St. Louis Zoo faces elephant complaint

March 17, 2010 at 5:01 PM
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SAN RAFAEL, Calif., March 17 (UPI) -- A California animal-rights group Wednesday filed a complaint against the St. Louis Zoo's elephant breeding program, charging violations of federal regulations.

In Defense of Animals filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, accusing the zoo of "knowingly exposing offspring to an unacceptably high risk of infection with the often-fatal elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus."

"It is grossly irresponsible for the St. Louis Zoo to continue breeding elephants, knowing that any infant born there faces a high risk of disease and death," said Catherine Doyle, IDA campaign director. "IDA is calling on the USDA to stop the reckless breeding of elephants in herpes-affected zoos by adopting a policy that protects calves from unnecessary suffering and horrific deaths."

The virus strikes young Asian elephants born in captivity and causes death through internal hemorrhaging.

The group has filed complaints against three other zoos over the same issue -- the Houston Zoo, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and the Oklahoma City Zoo.

"The only sure way to prevent new (elephant herpes) cases is to stop breeding elephants in herpes-affected zoos," said Dr. Elliot Katz, IDA president and a veterinarian. "The USDA must move swiftly to insure that zoos do not expose more innocent calves to this devastating disease."

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