Veterinarians Needed to Serve as Santa’s E.L.V.E.S. (Emergency Landing and Veterinary Expert System)

​The official veterinarian of the North Pole is enlisting the help of other veterinarians to make sure Santa’s reindeer have a healthy and on-time flight this Christmas Eve. For nearly 150 years, Santa Claus has asked that the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) serve as his official veterinarian. In this role, the AVMA president journeys to the North Pole every year to give Donner, Blitzen and all the reindeer a pre-flight health check and make sure they have all the required certificates allowing them to travel across state and national borders.

But ensuring a safe and on-time delivery of presents is more than a one-person job. That’s why the AVMA has developed a volunteer network of veterinarians–known as Santa’s Emergency Landing and Veterinary Expert System (E.L.V.E.S.)–to be part of Santa’s emergency veterinary team on Christmas Eve.

“I’m looking for veterinarians from around the country to help me in this highly important effort,” said Dr. John de Jong, president of the AVMA. “In the event that Santa’s reindeer need to make an unscheduled Christmas Eve stop for sled repairs, refueling or veterinary care, veterinarians in the E.L.V.E.S. program will be on call to provide needed assistance and ensure a safe and on-time delivery of Santa’s precious cargo.”

Dr. de Jong video
(Click here to watch a video of Dr. de Jong describing his role as Official Veterinarian of the North Pole, and how all veterinarians can help this Christmas)

AVMA members can visit the AVMA website to download a badge that lets their clients know they are part of Santa’s E.L.V.E.S. support team. Veterinarians are invited to help spread holiday cheer by displaying their official E.L.V.E.S. badge at their clinics or on their social media channels and educating clients on the various ways that veterinarians help keep all animals healthy—even magical reindeer.

Reindeer pass annual exam
Dr. de Jong traveled to the North Pole recently to perform a veterinary exam on Santa’s reindeer and has cleared them for this year’s flight. Dr. de Jong ensured that Santa’s team of nine were up-to-date on their vaccinations, free of disease and healthy enough to make their annual trek around the globe.

“After thorough examination, I can tell you that Santa’s reindeer are perfectly healthy, in great shape and ready for their upcoming flight,” Dr. de Jong said.

The reindeer’s annual exam includes a health check about a month prior to their Christmas Eve flight to make sure they’re healthy and not showing any signs of disease—such as brucellosis, tuberculosis or chronic wasting disease—that can be transmitted to other animals around the world.

“Santa’s reindeer need to be in tip-top shape to complete their Christmas Eve flight on time, so it’s vital that they receive a pre-trip veterinary exam to make sure they are free of any injuries that might slow them down,” Dr. de Jong said. “Because the reindeer will be visiting all corners of the globe, we need to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations and free of disease so they don’t pick up or spread any infections to other animals around the world.”

In addition to presents for children around the world, Santa is required to bring with him an official “North Pole Certificate of Animal Export” that allows him to freely cross borders and ensure health officials that his reindeer are no threat to animal or public health.

Dr. de Jong will make a follow-up trip to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to provide a pre-flight checkup and to inspect the reindeer upon their return on Christmas morning.

For kids who want to help the reindeer on their journey, Dr. de Jong recommended leaving a plate of graham cracker reindeer cookies, their favorite snack, for Santa to feed them between stops.

Dr. de Jong’s work is consistent with the role veterinarians play every day to ensure the health of animals, people and the environment around the globe. Far from just being “dog and cat doctors,” veterinarians work with all kinds of species, in all types of environments, to make the world a healthier place for all forms of life.

While unavailable for comment due to his busy work schedule, Santa issued a statement, saying, “Without my reindeer, there simply would be no Christmas. Proper veterinary care ensures that, year in and year out, my team and I are able to deliver presents to boys and girls around the world. It’s safe to say that Dr. de Jong is on the “Nice List” this year.”

For more information on Dr. de Jong’s role as official veterinarian of the North Pole, including answers to kids’ questions about reindeer, visit

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