Friday, December 29, 2006

Group Calls for More Space for Captive or Zoo Elephants: USDA Now to Decide

An excellent move by In Defense of Animals. Take it legally and based on evidence. Here are some facts from the article below:

“In Defense petition asks the USDA to explain with more specificity its rule, as it pertains to elephants, calling for "adequate space" for zoo animals. The animal rights group says foot and joint problems ought to be an indicator that elephants don't have sufficient space.
Space woes are "hurting and killing our animals," Doyle said.

In Defense studied records pertaining to 132 elephants at 35 zoos, including Lee Richardson, finding that 62 percent had experienced foot disease and 42 percent had suffered joint disorders in the period covered, 2000 to 2005. Moreover, captive cows experience a high rate of early infertility, the study showed.”

Article:

Fate of group's zoo complaint now in hands of Dept. of Ag.

http://www.hutchnews.com/news/regional/stories/
zoo122806.shtml

By Tim Vandenack

The Hutchinson News
Michelob Ultra

tvandenack@hutchnews.com

The comments are in and now it's up to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sort through them and weigh in on an animal rights group's call for more space for captive elephants.

In Defense of Animals, of San Rafael, Calif., filed a petition last February complaining that the nation's zoos are woefully inadequate in the care of elephants, citing Garden City's Lee Richardson Zoo, among others. Given the animals' large size and their relatively small quarters, they say captive pachyderms are susceptible to a range of woes, chiefly foot and joint maladies. The group seeks more spacious digs for the animals.

"You're talking about an animal that in the wild moves considerable distances every day," said Catherine Doyle, an In Defense spokeswoman. Elephants "are large animals that require a lot of space."

The USDA subsequently called for comments on the In Defense proposal, and nearly 2,300 streamed in through Dec. 11, the deadline, including a submission from Lee Richardson Director Kathy Sexson. Jim Rogers, spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said department staffers will now review the comments before making a formal pronouncement. He set no timeline.

In particular, the In Defense petition asks the USDA to explain with more specificity its rule, as it pertains to elephants, calling for "adequate space" for zoo animals. The animal rights group says foot and joint problems ought to be an indicator that elephants don't have sufficient space.

Space woes are "hurting and killing our animals," Doyle said.

In Defense studied records pertaining to 132 elephants at 35 zoos, including Lee Richardson, finding that 62 percent had experienced foot disease and 42 percent had suffered joint disorders in the period covered, 2000 to 2005. Moreover, captive cows experience a high rate of early infertility, the study showed.

In her filing, Sexson cast doubt on In Defense's criticism, accusing the group of taking health records of two elephants formerly housed at Lee Richardson - Moki and Chana - out of context. The group has cited occasional foot issues of the two animals, which were recently transferred to Florida's Jacksonville Zoo as part of a breeding effort, in its call for change.

Beyond that, Sexson noted that Lee Richardson's elephant pens were recently expanded and that two routine USDA inspections this year revealed no problems anywhere in the zoo, let alone the elephant exhibit.

At any rate, the size of an elephant's quarters isn't the only measure of its health, and Sexson said Association of Zoo and Aquarium standards ought to be considered if more stringent requirements are the aim. The AZA, a zoo accrediting body, outlines with more specificity than the USDA the conditions under which captive elephants should be kept.

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