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Archive for Thursday, December 22, 2011

USDA complaint alleges Topeka Zoo violations

December 22, 2011, 10:05 a.m. Updated December 22, 2011, 2:37 p.m.

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— The Topeka Zoo has been cited for alleged violations of federal animal welfare regulations, including several instances of not providing adequate veterinary care.

A complaint filed by the administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture alleges that the zoo "willfully violated" the Animal Welfare Act during 11 inspections between April 2007 and July 2011. The violations include incidents of not providing adequate veterinary care, failing to correctly handle animals and failing to establish and maintain veterinary care programs, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Topeka interim city manager Dan Stanley said Wednesday that the report paints "a very disturbing" picture of zoo operations during a "troubling period" of its history. He said he takes the allegations "very seriously" and will provide a formal response to the USDA complaint through the administrative process.

He said the zoo could face penalties and fines, including possible suspension or revocation of the zoo's USDA exhibitor's license.

Zoo director Brendan Wiley said he and his staff have been changing the zoo's culture, but "this isn't something that will be overcome overnight." He said the zoo has improved since he was hired in 2010 and that the USDA has witnessed the zoo's efforts to change.

"I've never made a phone call to an inspector that has been unreturned," Wiley said. "If you're willing to ask the questions, they are willing to help."

The complaint was filed with the secretary of the USDA and may result in a hearing in front of an administrative law judge.

Zoo and city officials have 18 days from Wednesday to respond to the allegations. Wiley received the complaint Monday evening and delivered it to the city's legal department Tuesday.

The complaint highlights that at least nine infant, juvenile or young adult animals died during the period of inspections listed, including three flying foxes, a lion, and a pronghorn antelope.

"The gravity of the violations herein is great," the complaint states.

Most of the violations occurred under the previous zoo administration's direction.

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