By Laurie Dunklee
Fans of Animal Planet TV across the country know him as “Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet.” The Animal Planet website describes him as “Denver’s most passionate and persevering veterinarian — flip flops, long hair, tattoos and all — tackling high-stress situations to save the lives of both beloved pets and rescued wild animals.”
To Wheat Ridge and North Denver locals, he is Dr. Jeff Young, founder of Planned Pethood Plus in Berkeley in 1992, which moved to 46th and Harlan in Wheat Ridge in 2016. Started as a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, Planned Pethood Plus also provides affordable full-service veterinary care.
Young is a passionate advocate for spaying and neutering pets and he has performed more than 165,000 of these population-controlling procedures.
“Too many dogs and cats are euthanized because too many are born,” he says. “The number one cause of so many deaths is that too few are spayed or neutered.”
Six million companion animals are euthanized in the U.S. every year, Young says.
“Dogs reproduce 15 times more offspring than humans; cats 45 times more. We require spay or neuter for every pet that comes in. We need more low-cost spay/neuter services. The big threat is that it’s cheaper to euthanize than spay/neuter.”
In addition to promoting population control, Young’s mission to reduce euthanasia leads him to educate people all over the world about adoption, pet care and training.
“Sixty percent of adopted puppies are given up within a year because of behavior issues like urinating or biting. Shelters need behavioral trainers to prepare animals to be adopted. And it’s important to match the right dog with the right person. An active lab might not be the best dog for an old lady.”
Young was born in Indiana, the son of an Air Force officer.
“We moved every three years. But I spent summers at my grandparents’ farm in Indiana.” He says he connected with animals there and, aside from a short period of wanting to become a Green Beret, decided at a young age to be a veterinarian.
He graduated from the Colorado State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1989. Young believes his humane ethics come from working for the Larimer County Humane Society as an animal control officer during his university training.
“I saw the seedy side of animals’ lives, like being chained up with no water or bred continuously. I learned a lot,” he said.
Young has three daughters and seven grandchildren. His wife, Petra Mickoba, is a vet at the clinic and the couple lives upstairs in the 8,000-square-foot building. Young has coached distance running at North High School for 26 years.
“My grandchildren go with me to help on trips with the mobile neutering clinic. Recently we’ve been to Brush, Walden and Cortez, as well as the Globeville neighborhood. Our low-cost spay/neuters start at $10 for a male cat, or they are free if we get a grant.”
Young and his team of veterinarians at Planned Pethood Plus see approximately 70,000 animals every year.
“People drive here from all over because we do surgeries that they can’t afford elsewhere,” he said. “Pets get euthanized because their owners can’t afford a $5,000-to-$10,000 surgery. Other vets refer to us. We’re the last stop for many pets. Because of us they don’t get killed.”
Through his nonprofit Planned Pethood International (PPI), Young trains vets in Europe and Mexico to perform efficient, cost-effective spay/neutering. He has trained more than 300 veterinarians from all over the world. PPI has financed a full-service veterinary hospital in Merida, Mexico, where “we house and train people for free, to work on the many street dogs,” Young says.
Young also trains vets in Bratislava, Slovakia at a veterinary hospital funded by Planned Pethood International. A second clinic is planned in Montenegro [which borders Croatia]. Profits from these clinics are returned to Planned Pethood International for training of veterinarians and construction of new clinics.
Planet Pet adoption service was created by Dr. Young in 2005 to save the many abandoned animals that he found on the doorstep of the clinic. Planet Pet vets and volunteers nurse the animals to health and keep them until they can be adopted. Planet Pet has found homes for thousands of cats and dogs, as well as a few rats, bunnies, guinea pigs and exotic pets.
“We get about 300 animals a year,” Young said. “Some have been hit by cars, and some are from puppy farms. We take in the ones that need help.”
Young got hired by Animal Planet after they saw a YouTube video of one of his lectures.
“They thought I was a character,” he says.
“Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet” has about 1.5 million viewers and Season 6 is now in production. Young says his Animal Planet celebrity is a mixed bag. The self-proclaimed “dog and cat guy” gets the opportunity to work on exotic animals like camels, tigers and bears. But it takes him away from his work at home.
“Doing the show brings in donations for the nonprofit, which is great,” he said. “The downside is that more people know about our low-cost services and we get overwhelmed.”