DENVER (KDVR) – A national group that’s heralded the importance of animal care for well over a century opened voting on Thursday to identify the top veterinarian in the country. Now, you can cast your ballot for the finalist who is currently serving the animals that live at the Denver Zoo.

According to its mission statement, American Humane has been holding the health and well-being of animals in high regard since it was founded back in 1877 when it became the first national humane organization in the country. Just under nine years ago, those running the organization created an annual award ceremony to honor the people who exemplify their mission statement, and they named it the American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards.

Now, after a blue-ribbon panel of animal care experts and veterinary professionals whittled down the initial pool of 500 submissions to 10, Dr. Lara Croft of the Denver Zoo finds herself among the finalists eligible for this year’s award. You can vote for her once a day between now and Sept. 15.

“The world’s animals depend on veterinarians and veterinary nurses, and we are honored to recognize their achievements in saving lives, conducting groundbreaking research, and working on the front lines of animal welfare,” president and CEO of American Humane Dr. Robin Ganzert said.

Honoring Dr. Lara Croft of the Denver Zoo

According to American Humane, Croft has been carrying a heavy load at the Denver Zoo since the Great Resignation impacted her veterinarian team back in 2021.

What was initially a squad consisting of four veterinarians and four certified veterinary technicians quickly dropped to two vets and three certified veterinary technicians in the fall of that year.

Like in most industries, the omicron variant led to a large number of last-minute call-outs as the result of exposure to the virus. This left Croft with a constant and stressful workload, which consisted of taking care of more than 3,000 individual animals across a wide array of species. With a calming voice, Croft reportedly led the animal health and animal care teams through the pandemic-fueled chaos while maneuvering the sometimes difficult and sometimes rewarding health cases that arose.

“Whether it was a quality-of-life discussion, development of a birth plan, or continuing to make sure we collected life-saving plasma from our elephants, Dr. Croft helped her team tremendously to navigate a path to success,” the submission for Croft reads.

Her can-do attitude, leadership qualities and general resilience during the challenges brought on by the pandemic are all cited in the submission as reasons to recognize her heroism in the field of veterinary care.

The deadline to vote arrives on Sept. 15.

The award ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 11 and will take place in Palm Beach, Florida.