Critter care 

No matter how crappy you feel, however, you can’t call in sick. People are counting on you to show up.

You’re an elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo. And you can’t fit into the exam room.

“Our current hospital conditions aren’t ideal,” said Dr. Gretchen Cole, associate veterinarian for the zoo. “We provide the best care we can, but sometimes we have to decide whether to treat or not based on how much space we have.”

For the past 32 years, animals at the zoo have been treated at the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal and Welfare Complex. Due to technology changes and limited space, the need to build a new animal hospital has become a critical issue.

“We have a strong commitment to animal health care and welfare,” said Dwight Scott, zoo executive director. “Building a new hospital is our No. 1 priority.”

Zoo officials said the new hospital, which will be named the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital, is expected to cost about $9 million and have bigger labs, exam and quarantine rooms, and more space for medicine and supplies. It also will have new equipment and a larger, more efficient commissary.

While zoo officials said space and technology improvements will allow veterinarians to provide better care for the animals, they added that the biggest benefit for zoo patrons will be that the planned hospital would be open for public viewing.

“Guests will be able to watch things like surgeries and exams,” said Scott. “We hope opening the hospital to the public will inspire people. It really is mind-blowing to see what goes into providing this kind of health care.”

The facility would be completed in about two years.

To help raise money for the new hospital, the Oklahoma Zoological Society launched the Commitment to Care campaign with the goal of raising $4.5 million by December.

According to Dana McCrory, executive director of the society, the campaign has raised $3 million so far. Half of the funds will come from the city’s sales tax dedicated to the zoo.

Editor’s note: To make a donation to the campaign, visit commitment-to-care or call 425-0611.

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