Meet the ‘Critter Fixers’ at new Smyrna clinic opening

Drs. Vernard Hodges and Terrence Ferguson, better known as the ‘Critter Fixers,’ are helping others become business owners

They just can’t help but help others.

Drs. Vernard Hodges and Terrence Ferguson, stars of the series “Critter Fixers: Country Vets,” were giving back to their community long before they became famous with their Nat Geo Wild Show.

That platform, however, has given them opportunities they never imagined before: representation for Black veterinarians; “Vet for a Day” opportunities for children nationwide; and now entrepreneurship for other vets.

“We always talk about how we’ve got to, you know, inspire that next generation of veterinarians, and we do that through different programs that we have,” Ferguson said in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But this also allows us to go on the other end of it and still be able to inspire veterinarians to be able to have ownership and entrepreneurship.”

But what does that mean?

The doctors are paying it forward by opening veterinary hospitals in PetSmart locations nationwide — and they’re giving ownership to other vets.

Smyrna clinic

The duo will open a PetSmart Veterinary Services hospital Saturday, June 17, at the Smyrna PetSmart store at 2540 Cumberland Blvd. SE. The Critter Fixer stars will be there 11 a.m.–4 p.m. with new owner Dr. Paul Norwood, who will serve as the location’s primary practicing veterinarian, and the local team of animal care givers.

During the opening, there will not only be a DJ, food trucks, a photo booth and some exotic reptiles to meet, but also the first 50 attendees will receive a free $10 PetSmart gift card and the first 25 pets will get a free dental evaluation.

“Our partnership with Dr. Hodges and Dr. Ferguson provides more opportunities for veterinarians to excel in their career and focus on what they love — caring for animals,” said John Bork, senior vice president of vet health services at PVS. “PVS puts the power back into the hands of veterinarians, allowing them to own their practice inside a PetSmart location. We are excited for our continued work with Dr. Hodges, Dr. Ferguson and their teams to expand PVS locations, as well as encourage the industry to create an inclusive environment that supportive of doctors and the pets they care for.”

“It’s very expensive to open a hospital,” Hodges said. “A lot of times we’re talking about millions of dollars. So with the PetSmart model, you can come in at a really low cost. So, one of the things as African Americans, we talk about the socio economics and how can we make different situations better. But if you now can be an owner, you can change your family’s life, and Petsmart’s model makes it so easy.”

Norwood, who attended Tuskegee vet school with Ferguson and Hodges, is the first vet they chose to partner with.

“So you know, the old people you meet and you’re in the trenches with for four straight years and you go through the good times and the bad time and you really understand them and you know who those genuine people are? He’s one of those genuine people,” Ferguson said. “You know, we wouldn’t hook our wagon up with someone that we don’t know or didn’t feel comfortable with and know that they’re gonna treat people and treat pets just like Hodges and myself do.”

Norwood had always worked for other veterinarians, but now, Hodges said, “He has the dream of ownership. So now he’s the owner.”

Dr. Clarrissa Porter, new owner of a PetSmart Veterinary Hospital opening in Warner Robins in September.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Clarrissa Porter

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Clarrissa Porter

Warner Robins clinic

The second clinic will open sometime in September, in Warner Robins. Dr. Clarrissa Porter will parter with the vets at this veterinary hospital. Porter was a technician at Critter Fixers Veterinary Hospital more than 20 years ago.

“They’ve been my mentors for years and years and years,” she said. “And when I first started I was scared of absolutely everything. But they’ve built me up. II used to cry when I had to do surgery — like literally every time my anxiety was so high. And now I can get through several procedures that I never thought I’d be able to do without tears, and that’s a big thing.”

And now, just four years out of vet school, she will own her own practice. Porter said her practice will not only focus on what ails critters, but also on the anxiety of pets and their owners.

“You know, when a lot of dogs and cats have come into the hospital, they’re very anxious, and there’s certain things that we can do to help with that,” she said. “Anxiety of the clients also; they’re leaving their fur kids in our care. I worked at other general practices, and some people just take their dog to the back and there’s not a lot of explanation. So I hope to be able to make a good relationship between the clients and my team.”

The Critter Fixer family tree

“It’s almost like we raised (Porter) from a baby,” Ferguson said, “and now she is getting ready to be owner of an independent hospital. It definitely gives me pride. I’m proud of her and what she’s accomplished, and just knowing that I had a little bit to do with, that makes it even better.”

He added: “God has done this. A lot of people see and think, you know, it’s easy. It’s not an easy thing. The beauty of Dr. Hodges is we had each other to go through the process of opening clinics and just leaning on each other and kind of going through with some things. When you’re individual, and you’re out there on your own, it’s a scary feeling. So not only do we provide a way to become entrepreneurs, we provide support. We’re right here with Dr. Norwood, making sure we work through this process together. It’s probably something that he never would have done on his own. But because we’re the band of brothers here, we want to make sure he’s successful as well.”

The best part, he said, is now those helped by Hodges and Ferguson will pay it forward themselves.

“They reciprocate this,” Ferguson said. “So now they can stand on the sideline and be like all for myself? No, not not on this Critter Fixer tree, this journey. So now they turn around, and may help others and give that same support. So this tree is just growing.”

Upcoming Zoo Atlanta event

Hodges and Ferguson have traveled the nation introducing kids to their profession through their Vet for a Day program. In September, there will be a chance for Atlanta tweens and teens (ages 12-15) to have a unique experience with the vets at Zoo Atlanta.

“These kids are going to do some exciting things!” Hodges exclaimed. “I don’t even want to tell what they are, because I want them to be surprised. We’re going to go tomorrow and spend five hours in Atlanta zoo and go through everything.”

There might even be some very large pachyderms involved, Hodges added with a glint in his eye.

If you’d like to sign your child up, go to