Animal rights advocates have expressed dismay at the decision of a Court to allow returning 39 captive wild animals to Natural Bridge Zoo, a disgraced roads zoo in Virginia, US, whose 120 animals were confiscated by the authorities in December 2023 over allegations of abuse. After several court hearings, a federal judge ruled that the owners would have to pay $45,563.46 to the county for the care and boarding of some of the animals, but 39 animals had to be returned to the zoo as the evidence could not conclude these animals were subjected to cruelty. 

Animal advocates were concerned about the elephant, Asha, and the four giraffes, but according to the court documents, the court decided that the giraffes would remain in the care at the Natural Bridge Zoo, although the county can make unannounced visits to check how they are taken care of.

According to PETA, federal zoo inspectors have cited Natural Bridge Zoo over 150 times since 2000. The issues include alleged mistreatment of a tiger cub that died, slamming guinea pigs into a hard surface to kill them so they could be used for food for large cats, and allegedly failing to seek immediate care for a mandrill that later died.

In a Care2 petition demanding that no animal should be returned to the zoo, we can read,  “During the trial against Natural Bridge Zoo, witnesses testified that they found the corpses and dismembered body parts of multiple animals in a freezer, as well as dead, bloated, decomposing carcasses elsewhere on the property. Living animals were also enduring continued torment. Asha the elephant, for example, was forced to give rides to hundreds of visitors each day – and at night she was chained up inside a ramshackle barn, where she slept and stood in her own urine. The state government knows this facility is unsafe – that’s why it ordered the zoo to send 57 of the animals to shelters or humane societies. If it can’t trust this zoo with those animals’ health and wellbeing, how can it entrust any other animals to the facility?”

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.