MEDIA RELEASE: New Billboard Highlights Natural Bridge Zoo for Multiple Animal Welfare Act Violations
RICHMOND, VA (October 1, 2019) – A new billboard addressing the significant number of animal welfare violations by soun has been placed just behind 2700 Durham Street by Free All Captive Elephants and In Defense of Animals. The billboard features solitary elephant, Asha, as the poster-child of suffering at the Rockbridge County-based attraction. The animal advocates are calling on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), with headquarters located in Henrico just minutes from the billboard in Richmond, VA, to deny an exhibitor’s permit to the zoo.
Natural Bridge Zoo, owned by Karl Mogensen, holds hundreds of animals captive, including Asha, a 37-year-old African elephant who is kept in solitary confinement without the company of her own kind. The Zoo has a disturbing history of federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations dating back as far as 1994, some of which landed the facility on In Defense of Animals’ 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants list for five consecutive years.
The Zoo’s annual exhibitor’s permit is up for renewal on November 1, 2019, which would allow it to continue holding animals captive. Free All Captive Elephants and In Defense of Animals are calling on the DGIF to deny the permit.
In 2015, Natural Bridge Zoo’s exhibitor’s permit was suspended by the DGIF following a USDA investigation that yielded more than 40 separate violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The Zoo’s permit was reinstated several weeks later. Since then, five subsequent USDA inspections revealed continued noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act, including several repeat violations. In 2018, DGIF renewed Mogensen’s Permit to Exhibit Wild Animals in Virginia in spite of the fact that Mogensen did not meet the criteria.
“Virginia’s exhibitor permits are issued to zoos in accordance with The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ own regulations, the laws of Virginia and the Federal Animal Welfare Act,” says Denise Gaug, J.D. of Free All Captive Elephants. “The DGIF has failed to enforce its own permitting regulations and has ignored decades of Animal Welfare Act violations. We call on the agency to stop giving Natural Bridge Zoo’s permit the ‘rubber stamp’ year after year.”
According to USDA inspections, Natural Bridge Zoo has at times failed to provide adequate shelter from natural elements such as rain, adequately clean and sanitize animal enclosures, provide adequate space, prepare animal feed in a sanitary manner, and separate animals who are incompatible with each other.
According to USDA inspections, Natural Bridge Zoo has at times failed to provide adequate shelter from natural elements such as rain and did not adequately clean and sanitize animal enclosures. The inspections also indicate the Zoo failed to provide adequate space, prepare animal feed in a sanitary manner, and separate animals who are incompatible with each other.
“Natural Bridge Zoo’s repeated violations of basic animal welfare standards are deeply troubling,” says Marilyn Kroplick M.D., President of In Defense of Animals. “Asha the elephant should not be forced to live in solitary confinement, nor should any of the animals at Natural Bridge Zoo be forced to endure the hardships revealed in the USDA reports. The Natural Bridge Zoo should not have its exhibitor’s permit renewed.”
Free All Captive Elephants and In Defense of Animals urge the DGIF not to renew Natural Bridge Zoo’s permit, and call for the release of animal individuals such as Asha to accredited sanctuaries.
Denise Gaug, Free All Captive Elephants, firstname.lastname@example.org, 603-494-2565
Laura Bridgeman, In Defense of Animals, email@example.com, 415-688-6105
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Free All Captive Elephants (FACE) is the ONLY non-profit in the nation dedicated solely to rescuing elephants held in captivity in North America. FACE is dedicated to getting elephants to sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. GFAS is the gold standard for sanctuaries.
FREE ALL CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS • 1071 S. PATRICK DRIVE SUITE 372722 • SATELLITE BEACH, FL 32937
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 in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.
IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048