Advocates Call for Closure of Natural Bridge Zoo After Four Years of Animal Care Violations

Advocates Call for Closure of Natural Bridge Zoo After Four Years of Animal Care Violations


CONTACT: Toni Frohoff, Ph.D.,, 805-836-0496


Rockbridge County, Va (August 28, 2018) - In Defense of Animals has called for the immediate closure and sanctuary retirement of abused animals at Virginia’s Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge County, following a new raft of public safety and animal welfare violations for the fourth year running. On June 20, 2017, the USDA again found Natural Bridge Zoo in violation of proper animal care and welfare standards. The Agency’s June inspection cites cramped animal enclosures, inadequate veterinary care, deteriorating buildings, and Asha the elephant left unsafely unattended and in solitary confinement. Asha’s enclosure was found to be inadequate by USDA to prevent her escape. She is forced to give rides in that compound in the sweltering summer heat under the threat of a sharp bullhook. Asha has long been denied the companionship of other elephants and is confined to spend endless days alone in a barn in the winter months.

“The appalling and archaic conditions at Natural Bridge Zoo should fill every American with shame that this roadside atrocity is allowed to keep Asha the African elephant alone from all others of her kind for years in deplorable conditions”, says In Defense of Animals Elephant Scientist, Dr. Toni Frohoff. “Forcing this majestic elephant to give rides is not only cruel for the elephant, it poses a serious and unnecessary health and safety risk to the public.”

In Defense of Animals President Dr. Marilyn Kroplick added, “After four years running of USDA citations, it is time to shut down Natural Bridge Zoo for good. The Agency has a responsibility to enforce regulations and immediately remove Asha and all the other animals who have been abused at this dilapidated disgrace to accredited sanctuaries.”

Natural Bridge Zoo was shamed as #1 Worst Zoo in North America by In Defense of Animals in 2014 and has remained on the charity’s list ever since.

In 2016 the USDA cited Natural Bridge for a number of violations including the mishandling of Asha by her keepers. In 2015, the USDA found a whopping 62 Animal Welfare Act violations. In 2014, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries suspended the Zoo’s permit after the USDA found 44 violations of the Animal Welfare Act, but could only keep the attraction closed temporarily. The Zoo has violations going back as far as 2004.

“As bans of elephant performances and rides are enacted throughout the U.S. and internationally, archaic facilities like Natural Bridge Zoo, owned and operated by repeat offenders of the Animal Welfare Act, need to be shut down for good,” said Dr. Frohoff. “The city of Richmond, Virginia passed a bullhook ban that will go into effect in 2018, confirming that people are no longer tolerating abusive exploitation of elephants. In Defense of Animals urges everyone to stay away from Natural Bridge Zoo and not patronize any place that keeps elephants in captivity but instead support their being placed in accredited sanctuaries.”

For more information on Natural Bridge Zoo’s shocking animal welfare record, please see In Defense of Animals Ten Worst Zoos list.

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In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 30-year history of fighting for animals, people and the environment through education, campaigns and hands-on rescue facilities in India, Africa, and rural Mississippi.

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