This spring, there will be a new hospital in town—one that will cater to some of Denver’s most beloved residents. With the completion of the Denver Zoo’s new Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Animal Hospital later this year, the veterinary team will be able to provide state of the art care to the more than 3,000 animals that call the zoo home.
The new hospital will boast two state-of-the-art treatment rooms, one built for small and medium animals, the other for large animals up to 1,000 pounds. It will also include a public lobby with viewing windows, along with cameras and overhead monitors, where guests can watch exams and procedures.
The new facility will give the zoo’s 11-member Animal Health team the tools and the space to work on multiple animals at one time and address emergencies. It features a world-class diagnostic laboratory, indoor and outdoor holding and quarantine spaces, and one of the only animal hospital CT scanners in the country.
VP of Animal Health Scott Larsen says having an on-site CT scanner will transform how animals are diagnosed. “There are just a handful of zoos in the country that have that, but it allows you to get a three dimensional x-ray of the animal and really changes your ability to know what’s going on with an animal. Having the scanner on site allows us to go from five or six animals a year benefiting from that technology to dozens or hundreds of animals getting those CT images.”
Denver Zoo President and CEO Bert Vescolani is excited about how the new hospital will benefit animals well beyond the zoo’s walls. The extra space will allow the zoo’s Animal Health team to continue to collaborate with students from Colorado State University’s exotic animal program and allow visiting veterinarians to observe best practices.
“Our animals serve as ambassadors,” said Vescolani. “The work that we do here really affects wild populations in a pretty dramatic way because what we learn is going to be critical as those populations shrink—and global populations of animals are shrinking. As they get more fragile, the science that we do here is going to be even more critical in the future.”
The 22,000-square-foot animal hospital building is expected to be completed this spring—though the animals and animal health team will have a few months to adjust to the new facility before the viewing gallery opens to the public in the fall.
The new addition is funded by the Elevate Denver Bond Program, in addition to donors, including the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation. Before signing an interior wall within the building, Denver Parks and Recreation Director Happy Haynes thanked Denver voters, adding, “I can imagine every individual who is going to stand on this spot and watch the care that takes place here.”
The zoo’s staff is excited to let the public get a peek behind the scenes and to see how people and animals are similar in many ways. “We want people to see the level of care that we provide for the animals, the similarities and differences there are between animals and people,” said Larsen. “We want them to get a hint of both the science and the compassion that go into how we feel about animals and how important these animals are to us as ambassadors for their species out in the broader world.”