Sterling Animal Orthotist in Rare Company

Many pet parents would do just about anything for their two- or four-legged babies. And sometimes, that includes finding them new legs.

For that, there are few places in the world they can go, and one just so happens to be in Loudoun County. It keeps Derrick Campagna a very busy man.

On a hot May day, it brought Sean and Sara Dougherty from their New Jersey home hours south to Sterling in a nondescript office park off Old Ox Road. There, Yuki, a Husky who traveled from Iran by way of the Husky House rescue in Matawan, NJ, was being fitted for a mold for her first prosthetic.

The Doughertys aren’t quite sure why Yuki is missing a limb, whether it was a result of trauma or genetics, but they are hoping the addition of the prosthetic for the extremely social girl can help her avoid long-term health issues down the road.

Amazingly, the life-changing prosthetics can be made in relatively quick fashion.

“I can do it in a day,” Campagna said. “I just have so many.”

He’s not exaggerating. Campagna said he is one of about 10 in the world who can make the custom products for animals of all shapes and sizes. He’s fitted everything from elephants to small birds and estimates that he has about 200 to 300 cases per month—“because I cover the world,” he said.

Derrick Campagna outfitted this fox with a new leg.
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But about 80 percent of his customers he never sees. Animal owners can send in molds through the mail for Campagna to send a prosthetic back. Or, in some cases, they come to him in Sterling or fly him out to wherever in the world they live.

The constant hum of business makes time off for Campagna all but unheard of. He keeps a cot in his office for the many nights he spends away from home working long hours to churn out the products.

Campagna initially went to school to work on human prosthetics but stumbled upon the niche market of animal prosthetics when he encountered a black lab named Charles in need of an artificial limb for a malformation in his leg. He soon found himself solely in the business of animal prosthetics and developed his own casting kit for his products.

“I got smart after I got good,” he said.

His business quickly went from local to regional to worldwide. Animal Orthocare focuses on braces and different orthotics, but Bionic Pets remains his baby where he deals solely with prosthetics. It’s been located in Sterling for the past three years. Campagna has four people on staff in the Sterling office, and 10 at the headquarters in Minnesota.

Campagna said it is not the large animal cases, like elephants, that are daunting, but the smaller ones.

“There’s lots of fudge factor with an elephant,” he said. “With a bird, if you’re off by a millimeter you’re screwed.”

He evaluates each candidate for a prosthetic by two criteria—the amputation level and whether the prosthetic will benefit their long-term health and mobility; and how the owners will play a role in assisting the animal.

“I have to evaluate [the owners] as much as the animal. Will they take care of them,” he said. “I say ‘no’ more than I say ‘yes.’ If I think [the prosthetic] won’t help them, I won’t do it.”

Perhaps the most surprising part of his business is the relatively low cost of his products. Braces run around $600, while full prosthetic limbs average around $1,000.

More information about Campagna and his business can be found at aocpet.com.
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