Rules Bypassed Prior to Zebra Death, USDA says

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    NEWSLETTERS

    KXAS/Jane Geelan
    Zebra on scenic drive at Fossil Rim.

    A report by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said a zebra that died at the Dallas Zoo should have been quarantined for 30 days prior to being placed in its new habitat.

    The report comes form a routine inspection on the zoo's highly publicized new "Giants of the Savanna" exhibit, and the zoo says it is taking the report seriously.

    Zoo officials said an unknown sound startled the zebra before it ran into a wall and broke its neck last month.

    The federal inspector performed the routine inspection July 22, 12 days after the zebra died. The report wasn't made public until this week to allow the Dallas Zoo time to respond to the inspector's findings.

    It was the goal of the zoo to build the new exhibit in 18 months, and they did that.

    The inspector criticizes zoo management, saying, "the attending veterinarians must have proper authority to ensure all animals receive appropriate care regardless of management agendas."

    The zoo said Wednesday it is working with the USDA to make some changes at the zoo that should benefit the animals.

    It's the Dallas Zoo's policy to quarantine new animals to the zoo for 30 days, executive director of the zoo Gregg Hudson said in a prepared statement emailed to NBCDFW.

    "Since the "Giants of the Savanna" was a new exhibit, and we brought in about 50 new animals, we treated the new habitat as a quarantine area," he said.

    Hudson went on to say they are doing whatever the USDA has recommended, including creating a separate quarantine area for new animals that come into the facility.

    That zebra was one of two lost this year, according to statistics provided by the Dallas Zoo. The other zebra died very similarly, by panicking and running into a wall, zoo officials said.

    The Dallas Zoo stresses that, despite these two deaths, it does have a successful record of caring for zebras for over 50 years with very few problems. Officials say they successfully introduced over 50 new animals to the Giants of the Savanna exhibit.

    "That said we were very sad to loose these two zebras," said Jennifer Pascal, vice president of Allyn Media- a public relations firm hired by the Dallas Zoo.

    "As the keepers say, 'It hurts like hell,'" she continued.

     The two zebras are the only two animal deaths at the new exhibit since it's opening in May, according to Pascal.

    The zoo said it also brought in some the top animal experts in the world to help them with these integrations over the past six months-- elephant expert Allen Roocroft and world famous animal behaviorist Steve Martin.

    The government's report also said the zoo's new exhibit does not provide adequate shade for the animals from the hot Texas sun.

    The zoo said it has already begun adding some shaded areas to the Savanna exhibit, and they'll be adding more over the next month.

    "If the animals want to get out of the sun, they can choose between the new shade areas or the trees and plants that already grow in their habitat," Hudson said.

    The government's report is now in the hands of the USDA's regional director, who will determine if penalties will be handed down or if more investigating is needed.