Zoo incident rekindles calls for reform

September 28, 2009 11:54:25 AM PDT
Even before an incident on Saturday when a man climbed into a bear pen, the San Francisco Zoo had already been under scrutiny for its management and care of the animals. The City's Animal Control and Welfare Commission is calling on supervisors to hold hearings.

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Last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted down an attempt to reform the zoo and its management. On Sunday, proponents for zoo reform said this is just the latest example of zoo mismanagement, pointing out that the bears would have been shot and killed if they had attacked the man who got into the enclosure.

An animal activist group called "In Defense of Animals" says the Zoological Society and the City of San Francisco should be held responsible.

But on Sunday, Supervisor Bevan Dufty told ABC7, "I think if someone is going to try and get in, I think that's someone who really has got some other issues going on and I just don't know that you necessarily can always prevent it."

"Doesn't matter. The zoo is responsible for keeping the public and the animals safe from each other. So, the zoo clearly has not taken all the measure necessary to keep the animals safe from the public," argued Deniz Bolbol with In Defense of Animals.

Dufty voted against the 2008 zoo reform that would have created an independent oversight commission for animal welfare issues at the zoo. Dufty says he did not want to create another layer of bureaucracy.

Proponents of that zoo reform also wanted to prevent new animals from being acquired until all the existing 1930's era enclosures were brought up to date. The zoo reform issue has not been brought back up since it was shot down last year. But now proponents will likely use Saturday's incident to rekindle this debate.

As for the bears, Kachina and Kiona have been at the zoo since 2004. Montana authorities were about to euthanize the sisters after they were caught raiding a ranch, when San Francisco zoo officials agreed to care for them.

The bears are about 5 or 6-years-old.

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