Las Vegas Zoo Closes After Staff Walks Out

Published by Alisa Mullins.

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.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind