Monday, November 16, 2015
From the News: Don't Bother the Animals... Or Else.
Thousands of visitors come through the gates of our little zoo every year, and the vast majority of them, I'm happy to have. There are always a handful that cause trouble, though. I don't mean the ones who say annoying or ignorant things - those we can live with. I mean the ones who are actually just... bad. Rock throwers. Fence jumpers. Spitters (especially directed towards llamas and camels).
We run them off when we see them, sometimes throwing them out when it seems appropriate. Occasionally one or two will talk back, and a quick threat to call the police has always gotten them to change their tune. I'm honestly not 100% sure what, if anything, would happen if I did call the police on someone bothering animals; the only time I've ever actually called them was on a brawl that broke out in the parking lot one day.
The Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, California, has decided that they're not going to hold back when visitors torment zoo animals anymore. A new law put to the city council makes harassing a zoo animal a criminal offense. I think it's a great idea - the welfare of their animals should be the top priority of any zoo, and sometimes you need teeth to help enforce their protection.
I would, however, hope that there's a little structure and leeway into what constitutes harassment. It's important to remember that, when visitors annoy zoo animals, plenty of them do it without realizing that they are doing so - few people understand how annoying glass-banging can be, for example. Hopefully the zoo will continue to educate and (gently) correct visitors who are acting out of ignorance, while now having the authority to punish those who act out of malice or who put the safety of the animals in jeopardy.