Because of a lion’s untimely death last week at a Las Vegas zoo, an animal rights group has requested an investigation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The request was in the form of e-mail addressed to Robert Gibbens, the western regional director for the USDA’s inspection service, and it accused the zoo of violating the Animal Welfare Act.
“We requested they revoke the zoo’s license following the preventable death of Midas (the lion),” said Lisa Wathme, a representative of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Wathme said reports from Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park officials after Midas’ death suggested that ingesting a rubber football probably caused his death.
“The zoo freely admitted debris has regularly been thrown into the exhibit for years, and as a result, Midas is now dead,” Wathme said. “They didn’t make adjustments to the cage so debris and foreign objects could not be thrown in.”
Pat Dingle, zoo director, said the operation is licensed by the USDA and undergoes inspections every year.
“That’s what they do,” he said. “They haven’t found anything of consequence in 20 years, and that’s a matter of record.”
Dingle, who has said the football might have been tossed from a neighboring store into the exhibit, said he was unaware of any PETA response but doesn’t find it unusual.
“That’s their standard response to any such incident,” he said. “Write a letter.”
Phone calls to Gibbens’ office were directed to the USDA’s public relations division. There has been no confirmation on whether USDA received PETA’s complaint, but Wathme said that is normal.
“We haven’t heard anything yet,” she said. “It’ll be weeks or months before we hear of any results of an investigation.”
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283.