Ferrets, hedgehogs and birds – oh my! Welcome to Odd Pet Vet.

Cat and dog owners should look elsewhere: At Odd Pet Vet, just outside Boston, the staff only accepts “non-traditional” creatures.

Every day, a coterie of birds, reptiles, ferrets, hedgehogs – and even spiders and centipedes – pass through the doors of the clinic in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Why we wrote this

A story centered on

Love comes in many shapes and sizes. At Odd Pet Vet, veterinarians care for special pets – and the people who love them.

“What we consider an exotic animal is a legal, non-traditional pet,” says Greg Mertz, principal veterinarian at Odd Pet Vet. “The emphasis is on the legal.”

Dr. Mertz has always been fascinated by unusual animals. He is also director of the New England Wildlife Center, where wild animals – which cannot be kept as pets – can receive care. Odd Pet Vet helps fund the center.

Recently, Dr. Mertz switches his focus between a chameleon named Skittles, a rabbit, and a guinea pig. His job brings him into contact with various people, some of whom are as interesting as their pets.

In fact, they’re a big part of what attracts him to his work.

“Anyone who has strange pets…has a non-traditional way of seeing the world,” he says.

Walk into Odd Pet Vet and you might encounter a tortoise, a giant Flemish rabbit, or a red-tailed hawk. You may also see a few dogs running around, but these belong to staff. Odd Pet Vet does not treat furry dogs – or cats, for that matter.

The clinic only treats “exotic” animals: birds, reptiles, mammals like ferrets and hedgehogs, and even spiders and centipedes.

“What we consider an exotic animal is a legal, non-traditional pet,” says Greg Mertz, principal veterinarian at Odd Pet Vet. “The emphasis is on the legal.”

Why we wrote this

A story centered on

Love comes in many shapes and sizes. At Odd Pet Vet, veterinarians care for special pets – and the people who love them.

Dr. Mertz has always been fascinated by unusual animals. He is also director of the New England Wildlife Center, where wild animals – which cannot be kept as pets – can receive care. But when people started asking him for help with their exotic creatures at home, he started Odd Pet Vet in 1995. And now the pet trade helps fund the wildlife center.

Mélanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Dr. Mertz examines two bearded dragons, Pax and Grump, while his rescue dog, Irma, trails behind him.

Jarrod McFarland of Providence, Rhode Island, brings his pet chameleon, Skittles, on a cloudy April day. He holds the little animal in his outstretched hand, its scaly paws patterned in scarlet, lime green, and sky blue clinging tightly to his fingers.

“I’ve always loved reptiles,” he says. “I loved dinosaurs when I was younger, so I think that’s where it came from.”

After watching Skittles, Dr. Mertz focuses on a rabbit, then a guinea pig. Among the multitude of different species, one idea provides a coherent direction. “Listen to your customer,” he says. “It’s always… that you’re respectful of the knowledge that they have.”

His job brings him into contact with various people, some of whom are as interesting as their pets. In fact, they’re a big part of what attracts him to his work.

“Anyone who has strange pets…has a non-traditional way of seeing the world,” he says.

Mélanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Three sibling ferrets named Elvis, Chico and Jose are waiting for their appointment in their carrier.

Mélanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Dr. Mertz cuts the nails of a red-eared slider turtle named Momo. As of 2016, acquiring new red-eared sliders has been illegal in Massachusetts because they are considered an invasive species.

Mélanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Steve Coy waits in the lobby with his macaw, Bear. The 21-year-old bird has a large and colorful vocabulary that keeps its owner entertained.

Mélanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Vet tech Kerry Batchelder holds Bear’s claws during an exam. The sex of the bear has not been determined, but a blood test will reveal the answer.

Mélanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

A small veiled chameleon, aged between 4 days and 2 weeks, comes for an examination. Their owner breeds them for sale.

Mélanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Dr. Michelle Kneeland holds a 6-year-old guinea pig – most only live about two or three years – who is being admitted for a procedure.

Mélanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Bling the turtle finishes half a watermelon.


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