SF Zoo may become animal sanctuary

March 17, 2008 6:35:57 PM PDT
The San Francisco Zoo may be facing a major change in its mission. A commission, appointed by city supervisors, is considering turning the zoo into an animal sanctuary. A hearing and vote is set for tomorrow.

Three tiger cubs, born on Saturday, could be joined by animals from zoos around the country. On Tuesday, the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare is expected call for sweeping changes.

"We want it to be a rescue setup so the animals will still be there, but we hope that the entire facility is changed so that they have more room and they're up to par in having the right surroundings for that specific type of animal," says Christine Garcia of the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare.

It would make the zoo a haven.

"The well being of the animals is top priority and there are so many in the hands of collectors that are in small roadside zoos that really do need appropriate space," says Dr. Elliot Katz of In Defense of Animals.

Ever since the deadly tiger attack in December, zoo management has been under pressure. The commission plan calls for creation of an oversight committee.

A spokesperson for the San Francisco Zoo says they're not concerned with the recommendations of the commission and have not attended any of their meetings. Instead, they are focusing on making changes based on industry standards.

Zoo management would have to face the plan when it comes before the Board of Supervisors. The zoo did get support from visitors on Monday.

"I think they take a lot better care of the animals than other zoos I've been to. I like coming here all the time," says Sarah Schuler of Pacifica.

"A lot of the animals seemed bored here, but I guess that's just part of being in a zoo," says Jessica Dennis of Portland.

"I think the zoo does a fine job and if they choose to use this as a rescue zoo, it sounds like a great idea," says zoo neighbor Teresa Hai.

The commission will pass the recommendations to the supervisors.

"Animals deserve better than to simply be exploited and used as entertainment," says Dr. Katz.