Felix the Sheep Fitted With a 3D Printed Prosthetic Leg

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pets-and-animals-sacntuaryIt’s back to Woodstock, and today we aren’t headed down to Yasgur’s farm, but rather to Jenny Brown and Doug Abel’s Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. These are some lucky farm animals indeed, who despite challenges earlier in their lives, are now cherished and nurtured deep in the Catskill Mountains where peace, love, and happiness made history decades ago. Still working in that vein, WFAS extends peace, love, and respect to animals as well — including good medical care.

Founded in 2004, Brown and Abel began at the farm with a picturesque wedding and fundraiser that paid for the pasture and barn for the sanctuary. Beginning with a group of rescued chickens and a rooster, today they provide shelter to hundreds of animals in need, including goats, sheep, ducks, cows, turkeys, and many more.

Photo by Bob Esposito

Felix, shortly after arriving at the farm.

Not only do these animals come into the comfort of WFAS, off the streets or out of factory farms, but they find a place to heal as well.

One such very lucky sheep at the farm is Felix, who arrived at WFAS six years ago, missing a leg and stealing the hearts of everyone lucky to have the chance to get to know him.

Felix is also a rare breed of sheep, called a Katahdin. These sheep are very unusual in that they are known as ‘hair sheep.’  As they do not grow wool, they are meant only for purposes of grazing and as a meat source.

As the wee little lamb arrived on the farm lacking complete locomotion, they had him fitted for a prosthetic leg but over the years it had begun to wear down and he was starting to favor the limb.

Brown was involved in exploring a new device for the sheep last year, as co-founder of Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center (HVAMC) at SUNY New Paltz, Sean Eldridge toured the farm and began discussing an exciting new way they could fit Felix with a replacement prosthetic.

“I was introducing (Eldridge) to Felix and telling him that he really needed a new leg, as you could see he was hobbling on it,” said Brown.

enhanced-1460-1412721105-17Eldridge brought up the possibility of 3D printing a prosthetic for Felix, sparking the idea for Brown, who was off and running with the project to set one very lucky sheep up with a new leg.

The 3D printed prosthetic did come about as a result of her discussing the issue at hand and possible technology available with her own prosthetist who, as is to be expected, had a client base composed of only humans — until Brown brought him Felix and they began the journey to see what was entailed in 3D printed prosthetics.

“A great relationship is budding in the world of 3D prosthetics,” stated Brown, who wears a prosthetic leg herself due to childhood cancer.

With everyone on board with taking on the challenge of finding a way to 3D print Felix a new limb, they sought the advice of Andrea Looney, a veterinarian at Cornell University. Katherine Wilson, assistant director of the HVAMC, used a cast scanned by biology major Karen Bylott to build his 3D printed prosthetic after a number of fittings, which they produced out of AVS Plus — which is also used to make LEGOs.

“He’ll get to live his full life out here,” says Brown. “We’re all about making sure these lucky animals have the best lives imaginable.”

While some of the animals are eventually adopted, many stay at the farm for life, and surely this is an amazing atmosphere that most humans would revere as well.

While we write many articles about the amazing ways 3D printed prosthetics are enriching and changing people’s lives — and those of so many needy children — it’s a pleasure and an honor to write about our hairy (not woolly, mind you!) four-legged friends who have the right to a higher quality of life as well, and are receiving it through the creative and persistent efforts of those like Brown, who are open to — and seek — innovation.

Do you know any animals — or humans — who have received 3D printed prosthetics? How do you think this will affect the lives of more domesticated animals and pets? Tell us your thoughts in the Sheep’s 3D Printed Prosthetic Leg Forum over at 3DPB.com.

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