At the Virginia Zoo, our veterinary technicians are a critical part of our veterinary care. Meet Leah Rooker and Danielle Painter, the Zoo’s only vet techs who work tirelessly to provide exceptional care for the more than 700 animals at the Virginia Zoo.
Leah and Danielle put their vast technical and scientific skills to work everyday not only in the exam and surgery room at the Animal Wellness Campus, but behind the scenes of exhibits to treat everything from dental care, to wing clippings, to newborn exams and more.
NAME/TITLE & YEARS AS A VET TECH?
Leah Rooker, BS, Licensed Veterinary Technician; 27 years working as a veterinary technician – 11 yrs as a Large Animal Veterinary Technician at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Virginia Tech and 16 years as a Zoo Veterinary Technician at the Virginia Zoo.
Danielle Painter, Veterinary Technician. I have been a vet tech for 5 years.
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND- EXPERTISE?
Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology from Harcum College; Bachelor of Science in Biology from Virginia Tech. I worked in the Large Animal Department at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Virginia Tech for 11 years before being lucky enough to get hired at the Virginia Zoo.
Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology. This is my fourth AZA institution that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. I spent 4 years interning and volunteering at zoos and aquariums before I got my first full-time position.
TELL US ABOUT A FUN EXPERIENCE AT THE VIRGINIA ZOO.
Anytime we do a veterinary procedure on an animal; it’s a lot of work but it is also always an amazing experience. No day is exactly the same! One day I could be helping with a physical exam on a porcupine, the next day a root canal on a lion. It definitely is not a boring job. I love being able to use all of my technical skills. Helping the keepers train their animals for medical behaviors, like allowing voluntary hand-injections and blood collection, is also a very fun and rewarding part of my job.
I love being able to support the zoo’s conservation efforts and make a difference in the lives of all the animals that live here.
WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR THOSE WANTED TO BE A VET TECH?
Be willing to put in the time; you may have to start by interning or volunteering to get experience in the field. If it is something that you are truly passionate about, take every opportunity you can to learn and increase your knowledge.
Study hard. As a zoo vet tech, you have to know how to work with hundreds of different species.
WHO/WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL AND WHY?
People always ask me this and it is always a really hard question to answer, as I like so many of the animals I work with. If it had to narrow it down, I would say one of my favorites are the tigers, though it’s hard for me to put an exact finger on why. Being able to help hand rear our two tiger brothers was an absolutely amazing experience for me that I will treasure for the rest of my life, and only reinforced my love for this wonderful species.
My favorite species have always been orangutans, tigers, and rhinos. I have always been amazed by their grace and intelligence.