In 1983 Dr. Garner graduated from Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine. In 1984 Dr. Garner founded Safari with the idea the he would create a veterinary hospital that would allow him to practice medicine at the level he was taught in veterinary school. This sounds like a strange concept – Why would a vet not be allowed to practice medicine like he or she was taught in veterinary school? – but traditional veterinary practice economics prevents the investment in high-end diagnostic and therapeutic equipment necessary for high level practice. Dr. Garner first tried combining the veterinary hospital with a pet shop, and boarding and grooming businesses and while this did increase revenues, it also increased complexity, forcing Dr. Garner to study retail and merchandising distracting from medicine and surgery.
Dr. Garner then tried using marketing by participating at local fairs, and parades and providing seminars at schools and breed clubs.
These efforts again paid off by increasing traffic into his multi-purpose center but never did the profit level rise to the point that he could invest in the medical, surgical and diagnostic equipment that he so desired. As traffic increased to the Safari Center it became obvious that standards must be put in place so that all clients received the same message regardless of which part of the center they were patrons of.
In other words, clients that visited the pet shop and asked about flea control should get the same information that clients that visited the hospital and asked about flea control. This posed a huge challenge for Dr. Garner as most clients would rather get information about the care of their pets directly from the doctor. Dr. Garner realized that providing accurate information throughout his business was key to success. Information dissemination from all the Safari staff must be standardized as well as customized for the pet owner. Understanding the real purpose of Safari was the ultimate revelation for Dr. Garner at this time. While most veterinarians consider their purpose as the saving of sick or ill animals with medicine or surgery. Dr. Garner came to understand that The purpose of Safari is the sharing of information about the care of animals. Information sharing is key to animal health and the curing of disease. Information sharing first to the Safari Staff then to the Safari Client became the focus of the Safari Way. Once this became operationalized through formal Safari Standards the business grew and Dr. Garner could invest in advanced equipment for the practice of veterinary medicine – the way it should be – In It’s Highest Form.
The success of this strategy gained notoriety. This feat was noted on the front page of the Houston Post. Titled “Heart doctor gives new leash on life to cocker”Dr. Garner worked with noted cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Mark Skellenger (A Debakey protegee) to put one of the first pacemakers in the heart of a dog.This story was picked up by Headline News and the National Enquirer and heard around the globe. Dr. Garner worked with Dr. Skellenger to do numerous specialized surgeries and techniques saving the lives of pets during this period.
Dr. Garner acquired his first ultrasound machine and hired a human ultrasound specialist John Kerr to train him. Mr. Kerr went on to become the head of ultrasonography at the Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Garner went on to use the ultrasound as a key element in the diagnostic arsenal for Safari. We had ultrasound demonstration booths at the Houston Dog Show. The photo below shows John Kerr and Dr. Garner at the dog show.
The EKG machine and Ultrasound Machine were key elements to the diagnosis of Megan. We used the ultrasound to guide the pacemaker probe into her heart. Our advanced anesthesia and monitoring devices allowed for the delicate heart failure patient to survive the procedure. This equipment and many more items were purchased because of the success of the Safari Business Model.
In 1992 Dr. Garner went through the arduous process of applying for ABVP Certification.This statement is from the ABVP:
- ABVP Certified Veterinarians are among a very small group of specialists who earned the Diplomate title – one of only 900 in the United States and abroad. The best of the best.
- ABVP Diplomates choose to undergo a long and difficult process of additional studies and examination to become board certified specialists recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This process takes a minimum of three years to complete and the motivation behind it is, very simply, excellence.
ABVP Diplomates have proven knowledge and expertise above and beyond what is required to practice veterinary medicine. Beyond that, they have earned the privilege to specialize in the treatment of one or more categories of animals.
To qualify for sitting the examination, a veterinarian must first be in private practice for at least five years. The profile of the practice type must be considered comprehensive and broad and not confined to just one aspect of veterinary practice. The applicant must submit an example of the type of cases and how the cases are managed with the application. In addition, the application must contain at least two published papers on topics that contribute knowledge to the profession. Dr. Garner published a paper on how to manufacture and apply an artificial beak for a parrot. In addition, Dr. Garner published a paper on how to artificially inseminate a dog using endoscopic guidance of a special catheter through the cervix. It takes years to complete the application process alone.
Once the application is accepted there is a one-year study period before the examination. The examination is held in Chicago and takes three days to complete. During the time Dr. Garner took the examination, the exam covered topics in Companion Animal Practice. This certification included special questions on the care and treatment of birds, reptiles, rabbits, and pocket pets as well as dogs and cats. The examination covered topics on medicine, surgery and husbandry as well as information on advanced biology, chemistry and pharmacology. Dr. Garner passed the examination on the first go and received the Specialty Certification of Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners “Companion Animal Practice”. At the time, this was the only way to become a specialist in Birds or any of the exotic pets. Dr. Garner maintains this specialty even though the certification process has now changed so that veterinarians can now become specialized in Avian practice by just taking the Avian exam and can become Feline specialists by just taking the cat portion of the exam and so on. Recertification is mandatory and the same examination as new applicants take is taken by Dr. Garner every ten years. Dr. Garner recertified in 2002 and 2012 and will take the test again in 2022. Because of the changes in the certification Dr. Garner’s Certificate above states that he has “Canine and Feline Practice Diplomate” status until 2022. This does not eliminate his previous status of “Companion Animal Practice Diplomate”he received originally.
Safari Standards Handbook
Dr. Garner developed a set of Safari Standards that guided the development of the Team Based Veterinary Medicine Approach to the veterinary business:
- Standard of Care
- Standard of Conduct
- Standard of Communication
- Standard of Appearance
- Standard of Service
These Standards eventually were adopted by the entire veterinary profession. Dr. Garner shared this Standards Handbook with the profession and was then asked to help develop the standards by which all veterinary practices are measured by. He was honored to work on the American Animal Hospital Association Standards Enhancement Task Force for two years to incorporate the Safari Standards into how the largest standards based veterinary organization (AAHA) measured it members.
Our financial success was noticed by our suppliers in that we purchased more supplies and pet food than any other veterinary hospital of our size. Dr. Garner was invited to attend meetings where success stories were shared among veterinarians, suppliers and consultants to the veterinary industry. It was here that Dr. Garner met Dr. Marty Becker https://www.drmartybecker.com/, Chuck Wayner (Director of Global Pet Nutrition for Hills Pet Nutrition) and Marc Opperman a noted practice management consultant. All of these people participated in mentoring Dr. Garner, coaching Dr. Garner and teaching Dr. Garner presentation skills. Hill’s Pet Nutrition sponsored the Safari Seminars that were to follow and promoted Dr. Garner and the Safari System to the veterinary profession both in the United States as well as Abroad. Marty and Chuck and Dr. Garner became lifelong friends and to this day they all support each other in their endeavors.
The development of the Team Based Safari Business Model was an effort over many years and has many facets to it that make it as successful today as it was 20 and 30 years ago. We are a Team, operating under written Safari Standards, with a Purpose of Relationship Building through Knowledge Sharing.Our workflow is multi-tasking governed by a few unyielding principles
- We respect all life.
- We diagnose before we treat.
- We always do what is best for the pet.
- We never say “NO”
- We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
Respect all life means we are conscious of not only the pets we treat but all living things on the planet. We do not turn away from any challenge where we can make a difference, we embrace wildlife, exotic animals and even insects with the understanding that our mission is to promote life wherever we find it.
Dr. Garner has a special interest in exotic animals and birds so he promoted this avenue of practice to differentiate Safari from the rest of the pack. Some of the first exotic animals treated were ostriches and emus. Many times, ostrich eggs were flown in from Namibia
Africa and incubated here but because of the differences in humidity, hatching was difficult. Dr. Garner was a pioneer in developing methods to feed and medicate partially hatched ostriches until they dried out enough to be removed from the egg shell. Both ostriches and emus had related problems with curled toes or fragile toes that tended to break.
Dr. Garner developed many new medical and surgical techniques to deal with these issues. Many times, Dr. Garner would go on a farm call to treat these large birds but sometimes they would visit Safari on a leash such as the one to the right.
Big cat meaning leopard, tiger, and cougar ownership was not uncommon in the not so distant past. Safari was one of the only clinics that would treat these big cats. In fact, many of them came to the Safari hospital on a lead like a dog. Chauncy was a leopard which I first saw in a backyard treehouse in Meadow Bend a subdivision not far from Safari. The police were called out because a leopard was in their children’s treehouse. The police called me and just as we got into the back yard the leopard jumped out of the treehouse and over the fence into the next yard.
A younger Dr. Garner than today followed the leopard as the police screamed to stop because I was trespassing. I ignored them and followed the big cat over several fences into a back yard with a large Doberman in it. The Doberman started chasing the cat with the cat just in front of its teeth when the cat rolled onto its back, the Doberman went for the throat and as he did the cat flipped the Doberman off with its powerful rear legs. The addled Doberman then ran, with the leopard in hot pursuit, escaping through a doggy door into the house but the cat followed him in. I am watching this in amazement from behind the last fence, looking through the glass of the sliding patio door is see a young girl laying on the couch as if asleep. At that moment, the police caught up with me and I told them that the leopard and the Doberman and the child were all in the house. The police and I rushed to the front of the house and eventually broke the door down to see that the girl was safe. So was Chanucy, he was using his oversized litter box in the corner and the Doberman was drinking out of the communal water bowl. Yes the cat lived there with the dog and the little girl. Her parents were at work. She was home from school and fell asleep watching TV with the cat and the dog outside. The cat went visiting the neighbors. Chauncy was quarantined at my hospital until the owners sold their house in Meadow Bend and purchased a new home in Alvin where it was at that time legal to own big cats. Chauncy came to the hospital several times as did many other big cats.
Big cats are carnivores meaning of course that they are meat eaters but this creates a misconception that has killed countless numbers of these animals. People who feed big cats only meat are giving them 30 times the amount of phosphorus and almost none of the calcium they need. Flesh meat is high in phosphorus causing calcium to leach out of the bones. This causes the bones to be weak and bend and fracture. It causes severe metabolic disturbances as well. A big cat in the wild will kill and eat the whole animal, paunch (or gut) first then the meat and skin and bones will be consumed, constituting a balanced diet. When the diet is just chicken, or hamburger, or steak there are disastrous results. This little cougar had broken both its legs because of poor nutrition.
In this photo he is at Safari for a recheck after his fractures have healed. The radiographs show both rear legs have folding fractures that were disabling. He could only drag himself along the floor. He was fixed with external fixation. The picture in figure 29 shows him lying in grass with the external fixation (looks like grey putty.) connecting the pins in his leg bones.
Some big cats are abused by their owners Paca was a black leopard that was owned by a witch in Katy Texas. She would cut his toes off to make her brews and potions. Paca was rescued and we have taken care of him in his mostly crippled state for years. Paca likes toys and is easily distracted for examinations and blood draws in this way. Sometimes we will put a large rubber band over his ears to distract him for an examination. Black cats like these are true leopards with just a different coloration between the spots than the traditional leopard. These big cats are in the panther genus and cannot purr. The structure of their larynx is different and located further down that normal house cats. This allows them to breath while they have a gazelle in their mouth. Leopards prefer to eat their food elevated in a tree and are strong enough to carry their prey while they are climbing. They have given up purring for this ability.
Other cats include Servals, Bobcats, Lynx and so on through the years we have had the honor of helping many wild natured animals survive in captivity.
The Health Care Team
Team Based Veterinary Medicine at Safari Veterinary Care Centers
For any team to work there has to be a game that is played and that game must have a purpose and rules of the game. The players must all know how to work together to score points, how to stay in bounds or where the goal line is. Team members have uniforms, run plays and know their position or roles. All team members are playing the same game.
At Safari, the game is called Building Client Relationships. The more relationships a business has the more value the business has. Relationships are built upon trust and trusted communications. A trusted relationship occurs when the client can trust that you will be there for them and their pet. A client must trust that the information you give them is correct, accurate, up to date and applies directly to their pet on that day at that time of day. They must trust in our skills, abilities and our medical records. Clients must trust that our recommendations are in the best interest of the pet not to make money or make our job easier. When we have trust our job is easier and everyone wins.
We set the stage for these communications between the client and our staff by setting formal standards that represent the rules of the game. There are standards of communication, care, conduct, appearance, customer service and ethics. These standards are the rails that the Safari Team Train ride on directing all aspects of the journey through Safari.
Working at Safari is different than most other jobs. While we have demanding duties, we want to build our team through education and shared experiences that bond the team into a cohesive unit. Examples of this are Team Paintball competition, Shopping Sprees at the Galleria Sponsored by Safari with Limo Drives to the shops. We work together to support homeless pets.
Dr. Garner co-founded Second Chance Pets and funded its startup as well as designing its logo and participated in forming its operating Charter. Shown here with Delva a longtime friend to Safari and a pillar of the community.
Christmas celebrations are common at Safari with Dr. Garner hosting a party at his home. Christmas cards with the whole team enable us to celebrate together.
Another essential tool is our Customer Service Meeting held every Wednesday for over 30 years. This meeting we discuss good things and bad things that happened at Safari during the past week. We discuss new therapies and procedures and we come to know each other and our jobs better.
Our system of veterinary practice has been successful on a grand scale. Starting with visitation of other practitioners to Safari to see how we do it that eventually grew into formal multi-day presentations where we conducted our customer service meeting in front of hundreds of veterinarians wanting to copy our success.
Eventually over 2500 veterinarians and their staff came to Safari in League City Texas for training and inspiration. Our staff were grilled with every possible question about their jobs, the Safari System and how much they liked it.
This was a very stressful time for our staff as they fielded sometimes harmful questions about their loyalty to our system. There was a high demand for knowledge about our system as well as tools for training team members from other hospitals. Dr. Garner created a Safari Standards Manual and CD which was sold along with a Master Class Training Manual and a Version of Dr. Garner’s Software was also published for practitioners to enable their team to be more productive. Veterinary Economics Magazine proclaimed the Safari Practice to be the “Most Productive Veterinary Practice in the World” This success was largely due to the Safari Standards and the Safari Workflows that enabled the veterinary team to become more effective. Visionary veterinary practitioners around the world could see this and adopted the Safari Standards with relative ease.
In 2002 Dr. Garner invested over one million dollars to create the VetPlan software which operated on a tablet PC 15 years ago. Long before the IPad and way ahead of its time.
Dr. Garner felt that the software would be key to implementing the Safari System into veterinary practices. However, during the deployment of this software, Dr. Garner started to understand the difficulties of the process of change in the veterinary profession.
He understood that the barriers to the team based veterinary practice was largely related to the lack of trust between the veterinarian and their team members. The average veterinarian would not trust a team member to be in an examination room with a client alone, much less allow that team member to explain the doctor’s recommendations or even wellness recommendations to a client. The typical veterinarian wants to do all the communication, wants to make and write all the medical records, wants to perform all the lab tests, all the x-rays and all the injections, blood collections and so on.
This business model is constrained by the veterinarian herself. If she would allow the team to participate, she could do more, could have the time to learn more and could have a richer practice life. One of my objectives has been to Make Veterinary Practice Fun Again. So fun that any veterinarian would encourage their kids to be veterinarians.
This is not the case for most veterinarians. Most veterinarians reach a stage of practice apathy and burn-out at some time in their live. This is sad. Dr. Garner felt that the software could be the solution to the trust issue.
Dr. Garner’s software (VetPlan) creates customized scripts for the pet based on the doctor’s diagnosis and recommendations. The staff member could then read these notes to the client, informing them of the doctor’s findings and recommendations. This would require a different work-flow in the hospital where the doctor first put the findings into the computer for the reports to be generated from.
In practice it worked beautifully, all stakeholders win, the pet wins because care instructions are communicated in written form, the client wins because they now understand the doctor’s diagnosis and instructions and they have a typewritten representation of the visit that they can now share with their family members. These family members also have a vested interest in the care of the pet which is a member of the family. The staff wins because each time they read the doctor’s findings and the VetPlan description of the findings to the client they become smarter and feel more a part of the eventual care of the pet. The veterinarian wins because the practice now has a system for pet care, client communication and staff education.
The practice is more efficient everybody is singing from the same hymn book and the practice is more productive financially as well as from a customer satisfaction standpoint. Dr. Garner was in high demand as a speaker both in the USA but all over the world and he installed his software in over 400 clinics in the USA. Dr. Garner partnered with pharmaceutical companies to bring his software to practices and gave lectures to the major pharmaceutical companies at their yearly sales meetings. Dr. Garner was a part of the team of advisors to Merk (Merial), Ely Lilly, Bayer, Intervet/Schering Plough, Hills Pet Nutrition and IAMS pet foods as well as many others.
Dr. Garner set up training facilities and offices in Houston, London, Tokyo, and Melbourne. In each of these regions of the world, veterinary practices were trained on the Safari System of practice workflows and well as the VetPlan software. Dr. Garner was in attendance and a key opinion leader of the VetOne conference in Hawaii where he and
other leaders of industry and the profession discussed the human animal bond and how the veterinary profession could better adapt, adopt and cherish the special relationships that humans form with their pets. Dr. Garner then met with the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. David Thatcher about how pet ownership extends the quality and quantity of human health. Dr. Garner along with a contingency of representatives from the VetOne conference stated to Dr. Thatcher that we should “Prescribe a pet instead of a pill.”This statement was based on the recent research that pet ownership had a calming influence on humans greater than that of Prozac and the blood pressure effects of pet petting was greater than that of most hypertensive drugs.
While the Safari Practice in League City was managed by capable veterinarians, Dr. Garner took the message of Standards Based Team Delivery Model of Veterinary Practice around the globe. Dr. Garner partnered with Bayer Animal Health to bring VetPlan to Australia.
In Melborne there is a visionary veterinary practitioner, Dr. Scott Tinson who incorporated the Safari model into his practice close to Melbourne. Karingal Veterinary Hospital was the first hospital in Australia to have VetPlan and the Safari Standards System of Practice. Dr. Tinson and Dr. Garner formed a partnership to bring VetPlan (Called VetMap PTY in Australia) sponsored by Bayer to the Australian veterinary market.
Dr. Garner toured Australia lecturing in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. Dr. Garner made many trips to Australia taking his staff at Safari with him to train the Australian veterinarians. Dr. Garner’s two daughters joined him twice to Australia, enjoying the kangaroos, the Koala bears and the Great Barrier Reef.
During the ensuing years, Dr. Garner also set up offices in England just north of London in a town called Milton Keynes where he partnered with Europe’s largest pharmaceutical company, Intervet, to bring VetPlan (Called Safari Knowledge Systems) to the United Kingdom. Prior to this partnership a visionaly practitioner Dr. David Hodges implemented the Safari System and VetPlan into this hospital in Figure 59. His level of success prompted him to be an avid proponent of the Safari System. Pet Doctors represents a group of veterinary practices in South England that Dr. Garner offered to purchase. Intervet was Dr. Garner’s partner and a very large pharmaceutical company for all of Europe. Dr. Garner shared offices in their compound just north of London.
Intervet invited Dr. Garner to an Honors gala at the Palace quarters close to Buckingham Palace. At this event Dr. Garner met Dr. Susan Mooney. She is a veterinarian from Scotland who was managing a group of 25 veterinary practices for a large charity. Her territory was North England, Scotland and Ireland.
The charity is called the PDSA (Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals) is the largest employer of veterinarians in the United Kingdom. Dr. Garner developed a business relationship with Dr. Mooney that eventually led to a personal relationship that eventually led to marriage. Dr. Garner and Dr. Mooney were married in the Highlands of Scotland in a castle which they rented for over a week to host their friends and family celebrating their wedding. Dr. Garner and Susan then moved back to Safari to start the new construction of the new Safari standing today.
For the next several years it was back to private veterinary practice work in League City, Texas as we planned for and constructed the new facilities for Safari.
Dr. Garner and Dr. Mooney worked to rebuild the physical structure of Safari as well as the operational structure of the Safari System that had been neglected while Dr. Garner was Abroad. We wanted to build a functional but fun clinic that could best serve our clients and their pets while supporting the functional needs of the Safari System.
The increased space would allow for additional function such as an area for Pet Rehabilitation, Increased Treatment and Hospitalization areas and more Examination Rooms. We wanted the reception area to be open and inviting as well as large enough to accommodate the client check in for multiple services, boarding, grooming, hospital, rehabilitation all at once. So, a semi-circular reception with surrounding seating was determined to be the best.
The front desk front is made from tumbled marble which has upon closer inspection white stripes through it like those of a zebra. Throughout the building is wood and iron juxtaposed to deliver the message that we are about nature with a lasting message. On the outside of the building Dr. Garner wanted people who were driving by to be able to tell we treated exotic animals without reading a word. The impression of the Iron Art of Parrots, Giraffes and Ring-tailed lemurs on the front of the building accomplished that goal. Dr. Garner applied the LED lights to each of the iron art himself and wired them so the colors would alternate.
The wood is mostly pecan from fallen trees from the hurricane IKE that would have been burned had they not been saved by Dr. Garner. They were large trees over 2 foot in diameter and Dr. Garner purchased the trees and took them to a sawmill to be milled into thick slabs of wood some of them 16 feet long. These large slabs were dried, and treated for insects then used in the construction of fixtures, tables and design elements throughout Safari. The ironwork was commissioned to an artist who not only is a gifted artist but also an owner and expert in the care of exotic wildlife. The artist, Johnny Stephens, passed from this earth in 2015 and will be missed by all that knew him.
Dr. Garner purchased 5 feet by 10 feet sheets of metal. Johnny would then draw by freehand using chalk the outline of an animal such as a zebra. He would then cut the steel with a plasma cutter. His artistry was mesmerizing. The chairs are custom made covered in faux alligator.
Dr. Garner had Johnny memorialize guiding principles in iron such as “Diagnose Before You Treat” and “Respect All Life” so they could and would provide lasting messages to all who enter Safari. The animal images are as if they are real-life with perfect symmetry and expression, drawn from real memories.
Safari Pet Retail
Safari is about animal care and in our pet retail section we care for over 50 finches, doves and quail in our aviary. The aviary has a large hollow log of pecan which has been bleached to remove harmful pathogens then varnished to maintain an impervious outer coating.
The birds are reproducing with eggs seen in nests as well as on the ground. Fresh vegetables are finely chopped and fed daily. The birds are cared for as we would hope all our client birds are. We do not have the space of a large superstore but we do have a super selection of items to support the care of your loved one. All our products are hand-picked and approved by our veterinary staff. We know it is our job to recommend the best to you. We do not want to force you to choose between many similar products when you are not trained to make those choices. We therefore standardize our selection of pet food items and treats to those ones we feel are best, ones that we can show real results, real research that justifies your confidence in our recommendations. We, for example, recommend only Hills Pet Nutrition diets and do not have 3 or 4 other brands for you to choose from.
Safari Examination Room Journey
The examination rooms are all unique each supporting a different theme of pet care through the ages.
This timeline shows how the roles of pets have changed from an animal who serves a function in the health, protection or safety of a human to one that serves as a valued object to one that is truly a companion to a pet that is a part of the family. This migration from the back yard to the bedroom from the kennel to the couch is a characteristic that represents the different ages of human development from the cave to the comfort of the couch.
Human society has both evolved and de-evolved and the de-evolution of the human family unit to a dispersed, disjointed hyper-stressed state and caused a vacuum which has sucked pets into the center. Pets provide comfort, pets fill the empty nest, pets give unconditional love. The positive power of pets is a permanent part of the human condition. Safari is here to celebrate this relationship and our examination rooms exemplify this transition. Dr. garner commissioned this artwork and images that are in each of the examination rooms at Safari.
SA-FA-RI (Suh·fah’·ri) means: 1. an overland journey or hunting expedition esp. in Africa. 2. the people, animals, etc., that go on the expedition (from Swahili: journey, from Arabic ‘safariya’, from “safara” to travel)
Post Cards from the Past are messages that denote the place pets had in the relationships with their humans.
Up to 30,000 years ago there is evidence of human and dog co-inhabitance. 10,000 years ago, there are cave paintings that show dog-like animals participating in the hunt. 3,000 years ago, Egyptians worshiped cats and had them mummified with their owners to co-exist in the afterlife. This exam room is called our comfort room. It has a couch and comfortable chairs. It is for client consults with the doctor, pet visitation. It also may be used for euthanasia.
Maslow was a famous psychologist who created the “Hierarchy of Needs” paradigm. His theory was that humans have a set of needs some of which are more important than others, in fact until the more basic needs are filled, the other needs are not important to the human. The most basic need Maslow said was the “physiologic need” or the need to have food to eat and water to drink so that your physiological processes could function. Until you have this settled, the other needs such as “shelter” or “safety” or “social” needs are not important. Dr. Garner believes that this order of needs has followed the roles of pets through the ages starting with dogs as hunting companions, following protection for the safety need and so on to the point that now pets have “self-actualized” as Maslow would have put it. Dogs sacrifice what is most precious to them (their lives) to the benefit of humans. Dogs may sacrifice their lives for humans as bomb detection dogs or military or police service dogs. Dogs serve the blind and deaf, the seizure patient and the hypersensitive autistic child. Between the function to provide food, pets are companions, valued objects and close personal friends. Pets can be “personal life support units” to the sick or elderly. Pets serve us and we serve pets by providing a human quality environment in a synergistic manner that represents the human animal bond.
Grooming at Safari
The Human Animal Bond sets the stage for many functions that are not within the purview of the traditional veterinary practice service realm. One of these functions is grooming. Coat care is an essential element in the overall care of a pet but has not been part of the veterinary sector’s concern. Coat care, proper brushing, proper shampoo, matt prevention and removal, parasite prevention, skin disease management, tumor surveillance all become more important when the pet lives indoors, lives on the bed, lives on the lap and in the arms of humans.
When the pet was outdoors, the common knowledge was that the pet needed a bath or groom once or twice a year. Now that the relationship is different, pets need to be as clean as humans if they are going to co-occupy their homes. Skin and haircoat diseases that would have not been noticed before are percolating to the top of the list of reasons to visit a vet. Grooming is a professional service that if performed frequently, keeps the pets coat in top condition with the owner happy to cuddle and love on as they celebrate the bond.
Safari staff all know there are different breeds and different coat types, from the short coat to the long coat to the double coat with under coat. All of which require different shampoos, different combs, different brushes and different intervals of care. These differences require different communications, and different approaches from delicate hand scissoring and towel drying to razor trimming and high velocity drying. At the top end, some will want custom hair styles or colors. Safari is posed to provide these services at the highest level as our bevy of groomers fill all the needs a pet can present with.
Boarding at Safari
We have a very mobile pet owner today. People want to be able to leave their loved ones with someone they can trust. At Safari we have a fun exciting, safe and healthy boarding facility that we call Camp Safari.
We want your pet to come home looking and feeling like they have been to camp. We make sure they get the food and care that you prescribe for them. We have the facilities for dogs, cats, birds, exotics and even primates. Our dog boarding, has indoor and outdoor play areas and runs with fresh water supply, double door safety systems and excellent trained staff. Boarding staff take pride in getting to know your pet, your pet’s habits and will communicate to you before, during and after your pet’s stay with us to let you know they are having more fun than you are. Should anything go wrong, Heaven Forbid, we have a board certified veterinary staff to treat and care for your loved one. Don’t worry we will call, text or send up smoke signals to you or your family members before we do any therapy. Boarding today requires that your pet be up to date on vaccines, including the new canine flu vaccination. We also require worming medications to prevent contamination of our yard with parasites.
Cats enjoy our specially painted cat room. This room was painted by a Russian artist who was commissioned to paint different cityscapes such as Rome, London and Honolulu but he also painted his home city of Moscow.
The cat room has a portal into the “Safari Catacombs” a one-of-a-kind maze of tunnels and connecting hexagons that allow your perfect kitty to exercise while you are gone. This wooden wonder was built by Dr. Garner in his workshop.
Safari Treatment Area
During the planning of the construction of the new Safari we wanted the central element within the treatment room to be the data center. The data center is where data entry is done and because Safari’s operating premise is that we are in the information business and “He Who Has The Smartest Client WINS!” we wanted a special area, one that was easy to keep clean with minimal clutter. Keeping the computers and monitors off the desk space was key. Dr. Garner solved this problem with a pecan log that was split down the middle to allow wiring to be sandwiched between the two halves. The log was then put back together and hung over a custom designed oval table.
On the left behind the oval data center is the white board where all the patients for the hospital, boarding and grooming are listed. A special system developed by Dr. Garner allows us to know the status of each pet, what needs to be done for each pet and once the item is done, which Safari staff member did it. This “Safari Treatment Board” is the center focus of the care of pets within the center.
In the photo below you can see the walls behind the examination room are covered with narrow shelving units for easy access to medications and drugs.
The Safari Surgery Room
Surgery is an important part of any veterinary practice. The surgery room design allows for two surgeries to be done at the same time or one surgery to be in preparation while one is being done. This room also contains the digital radiographs and C-Arm. Just as the ultrasound machine transformed diagnostics in the late 80’s the C-Arm allows Safari to perform new procedures. The C-Arm is a movable device that projects video radiographs in real time. With this unit bones can be aligned and set, needles can be seen and accurately placed in the spinal cord or joints.
Surgery cannot be done without anesthesia, and anesthesia requires oxygen as well as monitoring equipment that can tell the blood pressure, oxygen concentration in the blood, heart rate and EKG character and so on. With this equipment, we are constantly keeping track of how a pet is fairing with the anesthesia.
Surgery at Safari is at its highest level with spinal surgery a very common procedure here. Spinal surgery requires special skills and instrumentation to gain access to the spinal cord through the bony vertebra. Once the spinal cord is exposed very delicate manipulation enables the removal of compressive material from under the spine.
Stem cells are usually applied around the spine or directly into the spine depending on the severity of the disease. The C-Arm allows for the placement of stem cells directly into the discs of the spine. Disc disease is hereditary in many breeds such as dachshunds and degenerating discs are the cause of spinal compression in these dogs. Degeneration of these discs can be reversed with stem cell therapy but the stem cells must be placed directly into the center of the discs. One of the only ways to do this is to use the C-Arm to guide the needle placing the cells.
In addition to spinal surgery we at Safari are proficient in the surgical correction of orthopedic disease such as fracture repair, cruciate ligament repair, and repair of hip dysplasia. Cruciate ligament repair with the TPLO (tibial plate leveling osteotomy procedure) or the TTA (tibial tuberosity advancement procedure) are common in this room.
Ultrasound, endoscopy, arthroscopy, and specialized surgical power tools are used as needed for special procedures. Ultrasound is a powerful diagnostic tool that Dr. Garner is very proficient in.
Stem Cell Laboratory
In 2015 Dr. Garner embarked on his own Safari or journey into the land of stem cell therapy.
Once he was convinced that stem cells were a viable alternative therapy for many previously incurable diseases he wanted to know how to capture this technology for his Safari patients.
For more details about stem cell therapy see: https://stemcellsafari.com
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Stem cells come in several varieties, some with ethical considerations, and Dr. Garner has “Respect all Life” as one of his guiding principles so embryonic stem cell therapy is not an option at Safari. Instead Adult Stem Cells are used. Adult Stem Cells are also called Mesenchymal Stem Cells are harvested from body fat and can be used for many regenerative therapies.
Dr. Garner is focused on how to best use stem cells for dogs and, in this quest, he discovered several hurdles that must be overcome before it made sense to offer stem cell therapy to his clients.
One – Collecting stem cells for a one-time administration is common but what was the likelihood of having to give multiple doses of cells over a period of time to patients? This required either storage of the cells or culture and expansion of the number of cells or both so that the pet could have access to the full advantage of the therapy.
Two – Stem cells look just like other normal cells of the body. Distinguishing these cells, counting these cells and telling if these cells are viable and healthy takes special equipment, special stains and special microscopes. Just taking fat and spinning it down with digesting enzymes was not good enough for Dr. Garner,
he wanted to know what he was putting into these pets, what was the viability? What was the type of cell? How many cells? How many live cells? How could you tell these were stem cells?
Three – Long term storage requires liquid nitrogen, but you cannot just dip stem cells into liquid nitrogen to freeze them. If you do this, they die!
You must take stem cells (unlike other tissues) down in temperature one degree per minute until you get close to 32 degrees, then you speed up the freezing (because ice crystals start to form at 32 degrees) to 10 degrees per minute until you get to minus 30 degrees, then you slow down the freezing to one degree per minute. So how do you control the rate of freezing? The answer is with a computerized controlled rate liquid nitrogen freezer. Now how much do you think that costs? Well, Dr. Garner knows because he bought one to freeze his patients stem cells for storage. Freezing is not that easy, as there are chemicals that must be mixed with the stem cells to prevent ice crystals and cell death during the storage process, and these chemicals if left with the stem cells at room temperature are fatal to the cells as well.
Four – Culturing stem cells allows you to better characterize the cells as to type and function. Culturing also allows you to increase the number of cells so that therapy can be more effective. But, culturing is done outside the body, and as such it changes the stem cells in ways that make them less robust at healing. Certain factors can stimulate stem cells to become more active after culturing, such as platelet factors from the patient receiving the cells. Culturing is difficult, contamination is common and the media that it takes to grow stem cells is very expensive.
To overcome these obstacles Dr. Garner enrolled in stem cell school. While there are no veterinary stem cell classes, there are classes for humans which do stem cell research. Dr. Garner went to these classes in California and Tennessee and has come to understand the essential elements of developing a fully functional stem cell laboratory. In this effort,
Dr. Garner developed a relationship with a human stem cell research laboratory in Houston.
InGeneron (https://ingeneron.com) conducts stem cells research for various elements of the Houston area medical center. They have trained Dr. Garner and his staff of cellular engineers and have been to our stem cell laboratory at Safari in League City to help us set up our systems and protocols. InGeneron also provides us with some of our reagents for cell processing.
When Dr. Garner does something, he does it right. He learns the basics, he employs the experts and he invests both time and money into making it up to the standard that our clients demand.
By using these exceptional techniques, Dr. Garner has had exceptional success. He has focused on making paralyzed dogs walk. Starting with Scout who had no perception of pain or movement in his rear legs for the two weeks prior to stem cell therapy. https://www.facebook.com/SafariVet/videos/10154038967274676/
Now Scout walks like a normal dog.
Carli https://www.facebook.com/IVDDanswers/videos/505035729845498/ is another case that was paralyzed for over two years. See her story. We continue to work with many rescue organizations to provide discounted stem cell therapy. All Texas Dachshund Rescue has been a great partner in bringing this cutting-edge therapy to many dachshunds paralyzed from IVDD.
Safari Rehabilitation Center
Rehabilitation is a poorly understood discipline in veterinary practice. Postsurgical rehabilitation is common almost expected when any trauma or surgery is encountered in humans. With pets however, it may be incorrectly assumed that recovery from disease is more innate and does not require formal rehabilitative efforts. This could not be further from the truth. Pets cannot talk, they mask their pain and illnesses from their humans and they need and benefit from rehabilitative efforts more than any other animal.
Rehabilitation of pets is challenging, because getting a pet to do an exercise that they do not want to do or that may be painful for them to do at first is difficult. Therefore, Dr. Garner and Safari practice a method of rehabilitation called fear free Rehabilitation. Fear free means we first build trust, we first establish a line of communication, we first reassure then we train. Dogs have an innate desire to please and we tap into that desire, showing a pet how to please us and how to please himself (by receiving treats) to exercise the part of the body needing the movement.
We have specialized tools and techniques taught in formal classes. We are certified canine rehabilitation specialists operating with the best tools in an environment of fear free encouragement. Watch us in action by visiting Safari’s Pet Rehabilitation channel on Vimeo.
Our facility has underwater treadmills, land treadmills, cavaletti, Pilates, electrostimulation therapy, therapeutic laser, therapeutic ultrasound, TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) therapy and trained specialists and technicians that know how to make use of these modalities to benefit the pet in need of rehabilitation.
To further advance our knowledge of canine rehabilitation, Dr. Garner and his wife Dr. Susan Mooney/Garner have attended the Canine Rehabilitation Certificate Program at the University of Tennessee
CCRP Program is a Certificate Program in Canine Physical Rehabilitation.
The University of Tennessee Certificate Program in Canine Physical Rehabilitation is the only program in veterinary rehabilitation to win the distinguished Outstanding Non-Credit Program Award by the Association for Continuing Higher Education.
- Instruction by veterinarians and physical therapists, the majority of whom are board certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.
- The instructors have made significant research contributions and published much of the available literature in canine physical rehabilitation.
- The Emphasis on evidenced-based medicine.
- Access to the latest clinical and laboratory research results presented by faculty who have performed research directly applicable to case management, often prior to publication.
- Access to and practice/training with an extensive array of treatment approaches, including a myriad of equipment and emerging modalities which are based on clinical research.
- Commitment to presenting a comprehensive curriculum that provides a solid foundation upon which to treat routine and complicated clinical cases, and to build and improve clinical practice in veterinary rehabilitation.
- Upon successful completion of the program and examination, participants receive the designation of Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner.
Dr. Garner has a special interest in neurologic disease. Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is a common cause of spinal cord compression resulting neurologic disease. Many dogs lose the ability to walk because of this disease. Dr. Garner believes that through a combination of surgery, stem cell therapy and rehabilitation most of these pets can be given the chance to walk again. The rehabilitation component is very important if not essential part of the success.
Stem Cells are multi-potent cells. This means they have multiple potential forms. What determines their form and function is the environment they find themselves in. If we place them in and around a damaged spinal cord they have the potential to form nerves and the supporting cells that help nerves heal. For this to work they need instructions, they are like construction workers needing a set of blueprints. These blueprints in the spinal cord come as neurotransmitters looking for a target nerve. Neurotransmitters are chemicals released from nerves tryzing to fire or covey messages. When a stem cell receives neurotransmitters, they are stimulated to help make the connection, build the covering of the nerve or repair damaged nerves. Without the neurotransmitter, the stem cells cannot work. So, nerve impulses from the toes up the foot to the leg to the back and spine to the area of damage are conveyed by rehabilitation therapy. Physical therapy, massage, electrostimulation, tactile stimulation and movement in space and time all stimulate nerve impulses up toward the brain. Likewise, conscious stimulation of effort to move legs from the brain causes the nerves of the spinal cord to fire, releasing the same chemicals that can stimulate the local stem cells to heal the damaged spinal cord. Without nerve impulses from both the brain and the legs, the stem cells cannot work.
Surgical cases such as orthopedic surgery or knee cruciate ligament surgery must have rehabilitation. When surgery is done to a bone or joint, the proprioceptive nerves are cut or damaged. These nerves tell the brain the location of the bones and joints so that movement is accurate and balance is effective. Without proprioception nerves, the pet is clumsy and likely to reinjure the bone or joint. The process of retraining the brain and nerves in the limbs is very important in returning your pet to normal function and to a function that will not cause future damage. This is the job of the rehabilitation specialist to know how to use equipment that safely unbalances your pet so that learning to adapt and restore balance can occur.
Strength is lost through disuse of a joint or muscle mass. Atrophy of the muscles is a common occurrence with pain or surgery or arthritis. Restoring this strength by using the resistance offered by water therapy has long been respected. The water takes much of the weight off the joints so that movement can occur pain free, while the warm water increases circulation and provides resistance to movement that aids in building strength. The water height and rate of the treadmill allow for customizing the exercise for the needs of the pet. The underwater treadmill is an excellent tool for this type of rehabilitation.
Safari Veterinary Care Centers (Safarivet.com) and Safari Knowledge Systems LLC, respectively, are not affiliated with, associated with, authorized by, endorsed by, certified by, maintained by, or in any way officially connected with Fear Free, LLC or the Fear Free Certification program.