By Lori Zelenko

He’s been called “the sexiest beast tamer alive,” by PEOPLE Magazine. A million follow him on Instagram (@dr.evanantin) and though he may have supermodel looks, he’s as nurturing to hurt puppies as he is to exotic animals.

And now he’s the star of Animal Planet’s sure to be hit TV show Evan Goes Wild, his first TV series airing Sunday nights at 9:00 PM ET/PT or you can stream it on the Animal Planet GO app. There’s no diva act here, Evan Antin couldn’t be kinder, more genuine, or considerate of people and pets - and yes, wild animals too. Though he may have celebrity status now, he’s still a down home boy from Kansas City, Kansas who grew up with a creek in his backyard full of turtles and snakes. His parents were understanding while he kept a reptile or two under his bed, though he first real pet was a bunny. He went on to vet school at Colorado State University and has been caring for all creatures great and small ever since.

Evan Antin is living his dream, in fact he says joyfully, he’s out there doing everything on his bucket list. Not everybody’s bucket list is wrangling pythons or gaining the confidence of an extraordinary owl much less a sloth or a Loris, or even, his favorites, crocodiles. But it’s Evan’s dream come true. In fact, he’s a snake handler like no other, finding the individuality of King Cobras mesmerizing, I must say that’s a unique take on these venomous snakes. They are not exactly the kind of animal you immediately credit with a distinct personality.

His fame, which will only increase with the new Animal Planet show, helps him help animals all over the world not just in his own “backyard,” now Thousand Oaks, California. As he says, simply, “I was meant to be a vet. I have never looked back.” After all, he reveals, being a vet is reconnecting with his childhood passion.

Yes, you can make an appointment for your pet at the hospital where he works in Los Angeles when he’s not taping the show in faraway places like Kenya or Sri Lanka. The switchboard at the Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital rings off the hook when he’s in town; we hear some who don’t even actually own pets insist on making appointments just to meet this “hot doc” who is notoriously hunky but tremendously loving where animals are concerned.

He has two cats, Blue and Willy, and Henry, a dog, a cute terrier with a spunky attitude. And his menagerie has extended itself to a savannah monitor lizard, a mangrove snake, and an assortment of tropical fresh water fish. His furry family rambunctiously populates his Instagram feed which not only shares their adventures at home but his bucket list experiences in the wild. His pets help him understand the physiology of some of the animals he works on: House cats, he sees are a model for big cats. So the anatomy of his precious kitty is what guides him when he has to help a lion or a tiger in distress; now that’s a fearless approach!

He has worked on jaguars in Mexico, “so gorgeous,” he says of them, calling it the “ultimate” experience to help these sleek, beautiful big cats who roam from Mexico to Argentina. They often hunt by the water looking for deer and even a caiman (basically a small alligator) to eat; humans aren’t necessarily on their agenda though they consider 85 species fair game. Jaguars come in third after Lions and Tigers, stealthy and silent with an acute sense of smell, and able to see in the dark with mirrored eyes. This wild animal has long been identified with sorcery and magic; the spirit-helper of shamans and sorcerers, they are known in Mexico as the most dazzling symbol of priests and kings. But for Evan Antin their magic was in the truth of their human-animal connection; he believes human intervention to help endangered species is crucial. “Most animals that are endangered are so because of humans and for that reason, I feel it is our responsibility to help individual animals, we should make every effort to save them even if it doesn’t seem ‘natural’ at that time.”

Evan Antin is a champion. Not just because he’s kind to animals who are likely in dire straits, but because he sees the most vilified creatures on the planet as the ones worth standing up for.

Speaking about his extensive travels as he pursues encounters with the wildlife on his bucket list, he insists poisonous animals are “not trying to kill you” and “are far more afraid of us than we are of them.” He adds, “people have this irrational fear of wildlife. I’d rather be bit by an 18-foot python than a hamster.” And snake charmer he is, handling some monstrously-sized ones with grace and love.

Talk to him about swimming with the sharks, and no, we are not talking about surviving in corporate America, and he speaks to the basic decency of these known predators. More than 70 million are killed by humans each year, harvested for their fins a demand that’s increased particularly in China and its territories. This kind-hearted vet reminds us that Jaws (the movie) gave sharks a bad rep and that in the scale of things, where casualties from car accidents far outnumber death by shark bite (only six a year are actually fatalities, he says), sharks are he believes, “misunderstood.”

Tops on his list of favorite animals are crocodiles, he loves these creatures he calls “total dinosaurs.” It’s another Animal Planet star, the intrepid natural historian and real-life ‘Crocodile Dundee’ Steve Irwin, whose legacy Evan so admires, “I grew up on him,” he says (Evan is 34 years old). In fact, you could say he was able to walk in Steve Irwin’s shoes when he visited a rescue organization that breeds Philippine freshwater crocodiles, among the most endangered in the world. Evan’s travels take him everywhere there’s “good wildlife, maybe a jungle, cool people and neat history,” basically given that combination, he says “I’m there.” So you’ll find him doing dental work on primates in Indonesia, tussling with lizards in Botswana and watching the echidnas (spiny anteaters) of Australia. And you can watch it all on Animal Planet this Spring or follow his Instagram for the back stories on his journeys to the furthest corners of the planet.

If you and your pet just can’t get enough of Evan Antin, head on over to Petco and pick up his Happy Pet products, there is Shampaw and Cuddle Me Conditioner, all eco-friendly and made with natural, pet-safe ingredients - so when you’re snuggled on the couch together watching Evan Goes Wild on Animal Planet, your fur baby will be squeaky clean and smelling swell. And you’ll be that much closer to the sexiest beast tamer alive. Spoiler Alert: he’s been known to shower with Happy Pet Shampaw, just take a look at his Instagram!

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