Feds Cite Zoo for Using Dogs in Cruel Elephant-Herding Stunt

U.S. Department of Agriculture Takes Zoo to Task for Harassing Elephants

For Immediate Release:
February 2, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382


The Pittsburgh Zoo’s practice of using dogs in an aggressive manner to “herd” resident elephants isn’t just dangerous—according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s also illegal. Following a PETA complaint, the USDA inspected the zoo and cited it for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act by allowing dogs to “protect” handlers from the elephants. According to the January 6 report, which just became publicly available, a dog was observed lunging and growling at one elephant and a zoo manager admitted that the dogs had bitten the elephants during their work. Video footage that PETA provided the USDA with also shows that elephants exhibited signs of distress when charged by the dogs. All these actions are considered “improper handling” by the USDA, which has ordered the zoo to correct the practice immediately.

“When elephants, dogs, and human handlers freely mix, everyone is in danger,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the Pittsburgh Zoo to switch to safe and modern elephant-management methods—or, better yet, to retire the elephants to an accredited sanctuary where they’ll be free from harassment for the rest of their lives.”

In addition to the obvious stress that the “herding” causes the elephants, the dogs are in danger of being accidentally stepped on and killed or purposely attacked and thrown in the air by the agitated elephants. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—has asked the Pittsburgh Zoo to follow the lead of most zoos and discard its “free-contact” system in favor of a protocol called “protected contact.” This well-researched method of elephant management uses barriers to separate handlers from elephants—protecting both—instead of aggressive dogs, ropes, chains, and bullhooks (weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end, which the Pittsburgh Zoo apparently currently uses against elephants).

The inspection report also notes that many marine mammals suffer from eye conditions, likely because of the dangerously elevated chlorine content in the water.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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