Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

From the Ex, with L*O*V*E

Humane Society, Exhibition create unique vet surgery viewing experience

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At the Red River Ex's Discovery Place, it's all about the L*O*V*E. which, in this case, stands for Live Operating Viewing Experience.

Don't worry, they're not pulling people from the stands to remove gallbladders or perform nose jobs for kicks and giggles. Instead, this is a joint venture between the Ex and the Winnipeg Humane Society that will highlight elective surgeries on cats.

Garth Rogerson, CEO of the Red River Ex, is excited about the L*O*V*E Animal Hospital. His goal is to "educate in a unique way." And it will be unique.

Few of us have seen animal operations on television, even fewer of us have seen them in person. At the Ex, patrons will not only witness surgeries, but will hear local veterinarians describe on a microphone what is happening. When operations are not scheduled at the pet centre, videos of the surgeries will play on television screens.

Rogerson and Bill McDonald, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society, want to reassure visitors that the health and safety of the animals are paramount in this exhibit. Therefore, local veterinarians were consulted to ensure that the L*O*V*E hospital replicates the standards of a typical Manitoba veterinary clinic. They also obtained the approval of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association.

The operating room is essentially "a building within a building," said Rogerson. It features windows for visitors to view the operation, while the rest of the walls are comprised of special panels that are both soundproof and bacteria-resistant. These special panels, said Roberson, will also prevent the animals from hearing the audience.

Once the surgery is complete, felines will be placed in a recovery room and then taken back to the WHS. All of the animals set be spayed or neutered are WHS cats that would otherwise have received the surgeries in-house. Several precautions were taken to ensure that these cats will not be placed under undue stress.

McDonald said that the L*O*V*E animal hospital is not much different from the WHS clinic. He knows what he's talking about, since the experience of needing to recreate a sterile clinic and a calm recovery room is not new to him. The WHS often sends veterinarians and assistants to visit remote locations to care for animals in need.

The WHS clinic has windows for visitors to view operations without disturbing the vet or animals. When I interviewed McDonald, we watched a cat being neutered. It took only 10 minutes. For the squeamish, like me, you should know there was little to no blood during the procedure.

McDonald explained that the reason it is important to get cats neutered is that two intact (not sterilized) kittens can explode into 1,700 in just over a year. Many may end up being killed by motorists, hunted as prey, starved or frozen to death. These felines don't receive veterinary care, so they may become infected with communicable diseases.

If you read this column regularly, I'm likely preaching to the choir. Maybe this is why the L*O*V*E hospital is such a good idea. As much as I'd like to think 19-year-old cat lovers read me regularly, I realize they're likely heading out for fun with friends instead. Many people are unaware of animal-related issues. The L*O*V*E program allows people to mix the entertainment of the Red River Ex with an educational opportunity. If only McDonald and Rogerson could find a way to make math this interesting to me, my husband wouldn't have to do my taxes.

But McDonald's goal isn't merely to highlight the importance of spay and neuter programs. He also wants to "promote adoption of homeless animals." All of the animals having surgery at the Ex will be available for adoption once they've gone through the normal recovery process.

Rogerson wants to stress that there are also other animal-related venues worth exploring at the Discovery Place. He's pleased to note that the bulk of educational and entertainment exhibits are local.

It's an interesting concept. The wildlife rehabilitation centre and the prairie exhibit will both highlight local birds and critters. There was a time when Manitobans could rattle off the names of local birds and wildlife without a thought. It is no longer the case. Many children see movies or read books which focus upon exotic animals from other nations. They grow up without the knowledge of our local wildlife. These exhibits might help rectify that.

There's also a focus on our agricultural ties. These shows and displays range from hands-on experiences with live farm animals to an Agri-magic show.

While the L*O*V*E Animal Hospital only covers one part of Discovery Place, maybe the entire animal-related show could be described under the same heading. After all, caring for our fellow creatures require understanding, respect and, you guessed it, love.

-- -- --

The Red River Ex runs June 15-24. Shows and other exhibits include an EXtreme dog-grooming competition and EXtreme dog performances. Dogs with jobs will also be on site. Look for the Office of the Fire Commissioner (search and rescue), St. John Ambulance (pet first aid), the CNIB (seeing eye dog) and RCMP (K-9 unit)

For times and locations of the events or exhibitions, contact the Red River Ex at: (204)888-6990 or

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 5, 2012 C5

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