Veterinarian Gretchen Cole and the rest of the staff at the Oklahoma City Zoo's veterinary clinic are accustomed to making do.
In the clinic's lab, slides are laid out while employees manage a choreography that keeps them from getting in each other's way. In another area of the building, an old storage room has been converted to an office with boxes stacked in what used to be a shower. The facility's commissary, where meals are prepared for animals, is next to the necropsy room where autopsies are performed.
None of this is ideal, and that's why Zoo Friends is embarking on its Commitment to Care campaign, which aims to raise $4.5 million for construction of the $9 million Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital, a 22,000-square-foot facility. The building would more than double the space available to care for sick and injured animals while providing enrichment opportunities for visitors.
“That's not ideal for that kind of mixing of food and raw meat,” Cole said. “There are a couple of design issues like that we've had to work around and adapt to. With this facility, it'll be a design that fits what we need now.”
Half of the $9 million will come from sales tax collections dedicated to the zoo, while the other half will come from contributions.
Officials think construction of a new clinic is one of the most important issues facing the zoo today. The current clinic was built 32 years ago.
“At the time it was built it was adequate and met our needs, but as animal care has evolved, it no longer does that,” zoo director Dwight Scott said. “There is limited space, and some of the equipment has become antiquated.”
Plans are to break ground on the clinic next year and for it to be completed by 2014. When it is finished, it will offer visitors a chance to see what happens inside through an interactive pavilion where they can watch procedures done on animals or workers preparing food for them.
“This hospital will elevate the standard of care they can give, but one thing we're excited about is bringing the hospital onto zoo grounds,” Oklahoma Zoological Society Director Dana McCrory said. “People will be able to look through microscopes and see into the lab. It will be a unique experience for our guests.”
For staff, the improvements include more space and a more friendly design. For example, the necropsy room will be at one end of the facility with its own ventilation system. Menus for the animals will be shown on LCD monitors, making it easier for workers to prepare meals.
For the animals, there will be more kennel space. The current facility has just four, with one used for storage. In addition, the size of the kennels limits their use to smaller animals that can fit through the doors of the kennels themselves. There also will be space for veterinary students to observe and participate in treatment. Because of space issues, that is difficult now.
“In some cases we can't fit animals into the space we have even if we wanted to hospitalize them,” Cole said. “This new facility will have doorways large enough to get just about every species we have into the facility. That will allow us to provide much better care.”
For more information on the Commitment to Care campaign, call 425-0615 or go to www.zoofriends.com.