Zoo closes after entire zookeeping staff quits
Photo: Video by ktnv.com
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The troubled Las Vegas Zoo is facing even more problems. This time with their employees.
Contact 13 has learned the entire zookeeping staff has quit.
Chief Investigator Darcy Spears has been looking for answers, but the man who owns the zoo isn't talking.
The big empty space on the zoo's front fence is where their "open hours" banner used to hang.
As of Monday morning, the sign was gone and the only activity we saw was a rodent running across the zoo's entryway.
There's a new sign hanging here now that says, "The zoo is closed to the public while we upgrade."
But the last of the three zookeepers, who quit on Friday morning, says none of them were aware of any upgrades going on at the zoo and they're wondering, who is taking care of the animals?
That's what animal welfare advocate Linda Faso wants to know. She filed a formal complaint with the USDA on Friday.
"I just asked them to please check on the facility as soon as possible, that the zookeepers have all left and that I didn't know if the animals were gonna get properly taken care of, who was going to feed them," said Faso.
Animal Care Manager Jeannie Akins was the first of the zoo's three keepers to quit. She left the zoo two weeks ago, and the two women she trained both quit last week.
When we spoke to Akins in July, 2011, she said, "I think that the animals are amazingly cared for and loved."
But Faso said staff there was becoming frustrated with Zoo Owner Pat Dingle.
"I think they've tried their best to take care of animals. I think they've made suggestions to Pat on how to do things better for them. Maybe it's just a shade cloth to give them more shade, or something, and he is resistant to anything."
Action News tried calling Dingle on Friday from outside the shuttered zoo.
Darcy on phone: Hello, Pat? Hey, it's Darcy Spears at channel 13. I'm calling to find out what happened with your zookeepers. Hello? He hung up on me.
The zoo has been in hot water over employee issues before. In 2012, the USDA cited Dingle for promoting a volunteer to zookeeper after working at the facility for only seven days. The employee had only been cleaning and feeding the animals and records mention nothing about training.
Contact 13 first began investigating the zoo in 2009. With help from the Humane Society of the United States, we uncovered conditions that were too hot, too dirty, too small and overrun by pigeons and flies.
When we and HSUS revisited the zoo in 2012, HSUS Regulatory Specialist Lisa Wathne said, "It's a depressing and a sad place and an embarrassment to the City of Las Vegas."
Since then they've been in trouble with the City for illegally dumping animal wastewater down Rancho Drive into a storm drain.
OSHA has cited them for multiple violations as well.
But through it all, the zoo has managed to meet USDA minimum standards.
We spoke to Pat Dingle in July, 2011.
Darcy: It's been 30 years. You haven't been able to realize your dream. At what point do you throw in the towel?
Pat: Easy. When I'm dead.
Throughout the years we've been investigating the zoo, many people have asked us why it can't be shut down. The reality is that it's Pat Dingle's decision.
The zoo is a privately-owned facility with no City support.
Action News continue checking back to see how this all turns out.