Kevin Fitzgerald, TPM’s All-Star Animal Advocate!
Welcome to the first in our series, All-Star Animal Advocates! TPM will seek out the best and the brightest in the world of animal advocacy to feature them and their works. First up, Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM!
You may know him from Animal Planet’s hit series, Emergency Vets. You may know him as a successful standup comedian. Maybe you know him from his younger days, when he toured as security for the The Rolling Stones. (Yeah. THOSE Rolling Stones!) Kevin is a genuine renaissance man.
The Pet Matchmaker knows Kevin Fitzgerald best as a tireless advocate and activist for wildlife.
As a passionate conservationist, Kevin Fitzgerald has been to Antarctica to research, track and advocate for polar bears. He’s traveled to Mongolia to help track and conserve the important vulture population. He works around the state of Colorado doing research on rattle snakes and other indigenous animals. All this, while continuing his own veterinary practice, AND doing a good deal of standup comedy.
Recently, we sat down with Dr. Kev and asked him our All-Star Advocate 10 Questions. Here’s what he had to say…
TPM: What inspired you to become an animal advocate? Was it a single event or a culmination of things?
For me, it was a culmination of things. My work as a vet, of course. As my awareness and skills grew, other opportunities started to come my way.
There are 10 million other forms of life – besides people. We were given this wonderful bio diversity and our intellects. I think all the other life on the planet needs us now to use our intellects to help them. Right now, we’re going through the 6th great cataclasis of extinction. 100 times more species are dying than when the dinosaurs went extinct. It’s as bad as it’s ever been.
Whenever a species becomes extinct, the world becomes a lesser place.
Still, I’m optimistic. There’s many, many more conservationists now then when I first got involved. What started off as a trickle is becoming a torrent.
Pictures from Kevin Fitzgerald’s Various Adventures:
TPM: What is the best part of the advocacy work you do?
Oh, that’s easy — getting close to the animals! I mean, deep down, I’m just a little kid from Denver, you know? And I’ve gotten to do polar bear research! Going on trips to Antarctica and Mongolia with the Denver Zoo? That beats my time touring with the Rolling Stones! It’s much, much more satisfying. There’s not a lot of money in it, but it’s rewarding.
TPM: What is the most challenging part of the advocacy work you do?
Ignorance is the most challenging thing I face. I really believe that most people are good and would love to do the right thing. They just don’t know what that is!
For example, most people don’t know that feral cats are killing song birds at dangerous rates. They don’t spay and neuter their cats, for example. Cats are very efficient breeders. Two cats can produce over 120,000 offspring. They’re what’s called “induced ovulaters.” That means, every time there’s copulation there’s ovulation. Cats and rabbits, bats, and ferrets, too.
Cats are are also incredibly efficient killers and hunters. But, people don’t KNOW all that.
TPM: What is the biggest misconception about your advocacy work?
I think the biggest misconception is that we’re helpless. That we can’t make a difference.
But the history of the world shows, groups of committed people can make big, big changes — can change the course of history! People getting together, ideas taking form and shape. Translating that into action. We’re very powerful when we act as one!
We don’t have the luxury of becoming discouraged. We can’t lose this one. Animal advocacy and conservation is so important.
Our successes are temporary; our failures are permanent.
TPM: What is one of the greatest memories you have advocating on behalf of animals?
I spent some time in Mongolia a couple of years ago. Seeing the nomad children, who had been helping Japanese poachers kill vultures to sell the gallbladders as an aphrodisiac. Seeing those same children help me put transponders on them to track them and keep them safe.
Probably one of my best moments ever… When one of the Mongolian boys, about 15 years old, looked at me and said, (through a translator) “I’m a scientist.” That was pretty great.
TPM: How do you keep your emotional/mental/physical strength doing the advocacy work you do?
Well, I’m a comedian, too! I do keep my sense of humor about all of it. It’s serious stuff. But, I really do have fun doing it.
TPM: What do you think is one of the most effective ways to advocate for animals and to protect them from abuse?
Education. Leading by example. Be vocal. Point out to people that we’re better than that.
Ask yourself…What can I do? We can do a lot. Volunteer. Donate money. The next generation is our biggest hope.
I have mixed feelings when it comes to zoos… But zoos serve a purpose. More children go the Denver zoo every year than adults go to all of our sports teams combined!
You can see the little minds turn on at the zoo. And that’s the next generation of scientists, vets, conservationists, animal advocates.
Vote with your dollars! Reward businesses and politicians who are environmentally more enlightened.
TPM: Do you have any animals of your own? Tell us about them.
I’ve got my little dog, Yoda. It’ll be 9 years Super Bowl Sunday. He’s 16 years old. I think God has forgotten him! He’s so old. He’s deaf. Blind in one eye. But he’s my vice president. I love him. He’s a lot of company. I’m a bachelor. He’s my family.
In 1953 the American Vet Association did a survey and asked people if their pet was part of the family. 43% said yes. In 2003, asked that same question, 97% said yes.
TPM: Who do you admire most in the world? Another animal advocate, or somebody else?
Oh, I admire a lot of people in conservation – I think our political party should be Conserv-o-crats!
My heroes are people who reach out and popularize science. Jane Goodall. Man, she has an aura. She’s so kind. And so unassuming. And I think of what she’s done… I’ve met her – which was a thrill.
She grabbed me by the hand and said “Don’t get tired. We can’t lose this one.” She’s right.
TPM: What is the best way to directly help you do the work you’re doing?
Wow, there are so many places that need help. I like the World Wildlife Federation – they say where the money goes.
Don’t forget your local level. Here in Colorado, there’s the State Division of Wildlife – they’re always looking for volunteers. Check your state government website.
Take children on field trips! Volunteer and get involved at your local zoo. Take nature walks. Get involved.
Some of my favorite organizations include, The Global Footprint Network. The U.S. Parks Service helps with No Child Left Inside, Wild Life Conservation Society, Field Trip Earth. Conservation International. There really are a lot of people doing amazing things.
Really, if we all do SOMETHING… so much can get done, you know?
MORE Fantastic Pictures, Courtesy of Dr. Kev:
TPM Thanks Dr. Kev for talking with us, and doing all he does for conservation and wildlife. An All-Star Animal Advocate™!
You can find Kevin Fitzgerald on his website.