Skip to Main Content

Las Vegas Zoo Closes After Staff Walks Out

Written by Alisa Mullins | September 25, 2013

The notoriously substandard Las Vegas Zoo, where 150 animals are confined on just three acres, has finally closed its doors after all its zookeepers mysteriously quit earlier this week, and the zoo’s owner, Pat Dingle, isn’t talking.

This cockatoo, seen at the zoo on July 29, 2009, did not look well and was panting vigorously and feather-plucking.

The zoo has been the target of PETA efforts for years. In 2009, we called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to revoke the zoo’s license after a 10-year-old lion named Midas died after eating a ball that had been thrown into his enclosure from a nearby store. In 2012, PETA was instrumental in helping the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration successfully prosecute and fine the zoo $4,200 for allowing employees to have dangerous direct contact with macaques.

Despite pressure from PETA for years to release a solitary chimpanzee named Terry to a sanctuary, Dingle has steadfastly refused, even though the Animal Welfare Act specifies that chimpanzees, as social animals, should live with other members of their species.

Terry was seen by a PETA activist who said his space was “littered with rotten bananas, one shriveled orange and … filthy water.”

With the abrupt departure of Dingle’s staff, PETA was worried that no one was caring for the animals, so we contacted animal control, which, with the USDA, is reportedly already removing animals from the property. We are hopeful that Terry will be sent to a sanctuary so that he can finally live with other chimpanzees after 18 years in solitary confinement.

This zoo’s long-overdue closure seems to be part of a trend in the Las Vegas area toward growing awareness of the needs of captive wild and exotic animals. PETA has had recent successes in getting permits denied for several exotic-animal exploiters, including Mike CaseyThe Fercos Brothers, and Karl Mitchell and we are now helping local officials strengthen regulations pertaining to the private ownership of wild and exotic animals.

Commenting is closed.
  • Don akins says:

    Thank you to all of those who posted positive comments. My wife was one of the keepers who left. Many staff and volumteers tried to make a difference in the lives of the animals there. It was hard to close the zoo or force improvement because animal protection laws are so weak that the zoo, while sad, was usually compliant. The only thing that could be done was to go there every day and try to give the animals as much extra food and love as possible when the director wasn’t looking. This was done by various people over 30 years, god bless them. This time it ended with all the animals going to better, safer homes. We miss them, more that you know, but they are better off now. Terry is at Save the Chimps in Florida. Look them up, it doesn’t get much better for a chimp. We wish the zoo could have been improved, but it wasn’t going to happen, at least not before several animals sufferred, so it had to be this way. Anyone who knows what the keepers went thru would respect their tough decision to do what was best for the animals, no matter how hard it was, and it was and is still hard.

  • Joel says:

    Disgraceful! I cannot understand this level of abuse to innocent and beautiful animals. Were visitors not shocked into taking action and speaking out? I hope all these animals go to a comfortable and suitable sanctuary. Well done to all involved in their rescue.

  • Sandra mason says:

    Congratulations to the employees who had the heart to walk away. They gave up a paycheck as well, in order to shut down the zoo.

  • Paul Raneri (Twitter @Bivpaul) says:

    I rescue animals mostly cats, my back yard has become a dumping ground for unwanted cats, I take them in show them LOVE GIVE THEM FOOD AND A WARM HOUSE TO LIVE IN! Then i go to petco Stop&Shop look on the board to see if they R among the missing and If they R I call their rightful homes and get them back to where they once lived I’ve done this 3 times since I moved to Massachusetts. I LOVE ANIMALS!!!! SHAME ON ZOO’S SHAME ON THE CIRCUS! ANIMAL ABUSE IS UNACCEPTABLE!

  • Valerie says:

    Congratulation PETA, another one bites the dust ! Please keep us posted on the where a bouts of Terry hope that a gets reunited with his people.

  • Erika says:

    Please know that the zookeepers loved these animals with all their hearts and did what they could to give them the best life they could while under Pat’s authority. If it wasn’t for him, I am positive that things would have turned out differently for both the animals, and the zookeeping staff. Please understand this and continue to support the animals and the previous zookeepers. As an intern there, or previous I should say, I have fallen in love with the animals and admire many people there.

  • Aaron Feuerstein says:

    Jen from Save The Chimps is driving to Las Vegas today to coordinate possibility of bringing Terry the chimpanzee to Florida.

  • koichi says:


  • @Damon_Misaki92 says:

    I’m glad to hear that this zoo finally closed there door, after 4 years. Peta you’re the best!!!!