VCA SFVS veterinary surgeons Drs. Margo Mehl and Phil Watt recently had the opportunity to perform a vasectomy … on a lion!


surgery day

The patient, Bambek, was rescued from Bolivia and now lives at the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) ARK 2000 sanctuary. Many thanks to Kim G. from PAWS for putting the following story on Bambek together for us. It was our honor to work with PAWS, and we wish Bambek and Camba all the best!



On May 28, 2010, four circus lions, rescued from Bolivia when their government voted to ban the use of exotic animals in traveling shows, Camba, Daktari, Simba and Bambek, arrived at the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) ARK 2000 sanctuary after a very long journey by plane and truck.

Bambek peered quietly out of his crate as the PAWS team checked in on him. Soon, he was positioned next to the doors of his new home at ARK 2000 sanctuary.

He began to roar, calling to the other lions for reassurance. The PAWS team scattered straw about the enclosure and shifted the crates up to den doors so Bambek and the others, who clearly did not like being separated, could be together.

As the sun began to rise, Bambek was released into his separate den area while the crates were removed from the area, and finally, the gates were opened and the three males were reunited.

Camba, the female lioness who has been kept separated until all the animals can be neutered, hugged the common fence, pushing her body into Bambek.

Suddenly, all three males began rolling around in the fragrant alfalfa hay, and then raced around the big enclosure sniffing the pine trees, urinating profusely, and somersaulting over the branches to jump on an unsuspecting companion. Camba chased Bambek and the others up and down the fence line, wearing pine branches and hay on her head.

Sadly, we realized how spacious that den area was compared to the metal boxes that had been their home for most of their lives.

The three males fell asleep on top of each other against the fence next to Camba until PAWS keepers released the lions into the huge sunny hillside habitat with trees, logs and lots of vegetation.

The PAWS tigers, in the adjacent habitat, were stalking their new “neighbors” and roaring over the hillsides.

Bambek and the other lions roared back, and long conversations developed between the two species, almost a big cat welcome wagon.

Bambek and the lions from Bolivia were home and had become the Pride of PAWS.

Bambek chose to sleep out in the habitat that first night, gazing up at the stars, likely for the very first time in his life.

Why did Bambek need a vasectomy?

When the lions arrived from Bolivia, they were reproductively intact. Bambek was very close to his male companions, Daktari and Simba. During the day, they would lie close together in their grassy habitat and at night, they would sleep together in a big pile in a den. After both Daktari and Simba tragically died with cancer, Bambek was left alone in his habitat, which shared a common fence line with his neighbor, Camba the lioness. Bambek began to show an interest in Camba, and the two lions romp along the fence together, and even sleep next to each other, touching through the fence.

In hopes of introducing Bambek to Camba, and to prevent any possibility of pregnancy, vasectomy surgery was performed on Bambek with the assistance of veterinary surgeons Dr. Margo Mehl and Dr. Phil Watt, with their assistant Melissa. (If you neuter a male lion, he’ll lose his mane, which is why the vasectomy route was chosen.)

The surgery went well, and Bambek has fully recovered. We are looking forward to carefully introducing these two in hopes that they will provide companionship for each other.

About Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

PAWS was founded in 1984 and is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of captive wildlife. PAWS operates three sanctuaries in Northern California and is home to elephants, tigers, lions, bears and others. Rescue. Protection. Sanctuary. Education. Advocacy. www.PAWSweb.org

Ways to support PAWS/donate > www.pawsweb.org/support_paws_home_page.html

Patient Story: Charlie

Today on the blog, we feature Charlie! Charlie has made a few trips to our hospital, most recently to see Dr. Diana Bowen, one of our internal medicine specialists, for gastrointestinal issues.



As you can see, Charlie is quite the handsome orange kitty, and we are honored to be on his veterinary care team. Below, Charlie’s human companion Si Si shares a little more about him.

From Si Si:

We rescued Charlie when he was about 4 weeks old in front of our house on 08/24/99. He liked to sleep and play with the toys when he was young.


He always liked to sit on Daddy’s shoulder like a parrot.


I believed that Charlie was reincarnated by my first orange tiger boy named “Sweetie” from SFSPCA (1979 to 1994). That was why he is very special to me.

We rescued Miss Lucky (Charlie’s half sister) in front of our house on 11/30/00. We rescued Pouncer on 08/26/06, Blackie on 10/16/07, and Jolly on 07/16/08.




Charlie used to play with all his brothers and sister and was very happy. Lately, he tries to hide from them. Dr. Bowen saved both Charlie (three times) and Lucky (one time).

I am totally blessed that Charlie is in Dr. Bowen’s hands because of her professionalism, knowledge, compassion and patience.

Many thanks to Si Si for sharing these fabulous pictures (we especially love the pigeon-watching kitties) and for trusting us with her “orange tiger’s” veterinary care.

Would you like your dog or cat to be featured in our Patient Stories series? Please email us for information. We look forward to hearing from you.


Our hospital is in search of a special canine or feline patient to be our 2014 holiday card model! Want to see your animal companion(s) featured on the card?

Here’s how to enter, in three easy steps:

  1. Email a high-res photo (300 dpi) to prsfvs@vca.com by 11/3/14.
  2. Include pet name and age, why he/she visited VCA SFVS, and your VCA SFVS doctor and your primary veterinarian (if applicable).
  3. Also send a sentence or two about why you think your furry friend(s) should be this year’s card model.

A panel of our veterinarians and staff will choose the finalists, and then we will open up voting for the winner in an online public poll. The winner will receive copies of the holiday card and a special gift from our hospital.

We look forward to seeing your photos!

(We know it may be a *little* early to be thinking about the holidays, but we need some extra time to collect entries and votes, and then design/print/mail the cards. Thanks for understanding!)

Our staff spotlight series allows our clients and friends to learn a little more about the people at VCA SFVS. This week we feature Benjamin Rendernick, a registered veterinary technician at our hospital.

Name: Benjamin Rendernick

Your position: RVT, internal medicine lead technician and oncology technician

When did you join VCA SFVS? May 2010

Favorite part of your job? My favorite part of my job is working with oncology patients and their families. I really enjoy being a part of their care every week and getting to know them so well. Being able to earn a pet’s and owner’s trust is very important and rewarding to me. I also love providing the highest quality care for pets and families going through a tough time.

"holding one of my favorite patients from a few years ago during chemotherapy administration"

holding one of his favorite patients from a few years ago during chemotherapy administration

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am originally from Monterey, California, and moved to the San Francisco area in 2010 when I started at SFVS. I have been working in the veterinary field for over 12 years with experience ranging from small-animal practices, exotics, wildlife and emergency care. I earned my associate’s in science, majoring in animal care in 2006 and shortly after took my examination to become a registered veterinary technician.

My love for animals began at a very young age when I would convince my parents to let me care for any hurt animals I came across. Luckily I had a very tolerant mom who would let me nurse garden lizards and birds back to health in her house (thanks, Mom).

Any animal companions of your own? I have two dogs, a 9-year-old pit bull mix named Apple, whom I rescued when she was left in a shopping cart at only a day old, and my partner’s dog, Inky, a 6-year-old terrier mix. We also have cat named Talulah, whom we recently adopted from a coworker and who is the boss of the dogs.

What do you enjoy doing outside work? I like to enjoy my days off by trail-running in the Bay Area, hiking with the dogs, gardening, reading and traveling.

Favorite pet-related activity in the Bay Area? Hiking with the dogs in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. The area is beautiful and the hike up to the top of West Ridge Trail rewards you with views all the way to San Francisco.

hiking in redwood regional with apple and inky

hiking in redwood regional with apple and inky

What are you currently reading? I am re-reading the Hunger Games to get ready for the next movie coming out in November. (I’m a dork.)

Favorite TV show? Game of Thrones

Anything else you’d like to share? I am obsessed with succulents and have started a group at work of plant clipping trading. I love finding new fun containers to put plants in and giving them as gifts.

"one of my favorite mini succulent gardens with a ganesh that a friend brought back from india"

one of benjamin’s favorite mini succulent gardens with a ganesh that a friend brought back from india

Our staff spotlight series allows our clients and friends to learn a little more about the people at VCA SFVS. This week we feature Jennifer Craft, a referral coordinator at our hospital.

Name: Jennifer Craft

Your position: Referral coordinator, administrative team

When did you join VCA SFVS? January 2012

Favorite part of your job? Seeing how much our clients love their pets

jen with adam and andrew at an sfvs happy hour

jen with adam and andrew at an sfvs happy hour

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I had the best childhood growing up at the beach in Southern California, but as soon as I got to Berkeley for college, I knew I was a city girl. I spent a few years in Washington, DC, working for a Member of Congress, then moved back west to San Francisco. I tried out management consulting before joining a dot-com in the late 90s, then landed the job of a lifetime working in operations for a cryptography company. While there, my husband and I adopted a senior cat from the SF SPCA, and bam, I knew that animals were the vocation for which I’d been searching. After many years of volunteering and working at the SF SPCA, I joined SFVS because I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn more about veterinary medicine and share the amazing things we do here with the community.

What does your work day entail? They are always different, but every day is filled with marketing and PR emails, chatting with clients and referring veterinarians about what we’re doing right and what we could do better, planning events for the community, and spending time with my colleagues and our patients to better understand what makes us SFVS.

Favorite patient success story? A guardian brought her kitty in one night after she had ingested lilies, which are toxic to cats. It was a rough three days, but her kitty pulled through and that client now preaches the gospel of keeping deadly plants away from your pets.

Your work-related super power? Being able to talk to anyone about anything at anytime

Any animal companions of your own? Floyd, a 14-year-old DSH nicknamed Blue Velvet for his beautiful coat. Miller, a 10-year-old DSH who is the largest and most gentle brown tabby you could meet. OLC (Old Lady Cat), an approximately 150-year-old foster hospice for the SF SPCA who lives on our kitchen counter and rules the roost.

bart and jen

bart and jen. bart was one of jen’s first kitty loves, and he couldn’t get close enough to people, as this pictures illustrates. 

What do you enjoy doing outside work? Drinking wine, eating/cooking inventive vegan food, working out, studying French and traveling

howard and jen enjoying a cold winter’s day in london while taking in trafalgar square

howard and jen enjoying a cold winter’s day in london while taking in trafalgar square

Favorite pet-related activity in the Bay Area? Luring the neighborhood feral cats into a trap … mwa ha ha ha!

What are you currently reading? The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner and a Rick Steves travel book on Croatia

What’s in your music rotation right now? Go Go’s station on iTunes radio

Favorite TV show? The Honourable Woman

Staff Spotlight: Crystal Bicoll

Our staff spotlight series allows our clients and friends to learn a little more about the people at VCA SFVS. This week we feature Crystal Bicoll, cardiology service coordinator at our hospital.

Name: Crystal Bicoll

Your position: Cardiology service coordinator

When did you join VCA SFVS? November 2009

Favorite part of your job? Working alongside an amazing cardiologist (Dr. Justin Williams), who makes such a positive difference for our patients with heart disease. I also love the interaction with both clients and their pets.

Tell us a little about yourself: I’m a native San Franciscan who has worked in the veterinary field for eight years now, three at a general practice and five at VCA SFVS. I was drawn to the veterinary field because of my strong passion for helping animals in need. I even started doing regular pet-sitting for geriatric/special needs pets as a side job, simply for the continuous need for the interaction with animals who could use my help.

One pet-sitting client who is most dear to my heart is a cute French bulldog named Delilah. I met Delilah and her owner at VCA SFVS a few years ago, when she was looking for a pet-sitter. Delilah is paralyzed from the waist down, and lives life in a cart. However, she does not let her disability stop her. Every week we play fetch and/or spend time running up and down the beach.

delilah rose shea on a rainy day 

delilah rose shea on a rainy day

What do you enjoy doing outside work? As much as I love working with dogs and cats, my ultimate passion is with exotic animals. I have volunteered at the SF Zoo for 18 years to satisfy that passion, and that’s where I found my favorite animal … Magellanic penguins! When I’m not working or volunteering, you can usually find me spending time in Santa Cruz at the beach watching the waves.

hanging out with this year’s four baby magellanic penguins at the sf zoo

hanging out with this year’s four baby magellanic penguins at the sf zoo

Patient Story: Coco

Today on the blog, we feature Coco. We met Coco when he came in to VCA SFVS for an appointment with Dr. Margo Mehl, one of our veterinary surgeons.

Here, Coco shares a little bit about himself, via human companion Kevin, along with some great photos!

Hello! My name is Coco.



I was born on May 16, 2005, in Washington State. I don’t remember much about my first weeks but, evidently, I was adopted by my first human, Alison, at an early age. I was very popular in the retirement home and I loved her very much. However, her mobility difficulties caused me to miss my regular walks. We thus decided it was in my best interest to adopt Alison’s son as my new human and move to San Francisco with him. It has been a good move and I even got to see her a lot afterward.

My interests? I love long walks on the beach, sidewalk cafés, and a certain Maltipoo named Celeste. She more or less ignores me. Did I mention that they allow dogs in Parisian restaurants and the cheese is delicious? Très civilisé!

café chic

café chic

oui! oui!

oui! oui!

At home, my favorites are down-filled pillows and the crook in my dad’s arm. I take my status as a lap dog very, very seriously. I may be small but I have the heart of a lion and have kept my human safe with 100% effectiveness. I also stood down my two Mastiff cousins who used to like to chase me around.

In any case, I recently visited Dr. Mehl for consultation about my liver shunt and bladder stones. Surgery was the only option and, while I hated to leave my dad for TWO WHOLE NIGHTS, Dr. Mehl did a great job and the whole staff were so kind to me. I have bounced back and am back where I belong!

coco and kevin

coco and kevin

On behalf of my dad and me, thank you Dr. Mehl and all my friends at SF Veterinary Specialists! I’m looking forward to many more walks on the beach and maybe Celeste will finally notice me.

Thank you, Coco – it is our honor to be a part of your veterinary care team. (Good luck with Celeste!)


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