Dr. Sam Dover chosen as finalist for American Humane Hero Veterinarian
After reviewing more than 250 nominations from animal lovers across the United States, a panel of veterinary professionals and animal care experts has selected 10 of the country’s top veterinarians and veterinary nurses as finalists for the seventh annual American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards, sponsored by American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization.
Dr. Sam Dover, a local veterinarian, is among them. He has been caring for animals including marine life for 31 years.
Pet owners, animal lovers and anyone else can visit www.herovetawards.org every day between now and Aug. 13 at noon Pacific time to vote for the winners who will be honored at the 10th annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards, which will air nationwide as a two-hour special on the Hallmark Channel this fall.
Dr. Dover, 59, was nominated primarily for his work as founder and chief veterinarian of the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI, “sim-wee”), a nonprofit dedicated to impacting conservation through marine mammal rescue, rehabilitation, research and education to promote ocean and human health.
“Our core work is the rescue and rehabilitation of sick, injured, malnourished, orphaned, entangled and oiled marine mammals,” he said. “CIMWI is a part of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program, and it is the only organization in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties authorized by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to respond to live and dead pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), live and dead sea turtles and live cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) as well as rehabilitate live pinnipeds and triage live cetaceans and sea turtles.”
CIMWI, which has been serving Ventura County since 2006 and Santa Barbara County since 2015, is located at the historic Vista Del Mar Union School campus on the Gaviota coast. The Hollister family deeded the property over to the nonprofit in May 2011.
“From 2013 to 2017, CIMWI experienced unprecedented reports of marine mammals in distress and rescued record numbers of pinnipeds. Most of these were malnourished, dehydrated, immune-compromised and emaciated California sea lion pups.These animals needed our immediate intervention and veterinary medical care to survive,” said Dr. Dover during a phone interview.
“We also freed a humpback whale entangled in lines from a prawn trap set off Santa Cruz Island in April. We’ve already returned 19 pinnipeds back to the wild this year, and we will do all we can to provide quality medical and rehabilitation care so we can give these sentinel species a second chance at life.”
CIMWI offers education and outreach programs through beach talks when responding to stranded marine mammals, hosting booths at local festivals and events, beach clean-ups and delivering presentations to schools, groups, agencies, businesses and corporations.
“We also have a children’s book. ‘Number Thirty-Two’ is a hardbound illustrated book written and published by CIMWI,” said Dr. Dover. “It is about #32 — our patients get numbers instead of names — a California sea lion pup who gets entangled in a plastic bag. CIMWI rescues and rehabilitates this sea lion pup and returns him to the wild for a second chance at life. This book is fun to read and an inspiring story based on real-life CIMWI experiences.
“It tells the story of a sea lion pup, #32, and his journey from entanglement and starvation to health and life back in the wild. It is written in rhyming stanzas and includes a glossary. The book provides a unique opportunity for learning about marine mammals, marine debris and ocean stewardship.”
A native of St. Louis, where he graduated from Lindbergh High School, Dr. Dover earned his doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1988 and started his career at SeaWorld San Diego.
”My lifelong goal was to rescue marine animals and research their problems, and working at SeaWorld for 10 years was a good way to start,” he said. “While I was there, I pioneered minimally invasive surgical techniques for dolphins, seals, sea lions, manatees, sea turtles, sharks and walruses.”
In 1999, Dr. Dover accepted a position at the Santa Barbara Zoo as staff veterinarian and director of conservation and research. He continues to be involved with the zoo and is currently consulting and relief veterinarian.
He was a full-time technical veterinarian for Karl Storz Veterinary Endoscopy from 2001 to 2003 and continues to consult for the Goleta company as Endoscopy Support Services facilitating training courses and performing in-service procedures and procedural instruction for small animal clinics.
In addition to teaching and lecturing extensively, Dr. Dover has published numerous articles, papers and book chapters in the field of surgery and marine mammal medicine.
He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Wildlife Disease Association, International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine, Marine Mammal Society and American Association for Zoological Veterinarians.
“I have wanted to be a veterinarian ever since I was 5 years old and our cat would bring home baby rabbits, which I tried to save. Most vets have similar stories,” said Dr. Dover. “There are animal people and people who want to be animal people. Some of us just have an affinity for animals. I’m living my dream.”