Employee Complaints Led to Reston Zoo Search
Former worker told Fairfax County Animal Control that director "previously drowned other animals"
It was business as usual at the Reston Zoo on Monday, the day after Fairfax County Police announced the arrest of zoo director Meghan Mogensen. Groups of parents and preschoolers strolled the grounds, hoping to feed animals by hand and visit the petting barn.
Mogensen, of Silver Spring, MD, was at work at the zoo Monday, but she declined comment. On Friday, she was charged with a count of animal cruelty and possession of a controlled substance in relation to the death of a wallaby on the premises last winter.
Mogensen is not registered as a veterinarian with the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine.
Eric Mogensen is the former owner of the Zoological Animal Exchange, which delivered exotic animals to zoos nationwide. In 1990, Zoological Animal Exchange was the subject of a complaint by the Humane Society of the United States after four animals — a fishing cat, a sloth bear and two palm civits — died of dehydration in transport to the San Diego Zoo, the LA Times reported.
Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said there are more than 2,500 businesses licensed to display wildlife in the U.S. The Reston Zoo has a USDA license. Those businesses must abide by the Animal Welfare Act.
Feldman said 214 facilities are accredited by the AZA. Those facilities must meet the AZA's independent animal care standards. The Reston Zoo is not AZA accredited and has never applied for accreditation, he said.
Meghan Mogensen's arrest was made after a lengthy investigation, which remains ongoing, police said. Here is the series of events that led to the investigation by a Fairfax County Animal Control officer, according to the Feb. 16 search warrant.
*A zoo employee contacted animal control the week of Jan. 26. The employee had captured the injured wallaby, placed it in a crate, examined it, notified the zoo director and recommended the wallaby be seen for treatment by a licensed veterinarian. The warrant did not specify the nature of the injury.
*The zoo director contacted the corporate director of the facility and the decision was made to euthanize the animal.
*The employee briefly left the grounds, but asked the whereabouts of the injured wallaby upon returning. The employee was told the animal's crate was last seen being carried by Mogensen toward one of the barns.
*When the employee found the crate, it was empty and sitting next to a water spigot and a 5-gallon bucket containing water. The employee told police "the director has a past history of drowning animals."
*The employee jumped in a nearby dumpster and found a trash bag containing the dead, wet wallaby.
*The employee then confronted the director and resigned.
*Animal Control then met with Mogensen, who told them she humanely euthanied the wallaby (by IV injection into the jugular vein) with a drug called Beuthanasia. She told officers the wallaby was wet because they routinely wash the animal bodies.
*Animal Control asked for the zoo's USDA permit (which they had) and the DEA permit, which they did not possess, saying drugs were dispensed by their contracted vet.
*Animal Control then checked with the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services, which told them the zoo is not permitted to perform euthanasia as it has not completed the "required protocol, training and certification required by the state veterinarian."
* Animal Control also interviwed another employee who worked at the zoo from May 2010 to May 2011. That employee told officers the drug Ketamine was kept on the premises (also without a DEA permit). The employee also told officers they had knowledge of "the zoo director having previously drowned other animals."
Police took several boxes of drugs, files and a drug log book as part of the search warrant.