Man saves over 20,000 animals with custom-made prosthetics

Meet Derrick Campana, an animal orthotist from Sterling, Virginia. Campana creates braces and artificial limbs to increase animals' mobility and improve their lives.

According to Washington Business Journal, Campana is just one of ten people in the world who make prosthetics for animals. His practice, Animal Ortho Care, located in Sterling, Virginia, sends out kits to veterinarians and pet owners so they can cast molds of their patients or pets. Once the casting kits are returned, Campana crafts a personalized brace, or prosthetic, out of thermoplastic material.

Despite his extremely successful business today, this was not a planned career path for Campana, according to MarketWatch. He went to school to learn how to fit humans for orthotics and prosthetics, but after a request to create a limb for a chocolate lab named Charles, he never looked back.

"I was doing the whole 'human thing' ...but a vet brought in her dog, who needed a prosthetic, to my human practice. I made a prosthetic that was a success, and I immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life," he said.

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Since his breakthrough 15 years ago, his client base continues to grow dramatically. Now, he doesn't just treat four-legged animals -- he's also built prosthetics for birds, horses, sheep, camels, gazelles and even now elephants.

Campanas pieces, which are created from medical-grade plastics before being custom-made to fit each animal, run around $500 for braces, and $1,000 for prosthetic limbs. While they usually have to be paid for out-of-pocket, they are much less expensive than surgery. Consumer Reports notes that surgery to fix a dog's torn ACL can cost up to $3,300, for example.

"If you bring a dog in with a fractured toe, a traditional vet might amputate the entire limb," said Campana. "But even though people say 'my dog does pretty well on three legs,' when you hop on one leg, the rest of your body can break down so quickly. We have proven that we can tack on at least two years to a dog's life by adding a prosthetic."

Campana is welcoming all of the increased attention. "Now we're seeing people caring about animals more, and we're showing the world that things like dog prosthetics exist, and you can give your animals a second chance."

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