Las Vegas Sun

December 21, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Animals deserve better protection

The state of affairs surrounding the unaccredited roadside Las Vegas Zoo is a textbook example of the need for a state law banning the private possession of dangerous wild animals.

Claiming that the owner would not allow proper animal care, the employees have all resigned, forcing the facility to close. Incredibly, federal regulations that govern roadside zoos are so weak that facilities can keep animals in inhumane conditions yet still be in compliance with the law. Roadside zoos can continue to operate even if the U.S. Department of Agriculture cites them repeatedly. It has cited the Las Vegas Zoo numerous times — including for failing to provide animals with protection from the scorching summer heat.

A statewide law prohibiting the private possession of dangerous wild animals would promote animal welfare and protect human safety. It is difficult for private individuals and roadside menageries to meet the specialized needs of exotic animals in captivity. Additionally, these animals can cause death, inflict serious injury and spread deadly diseases if they escape.

The fate of the animals at the Las Vegas Zoo is uncertain, and the situation must be a reminder of the need for change. Nevada should follow the trend of states that are addressing this issue by ensuring that only facilities with knowledgeable and experienced staff, such as zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and legitimate nonprofit animal sanctuaries, can possess wild animals that require special care.

The writer is the Nevada director for the Humane Society of the United States.

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