(ZOO ANIMAL WELFARE) LOS ANGELES — Due to years of financial loss, the Los Angeles Zoo is considering privatization. This move could decrease public knowledge of animal safety in the zoo. More importantly, if a private group assumes management, the animals may not be properly cared for. In Defense of Animals (IDA) has filed multiple complaints against the zoo in the past, but now they are focusing on how the animals will be treated in the private sector. Keep reading for more on the issue, and sign the petition to stop this from happening! — Global Animal
Change.org, Laura Goldman
The Los Angeles Zoo is one of a dwindling number in the U.S. that is publicly owned and financed. But all of that may change very soon if the City Council approves a plan to privatize the zoo, a move that In Defense of Animals (IDA) opposes.
Catherine Doyle, IDA’s elephant welfare specialist, told the Los Angeles Times that privatization will result in less transparency, making the zoo “become even more secretive and insular.”
In 2009, IDA filed a grand jury complaint against the zoo over its “gross malfeasance and unethical behavior in its actions to secure approval of a $42 million elephant exhibit expansion.” The controversial, 6-acre Pachyderm Forest exhibit, which opened last December, was opposed by animal rights groups that wanted the elephants to be moved to a much larger sanctuary.
The City of Los Angeles currently contributes about $15 million to the zoo’s annual $26 million operating costs. The zoo brings in about $11.5 million in revenue each year.
On July 28 the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee voted unanimously to request management proposals from private groups, according to KPCC. The committee also approved a motion to study ways to increase zoo revenue, such as charging for parking, to enable it to remain under city management.
According to the proposal, the animals would continue to be owned by the city, and current zoo staff would continue to be employed by the city. Employees hired after the privatization would be employed by the zoo operator. Some zoo employees are worried that new hires won’t have the same animal expertise as the current staff.
The L.A. Times reported late last month that two organizations have already expressed interest in taking over the zoo’s operations. One is the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), a nonprofit that currently helps raise money to run the zoo. The other is Parques Reunidos, a Madrid-based leisure park company that operates amusement and water parks around the world.
As former L.A. Zoo consultant Dave Towne told the L.A. Times, “Any private, for-profit operation is going to Disney-fy it,” he said. “That’s just what they do.”
There is also concern that a private operator will care more about its bottom line than the welfare of the animals.
Miguel Santana, the city’s chief administrative officer, is in favor of privatization. He told the L.A. Times, “This model has worked across the country as a way of ensuring services are maintained in an era of declining revenues.”
But Councilman Richard Alarcon argued, “If a private corporation can make it profitable, why can’t we?”
The city is also considering privatizing the convention center, some arts facilities and an animal shelter. In the case of the Northeast Valley Animal Center, privatization would be a win-win for both the city and the animals. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the non-profit Best Friends Animal Society would operate the shelter – which houses animals but has never opened to the public due to budget problems – as a low-cost spay/neuter clinic and adoption center.
But privatization of the zoo is a different matter, and could be a lose-lose for the city and animals. The City Council should not risk the possibility of having the Los Angeles Zoo turned into a theme park by a for-profit operator. Sign the petition asking the City Council not to privatize the zoo.