With over 1,300 animals, the Catherine Lowry Straz Veterinary Clinic acts as the hub for all things medical. With state of the art equipment and a dedicated veterinary team, our animals receive the best medical care. As the only zoo to have earned accreditation with the American Association of Animal Hospitals (AAHA) twice, it is assured that our animals receive the best healthcare. In addition to the manatee rehabilitation work, the veterinary team at the Zoo serves as a medical center for several of Florida’s iconic wildlife species including black bears and Florida panthers. With a team of forward-thinking veterinary technicians, led by world-renowned veterinarians, the Veterinary team at ZooTampa plays an integral part of the animals care.
Meet the Vets
Dr. Ray Ball, DVM, Senior Veterinarian
Upon graduation from the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1992, Dr. Ray, as he is affectionately known as, began pursuing a career in zoological and wildlife medicine. That pursuit has taken him from Homosassa to South Carolina to residency training in Kansas and eventually to Tampa. From 1996 until 2010 he was Staff Veterinarian at Busch Gardens Tampa and responsible for the health of a varied and large collection. In September 2010 he was selected as Senior Veterinarian for ZooTampa at Lowry Park. Since then, he has initiated several innovative health care programs regarding manatee rehabilitation including novel therapies for manatees affected by red tide and uncovering the mechanism of how cold stress affects manatees in Florida. In the effort to maximize health and establish welfare benchmarks, he has led his team of associates and technicians to achieve certification from the American Animal Hospital Association, AAHA. In addition to the care of the animals at ZooTampa, he is actively engaged with wildlife in Florida with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Always the teacher, he has published and presented numerous topic internationally and has trained five veterinarians while at ZooTampa with the sixth one just starting this past August in a joint program with the University of South Florida's College of Public Health. In addition, Dr. Ray has also volunteered his medical services during the annual Florida panther health assessments in south Florida.
Dr. Lauren Smith, Associate Veterinarian
A native of Texas and child of a military family, Lauren Smith graduated from Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. After earning her veterinary degree, Dr. Smith spent a number of years in companion animal practice before being selected for a prestigious internship in aquatic animal medicine at the University of Florida. In that capacity, she worked with a wide variety of species across several facilities including the Florida and Clearwater Marine Aquariums, Florida Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Mammal Pathology Laboratory, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, and the University’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory. Following completion of that program, Dr. Smith returned briefly to private practice and spent time in Alaska before returning to Tampa as the Associate Veterinarian for Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo in 2015. As a part of the veterinary team, she helps to provide world class veterinary care for the animals in the diverse zoo collection. With her background in aquatic animal medicine, Dr. Smith is an active participant in the zoo’s manatee rescue and rehabilitation program. She currently works on several projects that investigate diagnostic tools to help in medical management and care of these gentle giants. In addition to caring for the animals that come through the zoo’s hospital, Dr. Smith is passionate about promoting the message of wildlife conservation and welfare.