By Kathy L. Collins

Recently, Dr. Catherine Stanton DVM and Dr. Norman Busciglio DVM (owner), veterinarians with Santa Cruz Animal Clinic in Brandon, performed surgery on Kaia, a 10-and-a-half year old Bengal tiger. Kaia resides at Zooville USA in Plant City. Kaia required emergency pyometra surgery.

“She had an infected uterus that can be fatal if left untreated” explained Dr. Stanton.

Kaia was transported to Santa Cruz Animal Clinic, which is one of the only facilities in the state that not only has specialized equipment ranging from tranquilizer darts to specialty calibrated lab equipment, but compounded drugs and the experience, via a specialized modified van.

The veterinarians at Santa Cruz Animal Clinic have been treating and seeing exotic animals since the 1990’s, which is when John Lebron joined the clinic.

“I’ve always had a fascination with exotic animals and have treated wildlife in the past. When John came on board he brought many of the exotic facilities/clients with him, which has allowed me to become much more involved in care of exotic animals,” said Dr. Stanton.

According to Lebron, this was the second tiger surgery of the year.

“But this year alone, we have treated bears, pocket pets, cobras, alligators, African porcupines, bobcats, lions, parrots, and African civets to name a few,” said Lebron.

While the whole process took only three hours, it was not an easy surgery to perform. “The two primary concerns are, first and foremost, the safety of everyone involved. Secondly the safety of the tiger during transport and while it is under anesthesia. Every animal of this size and nature presents its own unique challenge and level of difficulty,” explained Lebron.

“The large size of the animal and anatomy increases the difficulty of the ovariohysterectomy. The infection within the uterus itself can lead to further complications such as spread of infection,” explained Dr. Busciglio.

The surgery was successful and the tiger is back at Zooville USA.

Santa Cruz Animal Clinic is located at 431 W. Robertson St. in Brandon. For more information, call 685-7751 or visit

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