Vet invents new procedure to save injured tortoise

SAN DIEGO – Using material he bought at Home Depot, a local veterinarian performed an innovative procedure that likely saved the life of an injured tortoise.

Dr. Daniel Barbour said nothing like it had ever been attempted at the Humane Society of San Diego.

“I did have to get a little bit creative,” he admitted. “I’ve never done something like this before.”

It all started two weeks ago, when someone brought in an injured tortoise. It had a large hole in its shell just above the shoulder, making conventional surgery impossible.

“I’m actually pretty proud of my accomplishment,” Barbour said.

He went to Home Depot and bought a screen-door repair kit and some fiberglass epoxy. Using sand paper and the epoxy resin, he smoothed out the shell and patched over the broken area, using the screen to form a prosthetic shell.  The patched shell will protect the tortoise from predators.

While he had it on the operating table, Barbour added an identification microchip to the tortoises back leg. If the reptile gets lost again, an animal shelter or veterinarian will be able to find out where it came from. The Humane Society will begin offering the microchipping service to the public starting on May 23. Owners of pet tortoises or turtles  can bring them in to have the ID chips installed. Barbour says runaway turtles happen more than you would think.

“On a warm sunny day, when he gets up and moving, I have to keep my eyes on him. He’s pretty quick," Barbour said.

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