Supervisors consider a change for SF Zoo

July 17, 2008 6:03:46 PM PDT
The San Francisco Zoo would undergo a profound transformation, under a controversial proposal presented at a hearing on Thursday, to turn it into an animal rescue sanctuary. The public had their first chance to voice their opinions to supervisors.

The hearing drew a packed crowd. The testimony was often emotional and personal.

"I have always been inspired with the awe and wonder of the zoo. I still am every day. Please don't change," said Joan Mclaine, a San Francisco zoo docent.

Supervisor Chris Daly's bill would change the zoo into a rescue sanctuary for animals at risk.

"We're simply calling on the program of the zoo to convert into one that embraces what's good," said Supervisor Daly.

Daly has long been a critic of the living conditions for animals at the zoo and what he calls the lack of oversight by the zoological society. He had many supporters in the room.

Among those here, is a former zoo Supervisor Lloyd Kraal who is suing the zoo for wrongful termination. ABC7 told you his story shortly after the deadly tiger attack.

Kraael told us he was fired after blowing the whistle on substandard conditions, including the tiger grotto.

"When I left the zoo in 2007, I had only five zoological society maintenance workers to maintain the entire zoo," said Lloyd Kraal, former zoo supervisor.

The zoo also had plenty of supporters, among them, the head of the city's Animal Care and Control.

"If the legislation passes my fear is that the zoo will go back to be run by the city. And I've been around long enough to see that can cause a major problem," said Carl Friedman, the Animal Care and Control director.

Newly appointed Executive Director Tanya Peterson opposes the bill, saying the zoo is already doing what Daly wants.

"We are a rescue zoo. We are a conservation center and we are an education facility. And we're concerned it will compromise if not eradicate a large portion of what we achieve at the zoo," said Acting Zoo Executive Director Tanya Peterson.

By the end of the day, the legislation was still in limbo. The hearing was continued for two weeks.


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