Humane Society of US: abuse, neglect at private Va. zoo
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A months-long undercover investigation at the private Natural Bridge Zoo found abuse and neglect that resulted in the deaths of several animals, the Humane Society of the United States said Thursday.
The report by a Humane Society investigator who worked and volunteered at the Rockbridge County attraction last summer described the deaths of an underweight giraffe; a baby camel that wedged its neck between a gate and a wall; and a capuchin monkey that consumed rat poison.
The Humane Society said it wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revoke the zoo’s license, said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the society. He said the society is also seeking local and state investigations.
Matthew Gray, Virginia state director of the Humane Society, urged Virginia legislators and the state to strengthen laws to ensure that animals in private zoos are humanely treated.
“We must put an end to this dangerous and cruel business,” Gray said in a written statement.
In a written response, owner Karl Mogensen denied many of the accusations and said the Humane Society and other animal protection groups that criticize his zoo use “vicious propaganda” to raise donations.
Mogensen said the giraffe died from natural causes and he denied tiger cubs were mistreated, as the Humane Society alleged. The camel, he added, died as the Humane Society stated — its neck lodged in a farm gate.
The zoo has been the target of other animal protection groups as well, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It alleged in April 2014 that the zoo lacked proper permits for exotic animals.
Mogensen’s federal zookeeper’s license was suspended in 1994 and 2007 for violating the Animal Welfare Act. The zoo has also been cited for the treatment of its animals.
The Humane Society investigation also found a critical lack of veterinary care, crowded conditions and filthy cages, among other unsafe conditions.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Humane Society investigation.