It’s a good thing Evan Antin has understanding parents. Growing up outside Kansas City, Kansas, “I was always going to the creek in my backyard and looking for insects and turtles and reptiles,” he says. “I’d take home what I found — a box turtle or water snake — and keep it as a pet for a week or two.”
That childhood passion led to vet school at Colorado State University — and the two-time title of PEOPLE’s Sexiest Veterinarian Alive.
Antin, 31, sees patients at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California, and spends his free time traveling to some of the most exotic places on the planet to check out the wildlife. His latest trip was to the Philippines, where he visited a rescue organization that breeds Philippine freshwater crocodiles, among the most endangered in the world. In the past, he’s done dental work on primates in Indonesia, wrangled lizards in Botswana and watched the echidnas (spiny anteaters) of Australia. “If it has good wildlife, maybe a jungle, cool people and neat history, I’m there,” he says.
Not that his day job is boring: In a new video series for PEOPLE, which launched Monday morning (check out the first episode above), Antin chronicles his patients and procedures at the animal hospital, where he specializes in reptiles in addition to the usual dogs and cats. And with a permit allowing the practice to treat wild animals native to California, Antin has operated on coyotes, opossums and raccoons and once faced a badger (“That was unreal; I didn’t even know they were in Southern California,” he says).
At home in Agora Hills, California, Antin and his fiancée, travel journalist Nathalie Basha, keep a menagerie: Chihuahua/toy fox terrier mix Henry; cats Willy, a domestic shorthair, and Damien, a Russian Blue; a mangrove snake; a monitor lizard; and some fish. But there’s one more animal on his list. “Someday when I’m old and retired and not traveling as much,” he says, “I see myself getting a parrot and spending time at home.”
Here are five more things you should know about Dr. Antin:
My most memorable pet: “My first dog, his name was Bruno, and he was a Doberman/German shepherd mix from a rescue. He was a big gentle giant, by my side 24/7.”
My favorite animal to work on: “I love working with big reptiles. I’m always stoked if I have a big monitor lizard appointment. I love crocodiles, but we really don’t see them that often; you have to have special permits to have them as pets, but they’re fascinating.”
The smartest animal I work with: “Pot-bellied pigs! We see them pretty regularly, they’re becoming quite popular as pets. There was some recent research that showed pigs are as intelligent as chimps … though pigs in the veterinary hospital don’t always act smart.”
WATCH: People Pet Vet Evan Antin Introduces Us To His Own Furry Friends!
The animal surgery I’ll never forget: “We had this juvenile opossum come in. She was beat up by some animal and hiding in someone’s garage. She got bit in the arm, her bite wound was so bad that our only option was to amputate it. She was doing really poorly; it was scary going into surgery, since she’d been so dehydrated, hungry and infected. So I took her right to surgery after stabilizing her, amputated the limb and rehabbed her personally. She ended up doing great, and I got her in with a wildlife education facility.” (You can follow his animal adventures on Instagram, @dr.evanantin)
If I wasn’t a vet, I’d be … “I love fitness and weightlifting; I was a personal trainer for a year before vet school. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a vet, but this was a neat career twist I wanted to explore.”