published Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Chattanooga Zoo to ban dogs

  • photo
    The gate at the Chattanooga Zoo features zoo animals.
    Staff Photo by Angela Lewis

The Chattanooga Zoo has a new policy: No dogs.

"This board of directors is going to say no more dogs in the zoo," said Mickey Myers, a member of the board's executive committee and a veterinarian.

Pets in the zoo -- including animals owned or cared for by Zoo Director Darde Long -- have come into question after allegations that at least one of the most recent deaths of animals at the zoo may be tied to barking dogs.

Seven animals died at the zoo during a monthlong period over the holidays. During one of the Holiday Lights "pet night" events, a muntjac is believed to have been frightened by barking dogs.

The muntjac, a small Asian deer, was locked out of its shelter, appeared to have a seizure, fell into the frigid water of a koi pond and died, according to complaints filed with PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

While Myers said he doesn't think any animals at the zoo died from neglect, he acknowledged that the muntjac's death prompted the board's decision to end the popular admissions and fundraising events with dogs.

"The muntjac, I have a hard time defending that, the one that evidently died as a response to dog night. That's awful. That's horrible," he said.

"Other zoos [allow pet dogs in zoos], but should they? I can tell you right now this board of directors has said 'no' to that," Myers said.

Myers and board chairman Gary Chazen this week pledged to the Chattanooga City Council that the board takes seriously recent problems and animal deaths at the zoo and will "try to get to the bottom of it."

Pets and zoos

During the Holiday Lights event in December, visitors were invited to bring their pets for a stroll inside the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park.

"Holiday Lights: Pet Night," stated the December "See the Chattanooga Zoo transformed into a magical winter wonderland! Visit the animals and Santa Claus, and enjoy holiday games and crafts. Bring your pets on Friday, Dec. 10, and Friday, Dec. 17."

Steve Feldman, spokesman for the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said the organization has no specific prohibition with pets in zoos. But AZA leaves the question up to individual zoos, he said.

But neither the St. Louis Zoo, Zoo Atlanta nor the Birmingham Zoo allow pets, with the exception of service animals such as Seeing Eye dogs.

Denise Wiggs, at the Birmingham Zoo, said keepers try to adhere to strict quarantine issues with zoo animals.

"Stray animals and pets can bring in germs and parasites," she said.

Dave Sacks, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the Animal Welfare Act, which USDA enforces, contains no specific regulation regarding pet dogs at a zoo. But he said pets allowed in zoos can still cause problems and prompt animal-handling violations.

"If the dog came into close enough proximity to one or more regulated animals in the zoo, and/or caused any regulated animals behavioral stress or distress, it could be considered a handling violation of the Animal Welfare Act," Sacks said.

Debbie Leahy, director of PETA's captive animal rescue and enforcement, has criticized the Chattanooga Zoo's lockout events -- when animals are purposely locked out of their shelters so they'll stay on display -- and its policy of allowing visitors to bring in dogs.

"We're very concerned about animals being locked out on display," she said. "And we are troubled by reports that people were allowed to bring their dogs into the zoo, and the dogs were stressing out some of the animals."

Robin Derryberry, a zoo spokeswoman and board member of Friends of the Zoo, said the decision to end pet nights is not expected to impact zoo fundraising or admissions revenue.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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Anybody else notice Robin Derryberry has her fingerprints all over everything we're told is great for the community but is always in the news for the wrong reasons? She also has ties to Friends of The Festival...Perhaps Ms. Sohn can call over there and ask Chip Baker how much they've paid out to former employees in "confidential settlements"...Or better yet, get their emails and run the numbers to see once and for all just how much money a gang of drunks and dopers from Signal Mountain is making off the taxpayer-funded riverfront assets of Chattanooga, Tennessee...

February 10, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
keepergyrl102 said...

I noticed that Robin had her fingerprints all in this for sure! I also like how people have asked the chattanooga zoo to simply correct mistakes found by USDA, well I got some shocking news for everyone you cant fix stupid! You can only restaff and hope things turn out better. Also you can try to correct things as much as you want but those animals are dead and you cant really correct death either. Someone please tell me how Dardy is still running the place? Really? And I agree with obviousman there will prob and most likely be some staff changes at that facility, but unfortunately it wont mean firing the ones who actually contributed to the deaths, those people are either in management or act like management with a made up title, I heard that the facility likes to grant suck ups to the boss titles that mean nothing to them except that they can do no wrong in the directors eyes. Unfortunately the people who actually care about these animals will prob eventually be fired. Thats just sad, as I said you cant fix stupid but you can get stupid out of the zoo, get a clue FOZ get rid of Dardy Long and her deputy director that thinks chimps are geriatric in captivity at age 30, he obviously knows absolutely nothing about animals, oh and whoever that person is that is the curator of animals, how does he play a part in all of this? He needs to be gone to for allowing this to happen as well, isn't it his responsibility to make sure everything is running smoothly with the keepers and animals? That facility needs a complete over haul and credentials need to be checked for each of the above mentioned people I guarantee none of them have a degree in any type of animals science or biology or herpetology and they are the ones over the welfare of these animals! Sounds like the new employees have more credentials then the management at that facility!

February 10, 2011 at 10:45 a.m.
keepergyrl102 said...

Does this mean Darde and her husband are no longer allowed at the zoo?

February 11, 2011 at 7:31 p.m.
Mr_B said...

Is Darde and Rick above the new rule of FOZ? Why is it that after they say no dogs allowed at the zoo she brings her dogs to the zoo the next day? This shows what kind of people they are, they don't care about the well being of the animals and they don't care about the rules that FOZ has laid down. This is another reason why Darde and Rick(oxycontin)Jackson "LMAO"!! NEEDS TO BE REMOVED!

February 12, 2011 at 11:28 a.m.
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