and I have learned so much from her. I think it’s the least she deserves for all of her dedication to veterinary dentistry! She had a double bypass at 40 years old last year due to a heart attack and has come back better than ever. She has remained strong and steady throughout life’s problems and I would love to see her hard work and determination get rewarded. Thank you for your time and consideration

Jacqueline Geary (Westbury, NY) – Jackie, is our ICU/ER Supervisor at VREC Westbury and has three young children at home. Jackie is a supervisor who still works on the floor with her staff. She works overnights and weekends in solidarity with her staff not because she has to, but so they have a leader in the building in those busy days and tough hours. Jackie not only is an LVT, but she is working toward her VTS, always looking to advance her skills in her profession. She has helped many of our assistants who wanted to take the next step to becoming technicians by helping them enroll in Penn Foster and then mentoring them once they were in the program, setting up study sessions at her house or staying late at the hospital. Everyone who has been enrolled in Penn Foster and utilized Jackie’s study groups have all passed and are now LVTs. Just as she is a champion for her staff, she is a champion for our patients and clients. Her passion for and love of animals is why she is in this profession. The level of caring shown to each and every one of our patients and their families far exceeds the call of her position. Jackie is a dedicated, compassionate and empathetic technician.

About American Humane

American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit

About Zoetis

Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2018, the company generated annual revenue of $5.8 billion with approximately 10,000 employees. For more information, visit


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