Career Spotlight of the Month

Olivia Vandersanden, RVT

Current Job: Founder of the Kawartha Wildlife Centre and RVT at Otonabee Animal Hospital

Q&A with Olivia


OAVT: Where did you go to school and what made you decide to take a Veterinary Technology/Technician Program?

Olivia: I went to Seneca College and graduated in 2011. I have always had a passion for animals, specifically wildlife and wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to work with animals in some capacity.

OAVT: What is your current job? What is a typical day like?

Olivia: Currently, I am covering a maternity leave at Otonabee Animal Hospital in Peterborough. I do a lot of locum work and particularly enjoy emergency and critical care. I pick up shifts at Mississauga Oakville Veterinary Emergency and the 404 Emergency and Referral Clinic.

I am also in the process of opening a new wildlife centre in the Kawarthas.

I love working as a locum because of the constant change in scenery and pace. Nursing care is my favourite part of the job. I enjoy making sure my patients are comfortable, not experiencing any pain and have everything they need to heal. My typical day could be anything. It is especially hectic currently with opening the Kawartha Wildlife Centre. I am often arranging rides for injured wildlife, taking phone calls, picking up sick/injured animals on top of working my full-time job at a small animal clinic. In the evening I am writing grants, responding to emails, organizing fundraising events and sometimes hosting workshops/talks.

OAVT: As you mentioned, you recently started the process of opening up a wildlife centre and the Kawartha Wildlife Centre is now a registered charity. Tell us more about the Kawartha Wildlife Centre and the path you have been on so far.

Olivia: The Kawartha Wildlife Centre will fill the gap of a much-needed wildlife centre, serving all Ontario species here in the Kawarthas. The centre will be run by volunteers and will rehabilitate sick, orphaned and injured animals in need of care. Currently, the closest wildlife centre servicing all species in Ontario is 75 kilometres away; meaning if a person finds an animal in need of care here in the Kawarthas, they have the difficult task of driving all the way to Minden, Pefferlaw or Napanee. Not all people are willing or able to make this trek, meaning that our native species, and in turn our eco-system, may suffer.

The goal is to open the doors of Kawartha Wildlife Centre by summer 2018 in a small capacity where we will serve as a triage centre for sick, orphaned and injured wildlife before sending them to other Ontario wildlife centres for longer term care. By 2019 we hope to build our own wildlife hospital where we can treat and rehabilitate animals with the purpose of returning them to their wild habitat once they are fully healed or/ or mature. The cost to build our wildlife hospital will be upwards of one million dollars including a surgery suite, x-ray capabilities, an intensive care unit, flight cages, aviaries and pre-release cages.

Most rehabilitation centres in Ontario have caps on the number of species they can take. The goal of Kawartha Wildlife Centre is also to be able to help with overflow from other centres. To make all of these goals a reality, at present, we are seeking financial support. Please consider donating, promoting and raising awareness for this cause, to help the wildlife in our beautiful Kawarthas remain strong.

I have been very privileged to travel to several other countries to volunteer in wildlife rehabilitation and it made me realize how important wildlife rehabilitation is and how desperately we need a wildlife centre here in Peterborough. This is where I grew up and I am very attached to the Kawartha Lakes area and want to do what I am able to preserve what we have here.

OAVT: When do you expect the centre to open? What are your next steps?

Olivia: We hope to get MNR approval in the next few months and be operating as a wildlife hospital sometime in the next 6 months. Once we get MNR approval we will apply for accreditation through the CVO. If we get CVO accreditation, we will be the only accredited wildlife hospital in Ontario (aside from the National Wildlife Centre which is a mobile clinic) The next immediate steps are fundraising to get the remainder of the equipment we need and also to ensure we can pay our rent for the next year while setting money aside to build a permanent wildlife hospital with outdoor facilities including flight cages, pre release cages and aviaries.


OAVT: What advice would you give to students and new RVTs who want to try their hand working as an RVT in non-traditional settings like wildlife or starting their own business?

Olivia: The biggest piece of advice I would give is to prepare beforehand like by taking a business course etc. Do as much research as possible; interview others who have done something similar and learn from their mistakes. Most people are thrilled to offer their advice and want to help where they can. Take the time to volunteer, speak to others and put time into pre planning!


OAVT: What can other RVTs who are interested do to help the Kawartha Wildlife Centre?

Olivia: If other RVTs are interested in helping the Kawartha Wildlife Centre they can host a fundraiser (such as nail trims) for our organization as funding is what is needed most at this time. We can also always use donations of medical supplies and equipment for our hospital. We currently need items such as a surgery table and light, centrifuge, exam table, x-ray unit, laryngoscope, otoscope, ophthalmoscope, heating pads/blankets etc. They can always email or call us also!


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