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For Immediate Release: 01/16/08

How safe is your local zoo?

Born Free USA urges federal animal welfare and public safety review of zoos nationwide

Washington, D.C. — After the killing of a young man by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day, Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA) is calling for an immediate detailed Federal examination of animal welfare and public safety conditions at all American zoos.

Born Free USA today sent letters to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanding an in-depth assessment of current oversight at the more than 2,000 licensed exhibitors in America with exotic animals, approximately 10 percent of which are accredited by the zoo industry (the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — AZA).

“This tragic incident at San Francisco Zoo raises serious questions about the keeping of wild animals in captivity — especially potentially dangerous predators — and the regulation of these facilities by the American zoo industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” says Adam M. Roberts, Senior Vice President of Born Free USA. “We call on Congress to hold hearings immediately to review the state of affairs at this nation’s zoos, with the ultimate goal of determining what specific actions need to be taken to ensure that the highest standards of animal welfare and public safety are met.”

Born Free USA is calling for:

  • an immediate short-term safety review for all facilities, private and public, holding dangerous animals;
  • an urgent analysis of the suitability of the existing regulations of the Animal Welfare Act with respect to animal care;
  • a review of how the USDA can improve enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and public safety; and
  • the publication of revised and improved Animal Welfare Act regulations and public safety standards for exhibition of exotic animals and a re-examination of facilities to determine whether existing exhibitor licenses should be renewed.

In the past 10 years there have been hundreds of incidents involving dangerous wild animals in zoos, including escapes, injuries, and even fatalities to both people and animals. These have involved big cats, great apes, and exotic species of all kinds. A cheetah escaped his cage at the St. Louis Zoo; a tiger attacked a keeper at the San Antonio Zoo; a clouded leopard escaped an enclosure at the National Zoo; a jaguar tore off part of a man’s finger at the Salisbury Zoo; and the list goes on.

“This is the worst kind of wake-up call," concludes Roberts, “but this warning bell has been ringing for years. We have seen these incidents time and again. For once, let us truly learn from this latest tragedy before another human or animal dies unnecessarily and prematurely in a zoo. Born Free USA is ready and willing to work with Members of Congress, the USDA, and zoo professionals to determine what needs to be done to address human safety and animal welfare at zoos nationwide.”

Born Free USA is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the US and globally. More information is available at www.bornfreeusa.org.

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266, press@bornfreeusa.org

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