THE GENTLE DOCTOR Protecting pets and the environment are tops on his agenda


AS OUR environment becomes more endangered, our animals are more endangered and mankind will not be far behind," says veterinarian Stephen Kritsick, who will present a slide show and lecture at the National Aquarium on Sunday to discuss endangered and other animals.

Nationally known for his PBS television series "The Gentle Doctor," Kritsick is a gentle, happy vet who was the animal science editor for ABC television's "Good Morning America," and did the"People and Pets" segments for the CNN network and other television specials. He also maintains a veterinary practice in New York City. ("The Gentle Doctor" is not carried by Maryland Public Television.)

As of Oct. 1 he will be the official spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington.

His lecture Sunday will include slides of his work to save endangered animals. He also will speak on the importance of protecting the environment. "Importantly," he said, "I want questions from the audience."

When he arrives in Baltimore he will be coming from "central Maine where I am spending a week helping a Shaker community harvest its crop. The Shakers have been in existence in America since 1787. I collect their furniture and am interested for that reason, but I wanted the experience of living in their environment," he said from his home in Hudson, N.Y. "I'm not sure what we will be harvesting but it could be herbs since I understand they grow a lot of them."

For our environment, for pets and for all animals, Kritsick has much interest and sensible advice. "The steps we take to save our environment must be the individual ones we can take in our every-day lives. Actions as simple as being aware of a clean water supply and littering the oceans, particularly with plastic. One good example is the big sea turtles whose food is the jelly fish. They confuse a plastic bag for a jelly fish, swallow it and often die.

"Also, while it is so exciting and pretty to see a large number of balloons released into the air, they must fall somewhere and if it is in the ocean, the same danger to sea creatures exists.

Animals and fish are sadly entrapped in the plastic used to hold packages of six-packs."

He also emphasizes the importance of protecting the water supply.

"Most people don't know the importance of not letting the water run and run. When you grow up where there is public water, even in a drought, you don't think so much about it. This waste hit home with me for the first time when I lived in a house with a well which went dry," he said.

Kritsick is on the road most of the time speaking as he will be on Sunday or filming for a television series.

At home in Hudson, his own pet is an 8-year-old black and white cat named Bandit. "And when I need a dog, I borrow one of my favorite patients, a 4-year-old Dalmation who is called Andy Trouble and belongs to my friend Paige Powell, an executive with Interview magazine," he said.

Nothing changes the tone of the gentle vet's voice more than the mention of puppy mills. "They are the public's fault," he says emphatically adding that "people must quit buying them. As long as the consumer continues to purchase from pet stores there will be a demand and therefore a puppy mill. Get your pet from your local animal shelter or go to a reputable breeder."

An advocate of the value of pet ownership, he says that "every child should own a pet and the child who grows up without one misses a whole lot."

"Pets are learning tools for a child. He must accept responsibility and care for something -- with his parents' supervision -- and, he will learn respect for dependency and for the living.

"If a family cannot have a cat or dog, there are many alternative pets such as fish, birds and smaller animals," he says noting that he would like any pet "except a snake. I've never been able to really like a snake."

His advice to pet owners is to pay close attention to your pets. "It is important that people provide good health, a good home and good food. Also one of the most important things is that they should always be very aware of their pet -- knowing its ways and moods so that if it is not acting normal, it is taken to the veterinarian," he says.

Kritsick will speak from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at the aquarium. Tickets will be sold at the door. Admission for non-members is $11 for adults and $9 for those ages 3 to 18. Admission for members is $6 for adults and $4 for children. Admission is free for children under three. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call 727-FISH.

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