A roadside zoo in western Virginia is under investigation for alleged animal cruelty and abuse, according to court documents.
Virginia State Police issued two search warrants for documents, animal records and the seizure of animals from the Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge County, WDBJ-TV reported Dec. 9.
A search of the zoo was conducted Dec. 6 and resulted in the removal of 95 living animals, according to documents filed in Lexington/Rockbridge District Court.
The Roanoke Times reported that more than 28 deceased animals were also taken from the zoo, along with animal body parts.
The court documents said the live animals taken included several lemurs, macaws, pythons and tortoises.
Among the dead animals was a 12-year-old tiger.
“The tiger was euthanized with consent of the owners to humanely end its suffering upon recommendation by the specialist veterinarian following their examination,” Victoria LaCivita, communications director for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, told the Times in an email.
The office is conducting a criminal investigation with the assistance of the state police.
A confidential informant who worked at the zoo provided law enforcement with the probable cause necessary to conduct the search, the Times reported.
The former employee described disturbing conditions to the Virginia State Police, saying an elephant named Asa was left in puddles of its urine and kept in shackles while unattended.
The informant also said zoo staff instructed him on how to hit the elephant, saying he should “‘always’ jab them where ‘bone is close to flesh. Make it count,'” the report said.
This isn’t the first time that the zoo has been under investigation. WDBJ reported that in 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report slapping the zoo with several violations, including a failure to provide animals with adequate medical care. This resulted in the attraction’s temporary closure.
The Natural Bridge Zoo has been closed for the winter.
“We know what we do here,” Gretchen Mogensen said.
She said some of the deceased animals were awaiting burial, while others were to be used for research.
Gretchen Mogensen, the Natural Bridge Zoo facility representative, said what is on the warrants is not what it seems.https://t.co/72pA1PPqsT
— ABC 13 News – WSET (@ABC13News) December 11, 2023
What is most heinous about these allegations is that a zoo is a place where animals should especially treated with kindness.
People often fail to remember that animals are part of God’s creation and should be treated with decency and compassion. God made us stewards of the natural world, and that includes the duty to look after animals.
Besides, if one can be cruel to animals, it makes it easier to be cruel to other forms of God’s creation — including humans.
Pope Francis warned of such a slippery slope in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si,” saying, “We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity.'”
There is never a justification to abuse animals. If the allegations against the Natural Bridge Zoo prove to be true, let’s hope that justice is done.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.