Rescue Critters' Fake Plastic Pets Help Train Veterinarians

05/07/2009 at 07:45 AM EDT

Rescue Critters' Fake Plastic Pets Help Train Veterinarians
It looks like a puppy, has fur like a puppy and even has internal organs like a puppy – but it's a fake. The faux puppy is a $2,500 mannequin from the Los Angeles-based company Rescue Critters.

"We make everything from a fully articulated rat, all they way up to a fully articulated horse," says Craig Jones, who created the company in 1998. The former Red Cross CPR instructor discovered a need for the product while teaching a pet CPR class a decade ago. "I realized that there wasn't a mannequin on the market that would suit the class," he recalls. "I had a lot of friends in the special effects industry, and relatives that were professional seamstresses. I had all the building blocks to make a CPR mannequin that was a dog, and then from there we made a cat."

Earlier this year the company released WAMS (Whelping Assistant Mannekins), which help train surgeons in post-birth operating techniques, like tying an umbilical cord, and in June they will release Male & Female Spay and Neutering Surgical Training Manikins (the puppy version is above). The company's various models – made of foams, plastics and rubber – are used by students, fire departments and animal rescuers in training. It's most popular: Critical Care Jerry, a canine model that accounts for 45 percent of their sales.

"[Critical Care Jerry] is specifically designed for emergency response scenario training and veterinary sciences," he says. "It has artificial heart sounds, they have speakers installed into them. We're able to check for a pulse, establish an airway, hook it up to a ventilator, you're able to draw blood in both the jugular veins as well as the in the arm of the animal." And it weighs about the same as a real cat or dog.

Jones's lifelike critters have captured a niche market, and he say that over 500 instructors worldwide use the models for training. "We increase our business by about 20 to 30 percent every year," says Jones. "We're the only ones doing what we do."

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