New Utah animal hospital has it all - and room to spare


Salt Lake CitY - Veterinary clients anywhere near Utah's capital don't have to drive hundreds of miles anymore to the nearest specialty referral hospital.

SALT LAKE CITY — Veterinary clients anywhere near Utah's capital don't have to drive hundreds of miles anymore to the nearest specialty referral hospital.

Now there's one in their own backyard — touted as the nation's largest veterinary facility — that offers state-of-the art care in several specialities.

The new Utah Pet Center, which at press time was planning a grand opening around the end of April, occupies 160,000 square feet in what formerly was the 49th Street Galleria, a twin-towered, reflective-glass building just off Interstate 15 in suburban Murray, Utah.

The building went through several previous incarnations, including a miniature golf center called the Fun Dome, a community college and a buffet restaurant, but this time the owner and hospital officials believe they have an enterprise that will become permanent and prosper.

It will offer general-practice veterinary care, grooming, boarding and several specialties, including orthopedics, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, rehabilitation, MRI, CT scans, physical therapy, bone scans, nuclear medicine and a hyperbaric chamber, says Terry Shields, DVM, medical director.

Management anticipates referral clients, not only from Utah practitioners, but from well beyond the state's borders. Until now, the nearest specialty centers were at Colorado State University and in Las Vegas, "a six- or seven-hour drive," Shields says. "There are maybe a couple of specialists (surgeons) in Idaho and I don't know of any in Wyoming."

The Utah center will have an initial staff of about 50, increasing to around 200 over the next few years, Shields says.

"We were in planning for two years and the project's been under construction about six months," he says. "Of course, we already had the shell building. The space is about two-thirds built out at this point, and we're shooting for a late-April grand opening. We preserved the unique foyer (featuring stone-brick flooring, curved staircases, banisters and lamps), but pretty much everything else was completely renovated. Each of our specialists is designing their own space."

Shields points out these features:

  • Three waiting rooms — one each for cats, dogs and exotic animals

  • A theater and meeting rooms for staff training and community meetings

  • A walk-up pharmacy

  • Treatment room with 11 tables

  • A four-station dental suite

  • Salt-water reef in a 1,600-gallon aquarium

  • Four surgical suites, each with dual tables

  • Cafeteria where waiting pet owners can dine

  • 1,200 parking spaces

  • A "Bark-ery" providing dog treats

Lawrence Kates, a Canadian resident with commercial real-estate interests in several western states, owns the building and is financing the veterinary center. "Including the value of the land and building, you could say it's about a $50 million project," Shields says.

Richard Anderson, hospital administrator and project overseer, did not return calls for comment. He and other managers visited other large pet hospitals around the nation for ideas during the two-year planning period.

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