Inspection confirms Austin Zoo’s animal care
is fully compliant
We’d like to update you on a recent development that highlights our commitment to providing superior care and quality of life for our animals.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a three-person team to conduct an inspection of our facilities, procedures and animal care records. The two-day inspection was unannounced. The inspection arose from a late January article published in the Austin American-Statesman and a 54-page letter from several zookeepers that alleged mistreatment of a number of animals by our staff and zoo management.
This thorough inspection, which was conducted by licensed veterinarians, found no non-compliant items that pertained to animal care. They pointed out one “teachable moment,” which addressed a couple of surfaces in our Primate Palace that do not impact the welfare of any of our animals. We are developing a plan to address it when the weather is warmer so the animals can remain outside while we do the work. The inspectors were very complimentary about our veterinary care program, the efforts by our staff to provide the best care possible for our animals and our overall Zoo operations.
This inspection was separate from our annual USDA inspection, which occurred in July. Our annual inspection is also unannounced, typically conducted by a single inspector and lasts one day. The inspector walks through all areas of the zoo and examines our medication storage, food storage and food preparation areas. The inspector reviews our Program of Veterinary Care, our primate enrichment logs and our animal census. The inspector conducts a final exit interview with the Zoo’s director and provides a written inspection report.
Last week’s special inspection was conducted by our usual inspector, her supervisor and a primate specialist. In addition to revisiting all of the areas included in our most recent annual inspection, the USDA veterinary team:
• Reviewed the complete veterinary records of each animal mentioned in the Statesman article and the letter
• Interviewed five animal care staff members
• Interviewed our local veterinarian, Dr. Shuman, in person and our consulting veterinarian, Dr. Moreno, by telephone
• Spent more than four hours walking the zoo and its facilities with the Zoo’s director and deputy director of animal care
• Reviewed various other zoo procedures and animal care documents; and
• Conducted an exit interview with the Zoo’s director and deputy director of animal care.
They thoroughly reviewed and asked detailed questions about the care we gave to dozens of specific animals over the last 10 years. The inspectors concurred the animals in question were given appropriate care in accordance with USDA guidelines.
Our goal is to exceed, not just meet, federal animal care standards, and we strive for continuous improvement in our animal care and veterinary programs. The surprise USDA inspection validated our practices. It is up to all of us here at the Austin Zoo to ensure we continue to provide the best possible quality of life and veterinary care for all our animals. We hope you will visit our animals soon and see for yourself how we’re doing.