Over 100 ‘Alive And Dead’ Animals Seized From Zoo By Officials, Citing Rampant Cruelty Allegations

Image not from the story. (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Alexander Pease Contributor
Font Size:

A zoo in Natural Bridge, Virginia had over 100 of its animals — both alive and dead — seized by state officials between Wednesday and Thursday night.

The Animal Control Unit for the Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia carried out the mass seizure at Natural Bridge Zoo, citing rampant animal cruelty allegations by a pair of informants who worked within the ongoing investigation, according to court documents obtained by WSLS.

In sum, 117 animals were taken into cutody, including 89 living animals and 28 non-living, per the documents.

One of the informants was a low-level staffer who was hired by the zoo’s owner, Debbie Mogensen. The other was an eight-year-veteran animal control officer, Amy K. Taylor, for the Commonwealth. Together, the two conducted a hands-on probe onsite.
Based on their joint findings, the pair plead in an affidavit that they believed “there to be a direct and immediate threat to the health and safety of the animals belonging to and residing at Natural Bridge Zoo,” according to the court documents. (RELATED: REPORT: No Jail Time For Florida Man Caught On Video Allegedly Beating Shark With Hammer)

During the state-sponsored animal recovery effort, a tiger from the zoo was euthanized, attorney general’s office communications director Victoria LaCivita told The Roanoke Times.

“The tiger was euthanized with consent of the owners to humanely end its suffering upon recommendation by the specialist veterinarian following their examination,” LaCivita confirmed in an email. Court documents confirm this, as the animal is described as “1 EUTHANIZED WHITE BENGAL TIGER.”

One elephant, Asha, was taken from the property as well. The affidavit that brought about the search warrant said Asha had “lived as a solitary elephant for decades” and benefited from “very little enrichment.”

Asha’s responsibility at the zoo was apparently to have guests ride on top of her, carrying upwards of hundreds of them per day — reportedly including two plus-size guests accompanied by a child. This activity has reportedly taken a collective toll on the elephant’s overall well-being.

“Asha sways and rocks from side to side in order to soothe herself and relieve boredom and stress,” the document read. (RELATED: Hangzhou Zoo Swears Its Bears Are Real After People Claim They Are Humans In Disguise)

Some of the other living and dead animals, as well as remains of animals that were taken into state custody, include an elephant, a dead alligator, “legs of zebra,” a giraffe head and legs, a dead python, donkeys, sheep and many more species as spelled out in the court documents.

A live cassowary taken in by officials was reportedly burdened by a “broken/chipped beak and diarrhea, passing undigested food.”

In addition, there were drugs reportedly found in a repossessed zebra’s system meant for another animal entirely.

It didn’t end there. (RELATED: All Five Meerkats Mysteriously Die At Philadelphia Zoo)

“The most alarming issue was a deceased goat in the African Pygmy Goat exhibit,” an affidavit read. “This deceased goat remained there for over an hour unnoticed by staff and by the time we left was bloated and stiff.”

Drugs were also seized by officials at the zoo, including ketamine and expired gabapentin, per the court documents.