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UW urges lawmakers to include vet school facility in state budget

MADISON (WKOW) — UW-Madison officials are hoping lawmakers will help pay to build a new veterinary school on campus.

Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal includes $90 million for a new facility to address space issues and to fill needs for new technology at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine.

The expansion project for the facility on Linden Drive is expected to cost about $128 million. The school will raise the rest of the money from donors.

The vet school was created in 1983 and has grown into one of the top five schools in the nation, leading the way in animal care and groundbreaking research.

“We pursue research that is highly-targeted to benefiting animals. It could be cancer research, it could be in orthopedics, could be ophthalmology, it can be in any of a variety of fields. But a lot of the research that we conduct is also benefiting humans,” said Mark Markel, dean of the school.

But Markel says the current facility is now outdated and under-sized for the department’s needs. It was only built to accommodate 12,000 animal patients a year. Right now, the vets are seeing 26,500, most from families here in Wisconsin.

The school expects to grow to 30 to 35,000, offering standard veterinary care and specialty treatments in 22 areas.

“Literally from soup to nuts, we can provide whatever you need with the people that work here,” Markel said.

The school has gotten creative over the years to fit into its current space. UW has converted locker rooms into a dentistry unit, used closets as clinic space and the veterinarians head outside to examine the large animals or do imaging work.

“We literally have to take dogs and cats on gurneys through snow and ice in the winter to get into the [MRI] scanner,” Markel told 27 News.

Markel has spent the last six months giving tours to lawmakers and agriculture groups across Wisconsin, to show them how much they say the new space is needed.

As part of UW-Madison Day at the Capitol, alumni stopped by for tours on Wednesday.

“It’s amazing, the great work that’s being done,” said Wisconsin Alumni Association member Nancy Schanke, after seeing the facility.

Schanke and the other alumni then visited the Capitol to speak with lawmakers about the project.

“The need for veterinarians is critical and we need to be able to take care of that and this expansion is well thought out and will satisfy the needs for quite a few years to come,” she said.

The Republican-led Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will decide whether the project will be included in the state budget, after the Building Commission rejected all the recommendations in the governor’s spending plan.

Co-chair Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) says there are a lot of other projects to consider, but he recognizes the vet school’s important role, after recently touring the facility.

His office released the following statement to 27 News:

Governor Evers has proposed the largest capital budget in history with an unprecedented, unsustainable level of new bonding. As with all the other proposals offered in this year’s capital budget, the Joint Finance Committee will take a close look at School of Veterinary Medicine project and see how it fits in the broader context of the UW-System’s long-term needs. In March, I had the opportunity to join Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Veterinary School Dean Mark Markel for a tour of the facility as they made the case for this project. There is no question the veterinary school provides value to the state through its contributions to the state’s agricultural industry, as well as its infectious disease research that has a worldwide impact.

The JFC is traveling the state holding public hearings on the budget, before making any changes or decisions on the proposal.

JFC has two more public hearings scheduled.

The vet school is continuing its campaign to raise money and awareness about their call for a new facility.

Click here for more information on the project.


Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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