PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – A report by the USDA has ordered changes to the way the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium uses 2 Australian cattle dogs to help control its elephants and protect human handlers.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent out a news release Monday with the headline: “Feds Cite Zoo For Using Dogs In Cruel Elephant Herding Stunt.”

PETA is referring to a Jan. 6 routine inspection by the USDA where officials observed the dogs with the elephants.

But the document that outlines the results is not a citation at all, but merely a report with no mention of anything illegal.

The inspector did write that “Having the dogs interact with the elephants by unrestrained lunging and biting may cause undue stress to the elephants. All animal handling must be done in a manner that does not cause behavioral stress.”

The zoo released a statement Monday, defending its use of dogs:

“The introduction of the dogs has been a valuable tool as we continue to elevate the care and management of our elephant herd,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, President & CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo. “The safety of our keepers and animals is a top priority and we provide an additional safety level with the use of trained cattle dogs. The dogs read the behavior of the animals and alert the keepers to any disruption in the heard, preventing potential safety concerns for the staff and elephants. This method of animal management, in the livestock field, is referred to as a low-stress method. These methods, which have been scientifically proven and recognized by the USDA, ensure a calm and controlled interaction between an animal, the dogs, and keepers they work with.”

The zoo went on to state that six USDA inspections have been conducted since the dogs were implemented in 2012. In that time, it says no “non-compliant concerns” have been found.

The USDA report ordered the zoo to review and correct its procedures. But the dogs will remain as a key part of the elephant program.

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