LA Zoo raises the bar on animal health care
For the veterinarians at the Los Angeles Zoo, caring for sick and injured exotic wildlife has been made less complicated by last December's opening of one of the best animal health centers in the country.

LA Zoo's new Animal Health and Conservation Center is a spacious facility equipped with some of the most modern and superior medical apparatus today. Chief veterinarian Bob Cooper remarks, "The facility allows us to deliver the highest quality of service for our practice at the Los Angeles Zoo. This is one of the best health centers I've seen. It has all the components necessary for successful veterinary medicine."

The 33,589 square foot Animal Health and Conservation Center replaced the Zoo's previous facility which was built in 1966. The new center houses multiple animal wards, a laboratory, necropsy room, administration offices, a commissary and a 6,000 square foot hospital dedicated to diagnosis, radiology, treatment and surgical procedures.

The center's most distinguishing features include one of only 8 federally accredited quarantine areas, and the Dr. Charles Sedgwick Surgical Suite, named after the retired Los Angeles Zoo veterinarian who was instrumental in the design of the new health center.

A medical facility by default requires a high level of sanitation and a veterinary hospital is no exception. Various areas of the facility naturally required surfaces made of non-porous materials that were both impermeable to bacteria and resistant to harsh disinfectants and cleaning procedures.

But sanitation is not the only concern when it comes to a Zoo based animal health facility. Animals like rhinos and gorillas can exert an enormous amount of strength when distraught and feeling ill. Various walls, doors, windows and frames within and on the perimeter of the facility had to be designed to withstand heavy, repeat impacts from an aggressive animal. Additionally, doors leading to various areas required openings for movement of equipment and food.

San Francisco based Narramore Bain Brady and Johansson, responsible for developing the facility's architectural design, was chosen partly due to their experience developing human hospitals.

NBBJ chose among its vendors, Krieger Specialty Products to develop the doors, frames and windows for the hospital's 192 openings. Given the stringent sanitation requirements, stainless steel was the obvious choice for non-porous materials. Krieger helped with recommendations for various stainless steel alloys, and provided insight on how steel coupled with unique core construction can create reinforced doors and frames capable of withstanding even the force of a charging rhino.

NBBJ was further able to lean on Krieger's experience in custom fabrication to provide the firm's architects with recommendations for fine-tuning the specifications to include one inch thick polycarbonate glazed windows, and doors with tranquilizer "dart ports" for the areas housing animal pens.

Since the Animal Health and Conservation Center is dedicated to the care and treatment of sick animals that require isolation and minimal disturbance, it is currently not accessible to Zoo visitors. However, plans are underway for close-circuit television that will enable students and Zoo guests to view veterinary procedures or go on a virtual reality tour of this new health center. The plans are part of LA Zoo's new Discovery Center scheduled to open in 2004.
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