Is the Pittsburgh Zoo Violating the Law?

Published by Jennifer O'Connor.

The PETA Foundation’s Captive Animal Law Enforcement (CALE) division sees a lot of cruel animal-handling practices, but even CALE staffers were taken aback by a stunt at the Pittsburgh Zoo that has dogs “herding” the resident elephants and apparently nipping at their heels. CALE sent a letter to zoo President Dr. Barbara Baker asking her to end the cruel and dangerous spectacle. Video footage of the herding shows elephants exhibiting obvious signs of distress, flapping their ears and trumpeting, as dogs chase them at the command of zoo staff. In addition to the obvious stress that this causes the elephants, the dogs are in danger of being stepped on, kicked, or thrown by the agitated elephants. This stunt may also be illegal, since Pennsylvania law prohibits dogs from chasing wildlife.

And in other CALE news:

  • Four threatened gopher tortoises were seized from The Mobile Zoo in Wilmer, Alabama, by the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. According to the agency, all four were suffering from a respiratory illness. Two of the tortoises reportedly died, but the other two were released onto private land. The agency cited the roadside zoo and seized the animals after PETA filed a complaint last year pointing out that Alabama prohibits possessing gopher tortoises without a permit, which The Mobile Zoo did not have, and that some of the tortoises at the zoo had been unlawfully taken from the wild.

    Since January 2013 alone, The Mobile Zoo has been cited for 47 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including failing to provide a tiger who had a bloody cut on her face with veterinary care, failing to provide a bear who still had her winter coat and was “panting and salivating excessively” with adequate veterinary care, failing to alleviate extreme temperatures in the bear den (federal inspectors could feel heat radiating from the metal ceiling, which reached a sweltering 150 degrees), and allowing members of the public to throw peanuts at Joe, a solitary chimpanzee locked in a tiny barren enclosure.

  • Earlier this year, a 2-month-old bear cub named Boo Boo bit at least 19 students at a petting zoo at Washington University in St. Louis. Boo Boo was born at a breeding facility, sold at an exotic-animal auction, and transferred to a woman named Cindy Farmer-Ryan to “babysit” until a paperwork snafu was settled. Farmer-Ryan kept Boo Boo in her garage, where he was sometimes confined to a dog crate. After the students were bitten, CALE submitted complaints to federal and local authorities, and Boo Boo was seized and placed in a zoo. The U.S. Department of Agriculture cited Farmer-Ryan for failing to have adequate knowledge or experience to exhibit bears, failing to follow a program of veterinary care for the bear, and endangering the public and Boo Boo while at the school.

Check back soon for more CALE action.

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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