IDA USDA Complaint: Baton Rouge Zoo Elephant Death

April 4th, 2013 by Nicole Meyer


April 2, 2013

Elizabeth Goldentyer, DVM
Regional Director
USDA-APHIS Animal Care
920 Main Campus Drive, Ste. 200
Raleigh, NC 27606

Dear Dr. Goldentyer:

Please consider this a formal complaint on behalf of In Defense of Animals (IDA) regarding the March 28 or 29, 2013 death of Judy, a 46-year-old Asian elephant, held at Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo (Cert. No 72-C-0179, Customer No 4769) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

According to media reports, Judy was “found dead in her enclosure by keepers making their morning rounds.” It is evident that there was no zoo staff monitoring Judy overnight. There are no published reports indicating the cause of Judy’s death, and there is no indication whether her death was protracted or immediate, or whether staff intervention could have prevented Judy’s death or remediated any suffering.

At age 46, Judy’s death was premature, considering the natural life span of Asian elephants is up to 60 years in the wild. According to zoo records, zoo staff treated Judy for arthritis for 30 years, starting when she was just 16 years old. The arthritis was of sufficient severity that Judy was, as of 2007, on medications including Ketaprofen, Ibuprofen, and joint supplements. It is also noted in the records that Judy was not a good candidate for breeding “due to her joints.” It is inconceivable that a zoo would be unaware that arthritis is a major cause of premature death in captive elephants.

According to media reports, Judy had also recently been treated for “some digestive issues that recently cropped up.” Zoo records indicate that Judy “tends to colic.”

It is IDA’s contention that both of these conditions should have been cause for greater vigilance on the part of zoo staff, including some form of nighttime monitoring. It is our further contention that the zoo’s failure to provide nighttime monitoring to an elephant known to have chronic health issues violates provisions of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which provide:

Sec. 2.40 Attending veterinarian and adequate veterinary care (dealers and exhibitors).
(b) Each dealer shall establish and maintain programs of adequate veterinary care that include:
(1) The availability of appropriate facilities, personnel, equipment and services to comply with the provisions of this subchapter;
(2) The use of appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose, and treat diseases and injuries, and the availability of emergency, weekend, and holiday care.

Sec. 2.131 Handling of animals.
(a) All licensees who maintain wild or exotic animals must demonstrate adequate experience and knowledge of the species they maintain.
(b)(1) Handling of all animals shall be done as expeditiously and carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort.

Sec. 3.132 Employees.
A sufficient number of adequately trained employees shall be utilized to maintain the professionally acceptable level of husbandry practices set forth in this subpart. Such practices shall be under a supervisor who has a background in animal care.

IDA urges the USDA to take prompt action to fully investigate the circumstances of Judy’s death, including all medical records and necropsy reports. Should violations of the AWA be found, IDA further urges USDA to take appropriate enforcement action.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Nicole Meyer
Director, Wild & Free – Elephant Protection Campaign

31 Responses to “IDA USDA Complaint: Baton Rouge Zoo Elephant Death”

  1. April 12, 2013 at 10:11 am, rosemary packard said:

    They obviously did not take care of her. These elephants do not belong in a zoo!! This is wrong.


  2. April 06, 2013 at 11:18 am, Laura Harris said:

    As a nursing student we studied the 1700′s – 1800′s and how they treated mentally challenged people…”horribly” just scratches the surface. As I read about it, I could only hope that one day in the future others will read about our current treatment of animals and be just as shocked…meaning that this trend will change and man-kind will become less self-serving and realize our responsibility to all living creatures as well as maintenance and nurturing of our planet earth.


  3. April 05, 2013 at 11:16 am, Rosa Maria said:

    Thank you for speaking on behalf of animal rights. They deserve compassion and dignity as creatures of this world. Judy’s death must be investigated.


  4. April 05, 2013 at 9:32 am, Patrish said:

    Sadly, we lose another elephant. Elephants need to have the proper environment, as well as better monitoring, if we continue to keep them in captivity, Too many are suffering and dying. It makes me angry.


  5. April 05, 2013 at 9:21 am, Lauren Stone said:

    I grew up going to the cirucs in Boston, Ma. Back then, as a child, I never thought of what pain and agony these “circus” animals were enduring. Today, some 40yrs later. I am appalled that wild animals do not belong out of their element or native lands. The cirucs puts them through shear hell….when they should be roaming the big lands in the countries they came from. I am saddened by Judy’s death due to neglect. Please do something abouth wildlife that does not belong caged up for pure entertainment! They also never deserved the abuse they have been put through. Shame, shame, shame on the Baton Rouge zoo.


  6. April 05, 2013 at 6:58 am, Laura McGowan said:

    In a world where more people are aware of the plights of animals in zoos, it is disheartening to read another story about an elephant who died unjustly in a zoo. Elephants are amazing animals with lifelong family ties, intelligence and sensitivity. Judy, a 46-yeart-old Asian elephant, was entrusted to the Baton Rouge zoo where she was obviously neglected and allowed to suffer for years before dying before her time. If a zoo cannot properly care for an animal, it should surrender that animal to a sanctuary or even a better zoo (even though good ones are obviously difficult to find). Shame on Baton Rouge for allowing Judy to suffer and languish in misery for years. You did not deserve such a magnificent animal.


  7. April 05, 2013 at 6:02 am, YD. Jordan said:

    Those people Should be jailed


  8. April 05, 2013 at 5:18 am, Roksanna said:

    Part of my message below was cut off.
    “The day the Lord will hold those


  9. April 05, 2013 at 5:16 am, Roksanna said:

    My heart is broken! I will never patronize any place with animals in captivity. The day our Lord will hold those accountable for their evil acts can’t come too soon.


  10. April 05, 2013 at 3:57 am, Jim Corriere said:

    Don’t patronize zoos or where animals are locked up!


  11. April 04, 2013 at 11:41 pm, Marsha Levine said:

    When can there be an end to using these precious vulnerable animals for selfish human purposes? When will we wake up to realize they have all of the same needs and emotions and health vulnerabilities as humans do? We haven’t the right to cause this misery! We instead should take the responsibility to make sure they have decent lives and are protected!!! My heart wrenches at this information about the misery of Judy’s existence in captivity at this zoo. I pity those who remain asleep to the silent screams of animals because at some point they will realize what they have ignored and caused and will regret it when it is after the fact and too late.


  12. April 04, 2013 at 10:55 pm, Renny Sherrow said:

    Take all necessary action to follow through with what exactly happened to Judy. It will open the issues and maybe prevent this zoo from harming other elephants or obtaining a replacement. Thank you for your work in this most shameful practice of animal abuse.


  13. April 04, 2013 at 10:18 pm, Riesa Larson (@whskrs98) said:

    The cruelty inflicted on this poor elephant is inexcusable. Humans today are so cruel to animals. Maybe the ones who mistreated her will know what it feels like someday in their lives with arthritis. They had no compassion for poor Judy. She belongs like all elephants to live in a sanctuary. Circus’s are cruel. Profit for them , on the suffering of animals. Disgusting. Heartbreaking.


  14. April 04, 2013 at 9:33 pm, janis Meyers said:

    She is in a far better place now. They should not have the responsibility of having any animals at their mercy. Bastards. She should have lived better. What a waste of beautiful life.


  15. April 04, 2013 at 7:10 pm, Tina Ladd said:

    Act of cruelty.Unacceptable and should have been avoided by observation.
    Tina Ladd PHD


  16. April 04, 2013 at 6:47 pm, S. Stone said:

    What a tragedy. Judy should have been living a peaceful life in a reputable sanctuary. Her last years must have been extremely painful given her many years with arthritis. Before she died all alone just a few days ago, she must have been so frightened. Shame on the zoo for allowing this to happen. I can’t believe Judy was one year younger than I – all these years in captivity and for what? To die alone, scared most likely, in pain…Again – shame on Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo and Judy’s handlers for allowing this to happen.


  17. April 04, 2013 at 5:36 pm, Judith Carlson said:

    There is no excuse for the inhumane treatment of this animal. The very thought that she suffered from Arthritis – which is a known problem for elephants in captivity – for 30 years! is disgusting. This zoo needs to be shut down. Any other elephants need to go to a sanctuary immediately and other animals need to be reviewed for possible abuse.


  18. April 04, 2013 at 4:16 pm, john pasqua said:

    you zookeepers knew judy had arthritis and did not do anything to help her.shame on you all.


  19. April 04, 2013 at 4:00 pm, Marsha Andrews said:

    The only place that elephants belong is in sanctuaries, to live out their lives with a modicum of peace and perhaps companionship. Circuses, zoos and any form of captivity of wild animals should be closed and shut down. Their very existence is cruel and only reflects the total lack of compassion of the human species. Furthermore, there should be no further removing of these species from their natural habitat.

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.”

    - Mahatma Gandhi, Indian spiritual/political leader.

    Learn more about elephants on this wonderful web-site:


  20. April 04, 2013 at 3:48 pm, Marjorie said:

    It is amazing the cruelity of humans upon other living creatures. Thank you for your compassion of all animals.


  21. April 04, 2013 at 3:43 pm, Angela Laughingheart said:

    Animals Rights Now !!!, time for the law to be enforced in cruel circumstances of confinement and death of innocent creatures like the Baton Rouge elephant.


  22. April 04, 2013 at 2:52 pm, terese said:

    thank you for fighting for the animals!


  23. April 04, 2013 at 2:47 pm, Iris Lambka said:

    Horrific acts of Cruelty These people have no feelings and should not walk our earth


  24. April 04, 2013 at 2:47 pm, Betty okrent said:

    i was born in Louisiana, received a Master’s at LSU, lived and taught in Baton Rouge. To allow the death of this elephant to happen is absolutely sickening to every compassionate, animal-loving human being and brings disgrace to Baton Rouge and this zoo for being irresponsible in care for an innocent, intelligent, helpless animal. i am saddened, angry, and digusted that this has taken place.


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