Visitors have the opportunity to feed the giraffes.

Visitors have the opportunity to feed the giraffes.

At the Oklahoma City Zoo, interesting and exotic animals welcome visitors for a day of fun. And just like horses, chickens, goats and other livestock that live on the farm, animals at the zoo require routine checkups to make sure they stay healthy and happy.

“We’re responsible for the health and well-being of every animal
in our collection,” says Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, OKC Zoo veterinarian and director of veterinary services. “We have close to 2,000 animals, and it includes taking care of everything from fish to apes to elephants.”

The zoo has a petting zoo that gives kids the opportunity the interact with the goats.

The zoo has a petting zoo that gives kids the opportunity the interact with the goats.

In Good Hands

To make sure they’re receiving the best care possible, OKC Zoo vets call on the help of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) Laboratory Services Division.

“We use the lab primarily for routine surveillance and care of the animals,” D’Agostino says. “We do yearly tuberculosis (TB) testing on the animals and also make sure that the animals in our petting zoo that interact with kids are healthy.”

She says that the zoo also ships animals to other zoos and at times between states. They require animals to have specific tests, including TB and certain tests for pigs. The zoo uses the lab for all of those tests before any state-to- state movement.

Pete Bourns, supervisor for the serology lab at ODAFF, says the lab has worked with all types of animals on preventative procedures at the zoo, including kangaroos and many species of antelope, to name a few.

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“The overall mission of the lab is to offer diagnostic testing procedures required by federal and state regulations for the sale, show and/or movement into and out of Oklahoma of all agriculture animals,” Bourns says. “This is a service to all the agriculture- oriented customers needing this to function and succeed in their business.”

Visitors can get up close and personal with harbor seals at the aquarium in the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Visitors can get up close and personal with harbor seals at the aquarium in the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Beyond the Zoo

Like those animals at the zoo, the lab offers their services to all of the state’s veterinarians and animal owners to help control diseases and prevent them if possible. This includes livestock at farms and dairies, other state zoos and more.

The partnership between the lab and the zoo has been extremely beneficial for both parties, D’Agostino and Bourns agree.

“The zoo can get speedy turnaround times on the brucellosis testing, which is essential in diagnosing the health issues with particular animals,” Bourns says. “Also, the close proximity of the zoo allows the samples to be hand delivered, which eliminates turnaround time involved with mailing samples.”

D’Agostino adds that the lab employees and state vets are always willing to help any time there’s uncertainty.

“We have a really good relationship with the veterinary staff,” she says. “They’re always willing to come out and answer questions.”

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