SPRING HILL — A new banner in front of San Francis Veterinary Hospital on County Line Road reads "Home of America's Favorite Veterinarian 2013, Dr. Carlos Campos."
It is not exaggerating.
At its annual convention in July in Chicago, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation presented the "America's Favorite Veterinarian" title to the 39-year-old Guatemala native who has been caring professionally for animals in Hernando and Pasco counties since 2002.
Clients nationwide nominated more than 1,000 animal doctors.
The foundation committee settled on Campos based on the nomination written by dog owner Joan Spitrey of Hudson.
Spitrey praised the doctor's kindness, clear explanations and compassionate manner with both animals and clients.
"He's the nicest guy ever. He spends time to talk. We adore him," Spitrey added by telephone.
Campos' ease with clients is evident on meeting. Entering the room at a near-trot, white coat flying, Campos greets human clients with a sincere smile, firm handshake and full attention.
He crouches down to meet and comfort frightened animals, Spitrey said.
Winning the "favorite" title came as a surprise to Campos.
He describes himself as a general practitioner, dealing with orthopedics, soft tissue matters and maladies that call for surgery, medication or both. He also handles breeding management, cancer therapy and eye procedures.
Other veterinary clinics may field specialists to address such issues, but Campos handles many of them himself.
"It is so expensive to go to specialists. … I can do those things at a more moderate cost," he said.
Campos has an undergraduate degree from Florida State University and a doctoral degree from the Florida College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. He stays up-to-date on procedures by taking continuing education courses every two years.
This summer, Campos completed continuing education in hands-on orthopedics, medications, business and USDA animal health certification.
"We try to stay ahead of the ball," Campos said of himself and the three veterinarians under his direction — Drs. Lisa Littlejohn, Stephanie Knapp and Leigh Ann Collins. Together, their client list is about 6,000.
Some of the most challenging cases, Campos said, are those involving more than one disease. He recently treated a diabetic canine also suffering Cushing's disease, causing a double dose of endocrine malfunction.
Campos has a practical approach to end-of-life cases.
"I don't care how long they live; it's how they live. Quality of life over quantity," he said.
The Campos family immigrated to the United States, moving to Miami when Carlos was 14. After veterinary school, he and his wife, Lisa, moved to Pasco County to be near her relatives. In 2002, he joined Animal Care Center of Pasco County, then established San Francis in 2010.
His affinity for animals began with his parents' pair of German shepherds in Guatemala City. He adopted a Scout mantra at age 6 or 7: "Take care of everybody, including animals, as you would yourself."
He remembers enjoying his visit to a farm, where he helped care for chickens and cows. His current patients range from cats and dogs to pigs and chickens.
The Campos family — including children Xavier, 11; Sebastian, 8; and Sofia, 5 — live in Hudson. They have seven goats, 18 chickens, one rabbit, many fish, two dogs and a cat.
"I love going home and seeing the chickens run," Campos said. "The cat I call my third dog. He comes to greet me."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.