An animal care facility expands with a human touch

New equipment and surgery suites exceed what’s found in most vet clinics.

August 01, 2017 |

A 17,000-sf addition to the Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Oakdale, Minn., opens more space for the clinic's diagnostic equipment and its 10 care specialties. Image: Adam Kennedy Photography

In late July, Animal Emergency & Referral Center (AERC) in Minnesota held a grand reopening of its facility in Oakdale, Minn., which underwent a $4.5 million, 17,000-sf expansion that included the installation of medical equipment that is equal to, and sometimes better than, equipment found in medical centers that treat human patients.

The clinic, which was constructed in 2009, over the past several years has increased its pet care specialty services to include internal medicine, surgery, rehabilitation, cardiology, dentistry and oral surgery, dermatology, radiology, and neurology.

As it business grew (it now has 10 specialties), AERC also became better known as a referral service for other clinics.

In 2015, “we looked at how we could max out the Oakdale site,” says Stephen Iaria, AIA, Managing Principal|Architecture for Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates in Grove Heights, Minn., which has worked with AERC since the Center started operating out of a strip mall in 2000. (AERC also has a clinic in St. Paul, Minn.)

AERC owned some contiguous land, and the city of Oakdale “was okay” about the Center using it for expansion, says Iaria. The new space provides more room for staff and patients, as well as for specialized medical equipment.


A surgery suite in the Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Oakdale, Minn.

Because it has two operating tables, one of the three surgery suites in the expanded Oakdale facility needed to have better air quality and circulation than are required in an operating room for humans. Image: Adam Kennedy Photography


“It was designed as if it would be for human medicine,” says Iaria. This includes three surgery suites, one of which exceeds human requirements for air quality and circulation because it has two operating tables. That suite also required specialized lighting.

AERC selected MRI and CT scan equipment from the human medical field for their extra power and better image quality. The MRI machine weighs approximately 3,000 pounds and had to be lifted into place via crane. Because of the MRI’s magnetic pull, no surrounding components could contain metal. The CT machine required lead shielding due to its radiation emission.

“There is a real need for these specialists, and having a clinic that can function and house specialty equipment and adapt to the changing medical needs is such a large piece of that,” says Dr. Karen Reynhout, DVM, AERC’s Hospital Director. 


An MRI machine in the Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Minnesota

A 3,000-pound MRI machine that was installed during the clinic's renovation and expansion provides the same image quality and power as machines used for humans. Image: Adam Kennedy Photography


In addition to the expansion, AERC had some minor work done to its existing building, including the conversion of one space to a multipurpose room. The renovation team also installed an elevator into a pit that had been designed a decade ago. And a smaller surgery suite was converted into an ultrasound room.

The second floor of the Oakdale clinic is now primarily office and boardroom space.


A board room on the second floor of the Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Minnesota

The second floor of the clinic is now used mostly for offices and meeting rooms. Image: Adam Kennedy Photography


Krech, O’Brien was the architect, structural engineer, and interior designer on this project. The renovation team included Emanuelson-Podas (MEP), DJ Kranz (GC), and The Center for Diagnostic Imaging (specialty equipment vendor).

During the renovation, Iaria says his firm “got deep into” how to detail rooms in order to have “an ultra clean environment.”

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