Federal report faults Dallas Zoo in zebra death

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by DAVID FLICK

The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 18, 2010 at 12:13 PM

A federal inspector criticized Dallas Zoo officials for a lack of veterinary supervision that might have avoided the death of a zebra last month.

The inspection was triggered by the July 10 death of a 1 ½-year-old male Grant's Zebra in a holding pen.

The animal was confined there to allow it to become acclimated to its surroundings. Zoo officials said an unknown sound startled the zebra, which then broke its neck running into the side of the holding area.

The brief report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the zebra should have been under a 30-day quarantine supervised by the zoo's veterinary staff. The report was written July 22 but was not made public until Tuesday to give zoo officials time to comment.

The report has been sent to the USDA regional director, who will determine whether penalties or an investigation are warranted, said inspection service spokesman Dave Sacks.

The report said that zoo management ignored its own policy to confine incoming animals to a monthlong quarantine overseen by the veterinary department.

"The attending veterinarians must have proper authority to ensure all animals receive appropriate care regardless of management agendas," the report said.

Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo executive director, said the zebra arrived during a period when zoo officials were dealing with an influx of animals for the opening of the Giants of the Savanna exhibit. He said zoo officials considered the holding pens to be part of the quarantine process.

Hudson said the zoo's quarantine policy would be strictly followed in the future and pledged cooperation with the USDA.

"Anything they want us to do, we'll do," he said.

Unrelated to the zebra death, the report also called on zoo management to provide more shade for animals at the savanna habitat.

Hudson said misters and additional shade would be added before a Sunday deadline imposed by the inspector.

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