In Defense of Animals News Release

Feds Slap Los Angeles Zoo with Fine in Death of Elephant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 20, 2009

Contact: Catherine Doyle 323-301-5730

USDA cites failure to provide veterinary care

Los Angeles, Calif.–The U.S. Department of Agriculture has hit the Los Angeles Zoo with a stipulated penalty of $3,281 for failure to provide veterinary care in the 2006 death of the elephant Gita, according to information just provided to In Defense of Animals (IDA) by the USDA.

"It's outrageous that the USDA took so long to come to this pathetic conclusion, especially when the L.A. Zoo's negligence caused Gita to suffer a slow and agonizing death," said Catherine Doyle, IDA campaign director. "The paltry fine is nothing more than a slap on the wrist for the L.A. Zoo. It's a sad reflection on how little value is placed on the life of an endangered species like the Asian elephant."

Gita's death on June 10, 2006, made headlines after IDA exposed the zoo’s failure to provide veterinary care to her after she collapsed and was unable to rise. Despite being observed down on the ground overnight, zoo personnel took no action to help the elephant, who died soon after keepers discovered the ailing elephant in the morning. It was estimated that Gita lay suffering for as long as 17 hours.

For decades Gita suffered from painful chronic foot disease and arthritis caused by inadequate conditions for elephants at L.A. Zoo. Her necropsy report noted that her severe arthritis or an extremely infected abscess on her back (caused by Gita leaning against her pen to take pressure off her painful front feet and joints) may have triggered a blood clotting disorder that caused her collapse and subsequent heart failure.

Last month, celebrities and animal protection leaders blasted the USDA for its failure to effectively protect captive-held elephants. In separate letters, Bob Barker and Lilly Tomlin, joined by leading animal protection organizations, criticized the USDA's lack of timely action on a number of egregious cases involving elephants in zoos and circuses, including Gita's. Read the letter here

"There simply is no excuse for the USDA’s foot dragging, especially in cases like Gita's, where the facts are undeniably clear," said Doyle. "Elephants are suffering and dying prematurely in zoos and circuses. It's time for the USDA to start seriously enforcing the law and protecting these elephants now, rather than waiting until it's too late."

Gita is the fourteenth elephant to die at the Los Angeles Zoo. The zoo currently holds one solitary elephant, Billy.

Read the USDA's letter to IDA.

For more information, please visit www.HelpElephants.com