Animals I Live With: Dr. Erika Sullivan

Animals I Live With is an occasional series in which we profile people and their pets. Want to be featured? Get in touch here.

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Dr. Erika Sullivan is Because Animal’s Chief Veterinary Officer. Also known as The Globetrotting Veterinarian, Dr. Erika graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College, where she led a successful campaign to end the euthanasia of animals used in surgical training. Erika makes routine visits to Thailand where she treats disabled elephants; leads a yearly spay-neuter clinic in India; and is a PADI Open Water Scuba Diving Instructor, which allows her to better promote the protection of marine life. She currently lives in Adelaide, Australia, where she works at a vet clinic that sees tropical birds as some of her patients, a few of which she brings home!

How many pets do you have?

I have two rescued budgies and another came in to the clinic this week with no one to take it so I may have a third! I’m not supposed to have pets where I live but I move the birds on inspection day. I still pay for a foster cat in Toronto as well.

Names, please.

Singha and Barbie.

Barbie was named when a co-worker came in to work on the Australia Day holiday and said, ‘It’s Australia Day, let’s have a barbie aka BBQ (a bit of a joke from my co-worker knowing that I’m vegan) and so she is named after Shrimp on the Barbie! Side note: Barbie turned out to be male, his cere changed to blue, but I kept the name anyway!

Singha was named by my flatmate at the time who was pining for his wife and begging me to bring home a friend from the clinic. I’m not supposed to have pets but Singha was going to be put down as she had mites and was really unwell. I knew she just needed treatment and to be given a chance. I was about to go on a trip to Singapore and my flatmate said he would look after her. We called her Singha, which means lion. She looks so good now and is so happy.

How long have you been friends?

Singha for five years and Barbie for three years. I built them a massive outdoor enclosure, I don’t believe in caged birds. I’ve always wanted to have birds. When I was a vet in Toronto I had two cats and it didn’t seem right to have prey and carnivore living side by side! It’s a really nice change for me to have birds.

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They are really happy. They talk to the wild birds outside and that keeps them entertained and I share my veggies with them. When it gets cold out or it’s sideways raining, I put them in a large cage that is on wheels and bring them inside. They are spoiled.

How do you like to spend time together?

I’m one of those weird people who likes to clean, it’s relaxing down time for me.I put on music and if the music is loud the birds are hilarious, they love to sing to it. They like certain sound frequencies, especially Bollywood music. I give them new fresh fruits and veggies to see what they like.

I’ve learned a lot about being a bird owner having them. Over the years I’ve taken in rabbits and guinea pigs and rats, they all break my heart. Rescuing these animals has made me a better vet and it helps me give advice to my clients.

What do you do to keep Singa and Barbie healthy?

I clean their enclosure every 6 or 7 days. I keep the perches clean so they aren’t stepping in poop, empty the bowls, freshen the water, give them different treats to see how they interact with different foods.

I’ve always been attracted to exotic animals, but they’re not pets and all of the diseases they have and that I treat are because they aren’t living as nature intended. They aren’t eating a natural diet and aren’t living in the right climates. As a vet I’m stern with my clients who bring in these animals. I tell them, you’ve got this animal now, you have to look after it, but all of these problems are from not living as nature intended.  

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