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Local Virginia Zoo Accused of Animal Abuse

Written by Hannah Guanti

Last month, Virginia state investigators seized 96 animals from the Natural Bridge Zoo, on allegations of animal abuse. Since December 20, the Attorney General’s office and the defense team have had several meetings in court.

A Rockbridge County judge ruled last Friday that 39 of the 95 animals were to be returned to the zoo after insufficient evidence was found on the abuse charges. A rare white tiger had already been euthanized due to its failing health. The remaining animals will remain in alternate housing

This case comes after months of investigating the zoo for their treatment of the animals. The animals were allegedly held in dirty and deteriorating conditions, did not receive proper daily care, and denied medical treatments when needed. 

The zoo was home to a plethora of non-native species including giraffes, lemurs, tropical birds, pythons, and more. Many of these are included in the animals who remain in the states custody, and have been rehomed to several facilities or zoos.

On Monday, Karl and Deborah Mogensen, the zoo’s owners, filed a notice to appeal the ruling. 

The Roanoke Times reports that the defense will be requesting a five- day trial before a jury Circuit Court of Rockbridge Co. The initial hearing is planned for February 1. 

The zoo is home to a 40-year-old African elephant named Asha. Asha has received global attention for what many deem inhumane treatment. From In Defense of Animals, to National Geographic, several publications have emphasized the negatives associated with isolation and the climate for these species. 

As of now, Asha has not been located by investigators.