Dr. Francis Cipullo of PAWS on Main treats domestic animals, but also treats non-domestic patients such as gorillas, orangutans and big cats, as pictured above.
By Taylor Perry
At PAWS on Main, a facility for after-hours pet care, there is a seasoned veterinarian who likes to take frequent walks on the wild side.
Dr. Francis Cipullo DVM, doesn’t just work with domestic animals like cats and dogs. In his time spent treating animals for Zoo Atlanta and DEWAR Wildlife in northern Georgia, the University of Florida graduate has also worked with the wild side of the Animal Kingdom. His non-domestic patients include sloths, giraffes, rhinoceroses, orangutans, and large cats. His favorite animal to work with, however, is the gorilla.
“You can’t even consider [gorillas] in the same realm as domestic animals. They are incredibly intelligent and dignified,” Dr. Cipullo remarked.
At DEWAR, Dr. Cipullo works specifically with three gorillas: Joe, a 49-year old Western Lowland gorilla; Kidogo, the 13-year old son of Atlanta’s beloved Willie B; and Jasiri, another 13-year old gorilla.
The intelligence of a gorilla such as Joe, with whom Dr. Cipullo has worked for over nine years, is astonishing. “You can train them to accept injections,” Dr. Cipullo explains affectionately, “and they can retrieve things indicated by laser pointer.” Gorillas can even recognize humans they haven’t seen in years and some have been trained to communicate using a modified sign language system.
Dr. Cipullo explains that the differences between working with domestic and wild animals has less to do with levels of domesticity than it does with the animal itself. “Every species has a couple of unique features that you have to take into consideration,” he remarks. Then you can consider the impact of humanity and domesticity.
When asked how he considered the impact that humans were having on the lives of animals, Dr. Cipullo remarked “we impact the wildlife just by being here.” He cautions that “minimal intervention is best,” however, it is encouraged to “do what you can to help.” It is this sort of thinking that influenced Dr. Cipullo’s decision to study veterinary medicine. He remarked that he was hit with “the realization that [he] had a God-given talent,” and that it was his “obligation to use it.” But more than that, Dr. Cipullo asserts without hesitation that he truly loves his job.
“I love to alleviate pain on part of the animals and worry on part of the owners,” Dr. Cipullo says of his life as a domestic veterinarian. “The best thing,” he continues, “is seeing a good and loved animal.”
Dr. Cipullo’s compassion for both the pets and owners he helps is evident to everyone. Anne Roberts, the PAWS on Main Clinic Director, comments that Dr. Cipullo is “very professional in his approach and how he treats people.” When it comes to the animals, Roberts remarks that Dr. Cipullo tries to engage and sooth whatever animals he treats by sitting on the floor and talking softly to them.
“[Pet owners] also love [Dr. Cipullo]. He takes the time to listen to their concerns and give them full answers.” At the same time, Dr. Cipullo helps to pass on his knowledge and teach owners about future habits and situations they can expect from their pet.”
Dr. Cipullo enjoys the challenges he is met with every day and views his job as a form of art. “I treat every animal as if I were the one being treated,” Dr. Cipullo assures. Whether it’s your pet dog or a DEWAR gorilla in the misty mountains of Georgia, Dr. Cipullo takes no shortcuts.