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 for the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1992, Dr. Ray (as he is known to staff everywhere he has been affiliated with) 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 a 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 at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. In the effort to maximize health and establish welfare benchmarks, he’s lead his team of Associates and technicians to achieve certification from the American Animal Hospital Association, AAHA - ZooTampa remains the only zoological facility to achieve such distinction. In addition to the care of the animals at the Zoo, he is actively engaged with wildlife in Florida with the FWC and USFWS. The veterinary team serves as a medical center for several of Florida’s iconic wildlife species including black bears and Florida panthers. ZooTampa has also volunteered his medical services during the annual Florida panther health assessments in south Florida. Always the teacher, he’s published and presented numerous topics internationally and has trained six veterinarians while at ZooTampa.
Dr. Lauren Smith, 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 ZooTampa at Lowry Park 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 currently the Zoo's lead manatee veterinarian, managing all 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.