SAEN Letter to AZA Requesting Revocation of Topeka Zoo's Accreditation
Captive Wildlife Advocacy

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
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SAEN Letter to AZA Requesting Revocation of Topeka Zoo's Accreditation

June 21, 2010
From: Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (SAEN)
Donald W. Elroy
Director of Captive Wildlife Advocacy
(865) 286-9082
[email protected]

By email to: Denny Lewis
Vice President, Accreditation Programs, AZA
8403 Colesville Road, Suite 710
Silver Spring, MD 20910
[email protected]

Mr. Lewis,

Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (SAEN) is requesting a revocation of accreditation for:
Topeka Zoo
635 S W Gage Blvd.
Topeka, KS. 66606
Licensed under USDA Certificate # 48-C-0003

We have reviewed USDA inspection reports, which show repeat NCI violations of the AWA, standards, regulations and policies. Inspection reports on the Topeka Zoo provide evidence of recurring (repeat NCI) violations and negligence on the part of the zoo staff showing them responsible in the deaths of 12 animals at this facility in 2009 and early 2010. Violations occurring under veterinary regulations, handling regulations, housing facilities, environmental enhancement, facilities general, employees, sanitation, separation of animals, cleaning, sanitizing and housekeeping and feeding among others, are collecting and adding up to major violations of the AWA, regulations, standards and policies. A declawed bobcat was also noted in recent news coverage along with break-ins to the facility. While the bobcat was loose the facility remained open, allowing public visits.

Notable in inspections were:

A hippopotamus at this zoo was literally boiled to death. A pallas cat died from “Maggot infestation” and associated toxemia, a rabbit also died with maggot infestation, a pronghorn was found dead in the enclosure, a chevrotain was placed in a crate – ignored and later found dead, three flying foxes died after being attacked by an alligator, a leopard died after being treated with expired drugs for nine days, a tamandu died after becoming severely emaciated and a lion cub died from an acute hemorrhage due to a fall.

In 2010 another Chevrotain has now died following 4 tuberculosis tests while being prepared for transfer to the Bronx Zoo in New York. The city statement on the cause of death for this Chevrotain highlights that it "appears to be lung disease secondary to anesthesia and capture myopathy.” This Chevrotain was functioning on only one operational lung and still was subjected to these procedures.

All of these items suggest that the Topeka Zoo has not taken seriously the law, regulations standards and policies that govern this facility or the animals in their care. The repeat NCI violations suggest that this facility understood the need for compliance, yet continued in the same manner as they previously had done. The animals that died in these cases were not old, infirm animals nor were they sick or diseased previous to their residing at the Topeka Zoo.

We understand that the zoo has a new director and many new staff after these situations were brought to light, yet violations are continuing to occur at this facility to present day. This is a totally unacceptable situation for the animals’ safety. No animal should be subjected to the conditions brought to light on this facility.

Under AZA code of ethics and many husbandry guides and standards, this facility is in direct non-compliance with your own standards and rules. We have reviewed the Accreditation Review requested by the City of Topeka and performed by AZA accreditation inspectors. While we note that you found areas of problems, we do not agree with the findings of accreditation inspectors concerning culpability in negligent animal care and resulting deaths. The review team stated:

We do not believe this to be an appropriate response to 11 animal deaths at this facility that resulted from clear irresponsibility on the part of the institution. There is now another Chevrotain death to add with circumstances suspect of veterinary problems. Tabling accreditation simply allows this facility to operate under AZA accreditation while problems remain visible to us and to the general public. Defending a facility charged with violations makes AZA accreditation highly suspect.

AZA accreditation becomes meaningless if this facility is allowed to violate the AZA husbandry guidelines, AZA standards, ethics of AZA and the Animal Welfare Act.

No facility or private entity has this right.

Allowing these situations to continue is entirely unacceptable.

We request an immediate revocation of accreditation by your organization and are requesting suspension of licensing under the AWA until compliance can be obtained, welfare of these animals restored and restructuring of the zoo be totally in place to ensure that the animals at this facility do not suffer while attention is focused on monetary and public concerns. Our paramount concern is the welfare of these animals and we expect that this should also be the first major concern for AZA. We hold AZA accountable for the facilities that you accredit.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter,
Donald W. Elroy
Director of Captive Wildlife Advocacy
Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (SAEN)
USDA inspections
AZA review

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