New Bill Could Help Expand Animal Research And Diagnostics Lab

BROOKINGS, S.D. – A South Dakota State University lab has been working to find solutions to livestock diseases for nearly 50 years, including a bird flu outbreak in 2015.

But the building that houses the lab is making this a difficult task.

Which is why Gov. Dennis Daugaard is supporting a new bill that could help.

While it may not be appealing to some, dissecting a carcass is a typical day for lab technicians at the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory.

“It’s CSI veterinarian trying to figure out why the animal died and trying to correct the problem,” says the lab director, Jane Hennings.

In this case, the cause of death was a piece of metal that the cow likely ate but it ended up puncturing it’s stomach.

That’s just one type of diagnosis the workers come across.

“We’ve had new diseases here in the United States both in the avian population and in the swine population,” says Hennings.

Hennings says discovering a new disease happens in the room where blood and tissue work is tested.

But they have come across some road blocks since the last upgrade in 1993.

“We’ve had aging infrastructure, there are new technologies that have come on board since the last addition was put on and then we also are concerned with new standards for worker safety and for bio containment,” explains Hennings.

This is where a new bill comes into play.

The Senate Appropriations Committee introduced the “State Animal Health Lab bill”, or SB 172, which would fund renovating the existing 63,000 sq. ft. facility and constructing an additional 80,000 sq. ft. building.

That will include a Biosafety level 3 facility, which Hennings says is necessary to continue handling dangerous pathogens more safely.

“It will help with being able to have enough capacity to work on more samples, and to be able to put on new tests,” says Hennings.

Hennings says she’s grateful the legislature is considering this bill that she says will benefit the 12 million animals in the state.

“It makes us feel very good that they consider us a very important part of the state for keeping animals healthy.”

If Senate Bill 172 is passed, bonds for the project can’t exceed $46 million.

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