Dallas Zoo turned over to private zoological society

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by By CYNTHIA VEGA / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on August 12, 2009 at 11:59 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 3:43 PM

Dallas Zoo

Cynthia Vega reports

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Committed to creating a world class zoo, the Dallas City council has voted unanimously to privatize the Dallas Zoo.

After an hour-long debate, the Dallas City council voted 15-to-0 to hand over management of the Dallas Zoo to the Dallas Zoological Society.

The transfer becomes official October 1st, just in time to shave nearly $5 million off the budget. Some $16 million will be saved over the next five years.

Officials say while it is a cost-cutting measure that is going to alleviate the budget crisis, make certain of this, this has been a work in progress for years.

The result of the vote was a huge relief for many, a cause for celebration, and resulted in tears from some at the Dallas Zoological Society.

The society is now in charge of managing personnel and animals at the zoo.

Council members still have a few concerns, such as adding a few clauses, to make sure the public will not lose the right to enquire about the animals.

"They would have the opportunity, like they do now, to request records, specifically records related to animal health and welfare," said council member Angela Hunt. "That's an important oversight function and I think that is a right the public has."

Cathy Burkey
The Dallas Zoological Society hopes to keep the current staffing levels.

"If it doesn't work out and I truly believe it will work out, but we have safeguarded it in the contract, the city can step up at any point and say 'we don't like what's going on, we're not happy with what's going on. We're going to take the management back,'" said council member Ron Natinski.

As council members pointed out this morning, their relationship with the Dallas Zoological Society goes back to 1992. They've overseen the management of the zoo, ticketing, concessions, all kinds of things. They have a proven track record.

According to supporters of the plan, the privatization will open the door for more donations to the attraction.

The Dallas Zoological Society hopes to keep the current staffing levels with their existing benefits.

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