According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, exotic pets are not so exotic anymore. Dr. Heidi Hoefer, owner and Head of Veterinary Services at Island Exotic Veterinary Care, agrees about their increase in popularity.
“A lot of them require less time and smaller space, so for people who are working long hours or are in an apartment where they’re not allowed to have a dog or a cat … and they want … a smaller companion, the exotics are perfect for that.”
Unfortunately, there are only a handful of area animal hospitals whose specialty is exotic pets. Fortunately, Dr. Hoefer’s is in our backyard.
Though her Huntington Station practice opened in 2007, Hoefer has over 30 years of exotic experience, including a stint nearby. “… I was working doing my exotic animals out of another animal hospital that I shared with dogs and cats. And then, after ten years of doing that, I said you know I think these special animals [exotics] need their own spot….” She said, “We have a quiet hospital … we go slow, we handle them gently, we wrap them in towels … we keep the lights low whenever possible,” and, “We’ve seen over 20,000 animals here.”
But what kind of creatures come to IEVC, exactly? “[B]asically,… anything that’s not a dog or a cat that … a person might own in their household,” Hoefer said, adding, “We’re looking at rabbits and guinea pigs and ferrets and lizards and snakes and turtles.” Her most exotic patients? Sugar gliders.
As for her own pets, Hoefer has a mix of the traditional and the unusual at home: Five parrots, five chickens, two rats, and a dog, cat, and fish. Then there are the ones at work. “I have a canary, a rabbit, and two cockatiels that live here. They’re like our office mascots.” All of them help her do her job more effectively. “You just know them better after you live with them. I’ve lived with and owned as a pet almost everything that I treat, so I have an owner’s perspective, as well.”
Other ways IEVC stands out from the competition: Hoefer’s Board Certification in Avian Practice, and residency training in Avian and Exotic Pets. “There’s only a couple of us who have that on the Island.”
IEVC also tries to keep up with the latest and the greatest. “It’s changed in that … we have better technology,” such as digital X-rays, digital ultrasound, laser therapy, and new lab equipment.
There used to be one doctor, but now there are three. Plus, there are receptionists, assistants, and four licensed veterinary technicians.
Hoefer is not planning to expand further, however. “Not at this time. We want to be able to continue to give personal care to each one of our animals…. You get too big and you can’t do that.”
Her favorite part of her career? “Making families happy by providing care to their animals.” Apparently, she and her staff are doing just that: As one client put it, “I’ve had rats, rabbits, geckos, and a bird over the years. I would never take any of them anywhere else.”
Photos of the iguana and of Dr. Hoefer with an Angora rabbit are from Island Exotic Veterinary Care.