MADISON (WKOW) -- Henry Vilas Zoo says it continues a monumental shift in healthcare for its animals with a groundbreaking on Monday for the zoo's Animal Health Center.
The center is a planned 6,000 square foot facility, ten times as large as the current clinic space in the zoo's administration building.
"We've managed to rally take good care of our animals over the years, not having a facility," said zoo veterinarian Michael Peterson, who says the zoo has at time used facilities at the UW vet school and performed some procedures inside the animal enclosures. "This is just gonna take the zoo to a new level."
"This was part of our master plan in 2003. Our master plan called for a vet clinic in this exact spot. So, we're really following our master plan... nine years later," said Anna Reynolds, executive director of the Friends of the Zoo.
The Animal Health Center will be near the zoo's southeast entrance. The ceremonial groundbreaking was Monday and crews plan to begin work before the end of the month with the hope of the building being complete by May 2013.
Plans call for specialized areas for surgery, radiology, intensive care, pharmacy, laboratory, isolation, and indoor and outdoor holding.
Reynolds says, in addition to improving animal care, the facility will be a learning tool for thousands of south central Wisconsin school children and a resource for UW vet school students.
"This is a project we're gonna all be extremely proud of when it's all said and done," said Thomas Dott, board president for the Friends of the Zoo. "And it really is gonna be a showpiece for the zoo."
Peterson was among a group that toured other animal hospitals in Milwaukee, Chicago and other larger cities.
"We had a lot of the vets there look at our plans and without exception they all thought this was gonna be a phenomenal hospital," he said.
This budget for this building project is $2.7 million, according to Reynolds, who says they are about a third of the way to reaching that fundraising goal. Friends of the Zoo is launching a memorial tile campaign to help raise money. Those tiles will eventually be in a donor plaza in the new facility.