Slatersville vet adds exotic pets to the patient mix

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Emily Gardner holds bearded dragon Sandy.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – From sugar gliders and bearded dragons to fluffy pet bunnies, a new vet in Slatersville is now ready to treat far more than just cats and dogs.

Emily Gardner has joined Slatersville Veterinary Clinic, with plans to care for some of the business’s less traditional patients.

A native of upstate New York, Gardner received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Oberlin College in Ohio. She spent several years working in small animal hospitals, volunteering with retired thoroughbred racehorses and at a wildlife rehabilitation center before receiving a doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. Her internships there included time at the Philadelphia Zoo and the ASPCA shelter medicine facility in North Carolina, along with a year at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, where she focused on emergency medicine.

Gardner then took a job at an exotics practice in Pittsburgh, Penn.

“My caseload was reptiles, small mammals, small birds – a wide, wide range,” she said.

She would spend two years at the job before deciding to relocate to New England to be closer to family.

“I was looking for a mid-sized city environment,” Gardner told NRI NOW.

Meanwhile, in North Smithfield, owner Suzanne Scott was looking to expand her practice in Slatersville Plaza. Opened in 2022, the business has focused on routine and preventative care, growing steadily in the space that once held Mastery Martial Arts.

Scott was not initially planning to take on exotic pets at the business, but Gardner said she was happy to learn the owner was open to the idea.

“After interviewing here, I decided this was where I wanted to end up,” she said.

Gardner recently moved to Providence, and saw her first bunny in the space at 900 Victory Highway last week.

“I’m settling right in,” she said.

The vet said she tends to focus on small reptiles, and won’t be able to treat birds at the North Smithfield business due to lack of the proper support staff and equipment. She also won’t treat anything with hooves, and anyone hoping to stop in with a pet cheetah or other obscure wildlife won’t find care here.

“We are not allowed to see animals that are not legal in the state of Rhode Island,” Gardner explained.

She has, however, worked with Tegus – large, long-tailed lizards typically found in South America that are legal in the Ocean State with a permit.

“It’s not a common pet because it can be quite tricky to handle,” she said.

The vet anticipates a busy schedule for a service in high demand, typically only found at universities or large, specialty hospitals.

“Most veterinarians don’t see exotics,” Gardner said. “The demand is quite high.”

She noted that owners of exotics shouldn’t wait until the pets are sick, and would be wise to schedule a wellness exam.

“We can catch things that you won’t catch at home,” Gardner said.

To book your appointment with Gardner call Slatersville Veterinary Clinic at (401) 363-0500.

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