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Kids can learn more about vets and pets

The Science Center of Pinellas County hopes to pack in audiences Saturday for a new veterinary exhibit.

The mock animal clinic shows an illuminated dog X-ray on the wall and invites children to learn how to look for parasites or check out a replica of a cat's organs.

"The Veterinary Office: The Doctor Is You!" occupies the loft area on the second floor of the Discovery building at 7701 22nd Ave. N.

The Pinellas Animal Foundation put the exhibit together with a $10,000 grant from the Pinellas County Veterinary Medical Society. The Science Center will showcase it from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, "Veterinary Day."

Since November the center, which offers more than 100 classes for learners young and old, has held monthly "Super Saturday" presentations ranging from astronomy to alligator safety and wetlands exploration.

On Monday, with the exhibit not yet finished, the Pinellas Animal Foundation's executive director picked up a plastic model of a dog's heart, with white linguini _ heartworms _ running through it.

"Kids love creepy stuff," Joan Marzi said.

All animal clients are stuffed (thanks to a donation by Toys "R" Us) or are models or replicas.

Children can choose whether they want to be a "parent" who brings the animal in, or the veterinarian. The exhibit supplies full-length smocks and plastic stethoscopes and syringes.

There's a weigh station, separate areas for examination and surgery, and a hands-on "CPR dog." Children reach inside an incubator, where the dog lies, and do chest compressions. A light comes on when children are performing CPR correctly.

Marzi said that she knows of only one other similar exhibit in the state, in Miami.

A smaller version of this one stayed at Great Explorations: the Children's Museum at the Pier for years. The foundation did not move with the museum to its current location at 1925 Fourth St. N.

This Saturday's visitors should see Geoffrey the Giraffe and a lecturing "pet professor." The program, which costs $5 per person, includes presentations on responsible pet ownership and CPR for your pet at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. During normal operations, the center will place an adult at the exhibit to help visitors.

A dog circus act kicks off at noon and 1 p.m., and planetarium shows start at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Visitors are free to see the other exhibits both inside and outside the Science Center, including a 600-gallon tank where visitors may touch a lobster, guitar fish and (barbless) sting rays. Call 384-0027 for information or go to sciencecenterofpinellas.com.

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