PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Elephants threaten to trample a long-term lease between the city of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Because the zoo allows its handlers to get up close to the animals, the zoo is in violation of its lease.
Elephants are a huge attraction at the zoo, but how to handle them is at the root of a lease dispute between the city and the Zoo.
“We would like to see that lease enforced,” Brian Bonsteel, who heads Humane Action Pittsburgh, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Friday.
Bonsteel says the 1993 lease requires the Zoo to maintain accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
But the zoo dropped that when the AZA changed elephant handling requirements eliminating the personal contact preferred by the zoo.
It’s a dispute between “protected” handling and “free” handling.
“That protected contact is something that acts as a barrier between handlers and elephants so that the workers are protected but also that the animals can walk through their own home unimpeded and without the stress of a bull hook,” says Bonsteel.
KDKA went to the zoo to get their views but no one would talk.
Nobody at the city seems to be suggesting that it’s time for the zoo to leave this property.
In fact, the mayor’s spokesman left open the possibility of some kind of compromise.
“Generally, the law department is open to the zoo being accredited by another organization other than the AZA,” Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Peduto, told KDKA.
The Zoo is now accredited by the Zoological Association of America (AZA), but that’s not enough for some.
“We would simply like to make sure that the highest standards are happening at the Pittsburgh Zoo,” says Bonsteel.