Recently, PETA launched a vicious and false attack on zoos. The 216 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) must meet and maintain high standards for animal care, conservation science and education. In plain English, we love animals, we are dedicated to caring for them, and we are committed to wildlife conservation.
AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums carefully manage our population of zoo animals to ensure their continued health and welfare. When animals leave our care, we have a stringent policy to help ensure they are well cared for. AZA’s mandatory policy states that any institution receiving an animal from an accredited zoo must have the expertise, records management practices, financial stability, facilities and resources required to properly care for and maintain the animals and their offspring. Further, the policy forbids transferring the animals to organizations or individuals that allow the hunting of these animals or their offspring.
When PETA makes accusations about selling exotic animals to canned hunt facilities, or dilapidated roadside zoos, or for slaughter, it is deliberately attempting to mislead the public.
The hypocrisy of these false statements is highlighted by the recent conviction of two PETA employees who were arrested in North Carolina after police observed them throwing trash bags into a dumpster behind a supermarket. The bags were filled with dead cats and dogs – animals that PETA had obtained from shelters by promising that they would be given good homes. Instead, the PETA employees killed them in the back of a van and tossed them away like garbage.
PETA is quick to recklessly criticize others, but what of its own treatment of animals? When animal extremists make outrageous claims that Knut the baby polar bear and other animals would be better off dead than in zoos, they appear ready to carry out such cruel measures.
By contrast, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums have strong ethics policies, backed by the work of thousands of dedicated professionals – veterinarians, biologists, and zookeepers – who care for and nurture animals every day. Many of these animals are threatened and endangered. Some would be extinct today if zoos had not reintroduced them into the wild.
AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are your link to helping animals in their native habitats because you can be certain that part of your admission fee will be dedicated to conservation. Over the last five years alone, these institutions have provided more than $89 million to support 3,693 conservation projects in more than 100 countries.
If you are an animal lover, we invite you to look for and visit AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums (www.aza.org) and discover for yourself how our high standards guarantee excellent care for the animals, a great experience for visitors, and a better future for all living things.Steve Feldman is a senior vice president for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The accredited zoo or aquarium near you can be found at www.aza.org.