Senator uses privilege to detail shocking allegations of animal cruelty at Dublin Zoo

Senator Annie Hoey detailed shocking allegations made by a whistleblower of animal abuse at Dublin Zoo in the Seanad today.

The Labor politician gave details of a protected disclosure by a zookeeper into alleged animal abuse at the capital’s zoo.

Hoey used her Seanad privilege to outline shocking details she was told and shared the whistleblower’s claims of missing animals, the death of silverback gorilla Harry and a paralyzed zebra.

“A few months ago I started a series of meetings with former and current staff at Dublin Zoo,” she told the Seanad.

“Through this engagement, I have been brought to the attention of a number of violations of these freedoms for animals and Dublin Zoo, of which the most detailed protected disclosure reports have recently been served to me by whistleblowers in relation to failures in animal welfare management at Dublin Zoo.”

“The whistleblower has informed me that there have been serious welfare issues, near misses, safety and management concerns at Dublin Zoo,” she continued.

Senator Hoey told the Seanad the whistleblower felt he had “no choice” but to make a protected disclosure.

Irish law gives workers legal protection to disclose information about wrongdoing in the workplace.

She went on to tell the Seanad about the whistleblower’s claims that Kildare the Zebra died as a result of a tooth extraction.

“She was shot twice and suffered from capture myopathy. She was kept alive, although staff asked that the animal be euthanized.

“The tooth was extracted and the animal was severely paralyzed, when she regained consciousness from the anesthetic the animal had to rest overnight,” she continued.

“The animal is hung in a harness overnight without any change, although it was severely paralyzed.

“A staff member asked at the end of the second day to end the animal’s suffering. Management and the vet team planned to leave her overnight despite severe paralysis.

“Staff were extremely disturbed after witnessing the treatment of the zebras and felt they could not raise concerns for fear of reprisals.”

Ms Hoey added that whistleblower claims staff had consistently raised concerns that led to the death of Harry, a silverback gorilla who died in 2016.

“Carers constantly raised concerns leading to his death and supported daily reports that his behavior was abnormal.”

“The keepers have repeatedly asked for a vet to examine him. And eventually a vet was called and he died shortly thereafter. This has had a negative impact on the rest of the force.”

The senator told the Seanad that Harry’s story was the hardest for her to hear, and many of the staff she spoke to said his treatment leading up to his death was unbearable.

“I saw the photos of Harry at the end and he suffered a lot. I have seen photos of the animals I mentioned here today and the visible needless suffering they endure is unfathomable.”

She added: “This is not how care and compassion for animals should be.

“This is not the standard of care that we, as Members of the public and of Parliament, have come to expect from Dublin Zoo, a very trusted and popular public body.”

“However, the pain of sick and dying animals are not the only animal welfare issues I have addressed at length,” she continued.

“There is a major policy violation in the form of missing animals.”

It has been claimed that two crested macaques went missing in November 2019, presumed dead, and a white-collared mangabey went missing in February, March and March this year, also presumed dead.

“Although staff have addressed the issue of not finding them, management has not thoroughly searched for these animals or raised public awareness in the event a member of the public would come across them.”

She added: “What I have addressed today is just a snapshot of the stories I have shared about the deficiencies in animal welfare and Dublin Zoo,” she continued.

“I have pages and pages and pages of testimonies from current and former employees, and I was on the phone until very, very late last night and heard more stories that I don’t have time to go through today.”

“These events are not in the distant past, they are also recent, I have outlined some very recent violations.”

In a statement to, Dublin Zoo branded the revelations “unfounded” and said they deny them in the strongest possible terms.

“These allegations have been made without any cooperation with Dublin Zoo. These claims are completely misleading and contain inaccurate clinical assessments,” a spokesman said.

“It is important to note that at no time has any staff contacted Dublin Zoo regarding the issues raised at the Seanad today.”

“Issues raised by staff regarding animal welfare at Dublin Zoo will be treated with the utmost sensitivity and seriousness and will be thoroughly investigated.”

“All disclosures will be promptly investigated and corrected as necessary. Staff can make welfare-related disclosures through their team, Dublin Zoo management, or anonymously.”

“To make serious allegations of poor animal welfare standards without consulting the clinical veterinary expertise of Dublin Zoo or the independent bodies responsible for auditing animal welfare standards in Ireland is irresponsible and has resulted in a gross misrepresentation of facts” , the announcer continued.

“Dublin Zoo is widely recognized for having a world-renowned standard of animal care.”

“The physical and psychological well-being of the animals in our care is our top priority and it is of the utmost importance to Dublin Zoo that each animal lives their life to the fullest.”

“Animal welfare is Dublin Zoo’s number one concern, the cornerstone of everything we do,” the statement continued.

“Only the highest standards of animal care are acceptable at Dublin Zoo and our hardworking and passionate colleagues are proof of that.”

“We are regularly recognized and celebrated both nationally and internationally for our independently audited world-class animal welfare programs.”

The spokesman went on to say that the zoo was not contacted to “fact-check” the “serious and disturbing allegations.”

“We would encourage the Senator to review the two most recent inspection reports from the Department of Housing, Local Heritage and Government.”

“The May 2022 report, which focused on animal welfare standards, found that Dublin Zoo “is a modern facility which we believe is well run and where the welfare of the animals in its care is at the heart of every decision the operator”.

“These reports are publicly available, but we will send copies of these independent reports to the senator to ensure the senator has accurate information.”

“We would also like to take this opportunity to invite Senator Annie Hoey to Dublin Zoo to discuss the allegations and learn more about Dublin Zoo’s world-class animal care standards.”

The zoo spokesman added: “Dublin Zoo did not have an opportunity to address the allegations made today before they were made public. They were never approached by an employee through the many channels available.”
The zoo went on to say that the claims “unfairly undermine the incredible hard work and dedication of Dublin Zoo’s highly dedicated team of staff and volunteers who live and breathe Dublin Zoo’s purpose, mandate and animal welfare every day”.

The claims came as the Green Party outlined its Animal Welfare Bill in the Seanad this morning. Senator uses privilege to detail shocking allegations of animal cruelty at Dublin Zoo

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