Animal Protection Group Files USDA Complaint Regarding Multiple Violations at Cincinnati Zoo
An Animal Rights Article from

June 2016

On May 31st, Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), an international animal protection group, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging that the Cincinnati Zoo is responsible for the incident in which zoo personnel shot and killed the gorilla Harambe after a child fell into his enclosure. In the complaint, SAEN alleges that the zoo violated section 3.77 of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which states that a primate enclosure must be surrounded by a physical barrier that prevents unauthorized humans from interacting with the animals.

At a press conference held outside the Cincinnati Zoo on May 31st to announce the complaint, Michael Budkie, SAEN’s executive director, stated, “Since a four year old child managed to enter the enclosure within a matter of minutes, these conditions were obviously not met.”

On June 2nd, the zoo announced that it is modifying the public barrier prior to reopening “Gorilla World” on June 7th. In response, Budkie stated, “The announcement essentially confirms the faulty nature of the previous barrier.It is entirely possible that if this barrier had been in place by Saturday, May 28th, Harambe might be alive today.”

At the press conference, Budkie also disclosed that the zoo violated the AWA on several other occasions. A 2014 USDA inspection found deteriorating wooden boards in colobus monkey and Przewalski’s horse enclosures, violating sections 3.80 and 3.125. In addition, two polar bears escaped from their enclosure on March 16, 2016, into the zookeeper area due to negligence — a repeat violation of section 3.125. The USDA inspection report states: “. . .had the bears gained outside access, the public would have been at great risk for injury, harm or death.” SAEN believes that, because of this track record, the USDA will likely impose the maximum penalty of $10,000 per infraction/animal on the zoo.

For Budkie, however, this incident is about much more than AWA violations and the killing of Harambe. Rather, it calls into question whether or not zoos should exist at all. “At the end of the day, zoos are money-making businesses masquerading as conservation groups. True conservation focuses on the preservation of natural habitats, not holding wild animals captive in small enclosures where many go insane from lack of stimulation, stress and the frustration of confinement.”

On May 28th, a four year old child fell into Harambe’s enclosure after crawling through a fence leading to it. While the gorilla did not attack the boy, the zoo decided to shoot him as a safety precaution. 

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