GULF BREEZE, Fla. (AP) - The owners of a Florida Panhandle zoo are responding to a federal complaint accusing them of failing to properly care for their animals.
In a statement this week to the Northwest Florida Daily News (https://bit.ly/1LK7OiK ), Gulf Breeze Zoo owner Eric Mogensen said the facility had no outstanding violations.
Director Steve Jagielski said all violations at the zoo had been corrected and its euthanasia protocols now meet federal standards. The violations included poor ventilation for the large cat exhibits, inadequate coverage for some animal habitats and repeated failures to maintain animal enclosures.
The zoo also is hiring a corporate veterinarian, in addition to a veterinary consultant currently on call, he said.
“All of our non-compliant issues from our last inspection were fixed immediately,” he said. “I don’t want those things hanging over our head.”
A U.S. Department of Agriculture complaint listed numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act at the Gulf Breeze Zoo and two properties Mogensen owns in Virginia. The case will go before a USDA administrative law judge for a hearing.
“The complaint is a result of an investigation that could be prompted by a variety of things,” said Lyndsay Cole, assistant director of Legislative and Public Affairs, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “It could be repeated non-compliance or complaints from the public or both.”
If found guilty of any or all of the charges, Mogensen and his daughter, Meghan, who also is named in the complaint, could face a variety of outcomes, including having their zoo operation license suspended or revoked.
According to the USDA complaint, Meghan Mogensen was found guilty of animal cruelty when she was the director of the Reston Zoo in Reston, Virginia, after she euthanized an injured wallaby by drowning it.
She spent time in jail for the offense and was banned from having contact with animals in the future.
Jagielski said she is currently employed at the Gulf Breeze Zoo “but not in a capacity that deals with animals.”
“She made a poor decision, I’m not denying that,” he said.
Eric Mogensen purchased the zoo, which suffered severe damage from Hurricane Ivan, in 2009.
Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), https://www.nwfdailynews.com
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