The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is celebrating National Veterinary Technician Week, October 14 through October 20, by profiling our hard-working vet tech trio, starting with Stephanie Elliott.
Veterinary technicians are critical to the day-to-day function of veterinary practices, and play vital roles in preserving animal health and welfare. National Veterinary Technician Week provides an opportunity to recognize veterinary technicians’ contributions. First celebrated in 1993, National Veterinary Technician Week takes place in the third week of October each year.
How long have you worked at the OKC Zoo?
SE: Two years
What inspired you to become a vet tech?
I can’t even remember when I decided I was going to work with animals. It was always just expected. In high school I started working as a kennel assistant at a vet clinic and worked up to veterinary assisting. I’ve always had a connection to animals. I was drawn not only to pets, but wildlife as well.
What prepared you for a career of caring for exotic wildlife?
I knew from the time I was in grade school that some day I would be working with wild animals. I just didn’t know in what aspect. Every vacation required a trip to the zoo and every research paper was on a tiger or an elephant. I studied Biology and Zoology as my high school electives. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in ZOO science from Friends University, which involved a year of preceptorship at the Sedgwick County Zoo. I worked as a zookeeper for a couple years and did wildlife rehabilitation. Eventually I decided that I wanted to return to the medical field and decided to put the two together to become a Zoo Tech.
Do you have a favorite memory?
Seeing Kairavi being born stands out right now.
Is there a typical day in the life of a vet tech?
Haha. No. The day can be anywhere from spending 8 hours in the lab, looking at blood, poop and urine samples; trimming nails and beaks on birds; anesthetizing a lion that doesn’t feel well or watching an elephant give birth!
What is your favorite part about working at the OKC Zoo?
The commitment that this facility has to not only the residents at the zoo, but also their counterparts in the wild.
Do you have a favorite OKC Zoo animal? If you do, why are they your favorite?
“Puddles” the fishing cat. I spent a lot of time with him from the time he was a day old while we were hand rearing him. I still love watching him experience new environments and enrichment.
What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
It’s hard to pick just one. I have been blessed to be able to watch Lola accept the orphaned tiger cub, Zoya, as one of her own; help Puddles to grow, thrive and become an ambassador for his species; and see Asha go through a two year pregnancy and give birth to Kairavi.
What do you want OKC Zoo fans to know about vet techs?
A vet tech is not only an animal nurse, but an anesthetist, a radiology technician, a dental hygienist, a surgery assistant, a phlebotomist, a lab technician, a pharmacist and so much more. There’s no task that isn’t in a vet tech’s job description!