Category: Press releases

Zoo Fights Lawsuit Seeking Transparency

Seattle, WA – Alyne Fortgang, a Seattle tax payer, filed a motion for a summary judgment today asking the court to rule the Woodland Park Zoological Society (Zoo) be subject to Washington State’s Public Records Act. The Zoo has received over $100M in taxpayer money since 2002 with no end in sight for their escalating demands for more money; yet they refuse to be accountable.

“What is the Zoo trying to hide?” says Ms. Fortgang.

Fortgang is Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and as such, has filed numerous public records requests to the Zoo for information regarding the health and welfare of the three elephants held there. In many instances the Zoo withheld information, claimed it had no records pertaining to the request, or provided information that later would prove to be grossly inaccurate.

“Not only does the Zoo think that they don’t have to be transparent with taxpayers” says Ms. Fortgang, “but they are paying their lawyers to fight to continue withholding financial and welfare information from taxpayers—the very people who foot the bill to keep the Zoo open.”

The summary judgment:  http://freewpzelephants.org/Motion_Summary_Judgment.pdf

The court date:  July 25th, 2014 at 1:30. King County Superior Court, 516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104

For Immediate Release: Zoo Fights a Taxpayer’s Lawsuit for Transparency What is our Zoo Hiding?

Seattle, WA – Alyne Fortgang, a Seattle resident, filed a lawsuit on March 12, 2014 seeking a court order declaring that the Woodland Park Zoological Society be made subject to Washington State’s Public Records Act.

The Zoo’s answer flatly rejects any obligation under the law to tell tax payers how they spend our money or care for the animals.

Fortgang is Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and as such, has filed numerous public records requests to the Zoo about the health and welfare of the three elephants held there. The Zoo has routinely withheld information, claimed it had no records pertaining to the request, or provided information that later would prove to be grossly inaccurate.

Fortgang asserts the Zoo functions as a “hybrid” public agency when it took over running the Zoo as a public park under a contract with the City of Seattle. That contract promises substantial tax dollars which are essential to the Zoo’s operations. In 2013, Zoo received over $10.4 million taxpayer dollars, which increases each year.  The contract also provides the Zoo with the use of City-owned buildings and park land for free.

“Public records laws exist so tax payers know how their money is being spent.  What is the Zoo trying to hide?” said Alyne Fortgang.

A copy of Fortgang’s lawsuit is available here:
http://freewpzelephants.org/Fortgang_v_WPZ.pdf
Zoo’s response to law suit available here:
http://freewpzelephants.org/WPZ_response.pdf

Alyne Fortgang is co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, a NARN Campaign.  Friends raises awareness about the plight of the three elephants living on display at the Woodland Park Zoo.  Friends hopes the Zoo will make the humane decision to retire Bamboo, Chai, and Watoto to a sanctuary in a warmer climate that would offer them vast spaces to roam.

For Immediate Release: Friends and IDA Slam WPZ’s Plan For Elephant Program

Seattle, Wash. – Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, a local advocacy group, and In Defense Of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization, denounce the Zoo’s plan released today for the future of its elephant program.

The Zoo’s decision to keep Asian elephants Bamboo and Chai, relocate African elephant Watoto to another zoo, and bring in additional elephants for breeding defies science and Seattle community values. The Zoo’s plan rests on the biased report of its own self-appointed Task Force, which refused to hear from recommended objective experts outside of those handpicked by the Zoo. The agenda, as we expected, was to produce today’s results in order to justify business as usual while still ignoring what should be of paramount importance—what is best for Bamboo, Chai, and Watoto.

“The Zoo is stubbornly clinging to the archaic and inhumane practice of housing elephants at a time when 27 other zoos have closed or plan to close their elephants exhibits, including Tacoma’s Pt. Defiance Zoo,” said Nicole Meyer, Director of IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign.

These Zoos acknowledged what decades of scientific research has shown—elephants fare poorly in captivity. After an in-depth review of scientific studies, the Scientific American recently concluded that “Confined elephants often spend their time standing around in cramped quarters. These tortuous conditions inflict serious physical and psychological damage on such smart and sensitive animals.”

The San Diego Zoo and LA Zoo each spent more than $42 million dollars to improve their elephant exhibits. “The mere $1.3 to $3 million dollars our zoo proposes over five years is a drop in the bucket, and it also includes funding conservation. This amount is grossly inadequate and will not significantly improve the elephants’ quality of life,” said Alyne Fortgang, co-founder of Friends. “If the Zoo truly cared about conservation, it could free upwards of a million dollars each year for conservation by retiring the elephants to a sanctuary and replacing the current elephant exhibit with a virtual state-of-the art educational program.”

The Zoo’s plan is also woefully out of step with the community it serves.  An October survey showed that 62% of Seattleites favor sending the elephants to a sanctuary in a warmer climate with a vast amount of space, and 66% believe children can learn about elephants and conservation through exhibits that do not include live elephants. “The Zoo cannot change the fact that our wet and cold climate forces these intelligent, far-ranging animals into a cage-like stall for 16-17 hours every day for over half of the year,” said Fortgang.

See also, the Woodland Park Zoo’s press release

For Immediate Release: Citizen Alleges Woodland Park Zoo is in Violation of Washington State’s Public Records Act

Seattle, WA – Alyne Fortgang, a Seattle resident, filed a lawsuit today seeking a court order declaring that the Woodland Park Zoological Society be made subject to Washington State’s Public Records Act.

Fortgang is Co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants (a local advocacy group) and as such, has filed numerous public records requests to the Zoo for information regarding the health and welfare of the three elephants held there. In many instances the Zoo withheld information, claimed it had no records pertaining to the request, or provided information that later would prove to be grossly inaccurate.

Fortgang asserts that through the 2002 Operating Agreement between the City of Seattle and the Zoo, the Zoo functions as a “hybrid” public agency when it took over running the Zoo as a public park and therefore must comply with Washington State’s Public Records Act.

Through the Operating Agreement the City is required to give the zoo ongoing benefits. Not only are the Zoo’s operations funded with $10.4 million taxpayer dollars, which increases each year, but the Zoo is provided with the use of City-owned buildings and park land at no cost.

“Woodland Park Zoo can’t have it both ways; if it chooses to take our generous tax dollars, then it must be held accountable on how it spends our money,” said Alyne Fortgang. “I am simply asking that the Zoo be transparent with tax payers, which is why public records laws exist.”

A copy of Fortgang’s lawsuit is available here.

Alyne Fortgang is co-founder of Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, a NARN Campaign.  Friends raises awareness about the plight of the three elephants living on display at the Woodland Park Zoo.  Friends hopes the Zoo will make the humane decision to retire Bamboo, Chai, and Watoto to a sanctuary in a warmer climate that would offer them vast spaces to roam.

Press Release: Crisis of Confidence at Woodland Park Zoo

Seattle, WA – Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants applauds Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter, Michael Berens for uncovering what zoos desperately try to hide from the public: elephants are dying due to zoo captivity. Two front page articles “Elephants Dying out in Zoos”, Dec. 2nd and 3rd, 2012 in the Seattle Times exposes the plight of keeping Bamboo, Chai and Watoto at Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ).

The Seattle Times article validates “Friends'” assertions, scientific research, and input from experts, including a former WPZ director and a former WPZ veterinarian, that WPZ consistently fails to meet the most basic physical and psychological needs of these intelligent animals.  At the very least, we ask that the zoo take immediate action to improve the elephants’ living conditions while they work toward their retirement.

WPZ claims “we do not have a record that gives the cost of housing or caring for the elephants” [View full letter from WPZ].  This is particularly disturbing because WPZ receives more than $10 million from Seattle and King county tax payers every year.  The lack of transparency and accountability raises the question of how our tax dollars are being used at the zoo.

“It’s time that WPZ steps up to the plate and carry out what taxpayers expect from our zoo by improving Bamboo, Chai and Watoto’s welfare immediately”, says Nancy Pennington, “Friends” co-founder.

The zoo’s covert use tax payer money is a crisis of confidence trumped only by their denial of what is needed to reduce the elephants’ suffering.

Judge chides Woodland Park Zoo

While the law suit against the city of Seattle and Woodland Park Zoo was dismissed on a technicality, it does not absolve the Zoo of the physical and psychological suffering it causes the elephants.

News Advisory
For Immediate Release

 

May 27, 2011

Seattle, WA – Judge Michael Heavy dismissed a lawsuit filed by local animal activists against the City of Seattle and Woodland Zoo, citing a technicality. After hearing 10-minute arguments from both sides in King County Superior Court on Friday, the judge granted the City and Zoo’s motion to dismiss the case.

The court ruled that the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the suit. The suit alleges that the manner in which WPZ manages its three elephants violates Washington anti-cruelty statutes.  The court’s ruling did not reach the merits of the plaintiffs’ contentions.  Nevertheless, as Judge Heavy ruled from the bench, he twice stated his personal belief that the zoo’s elephant exhibit is objectionable, stating at one point, “…to confine animals in small habitats, take away their freedom in grossly confined spaces, outweighs children seeing (wild and rare) animals.”

The plaintiffs have a number of options available in response to the court’s order, including appealing the court’s dismissal or refilling their complaint. Their decision will likely come within the next few weeks.

Lily Tomlin Advocates For Zoo Elephants’ Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Renowned Actress Joins Effort to send Suffering Elephants to a Sanctuary

Lily Tomlin - Photo from MSNBC

Lily Tomlin Lily Tomlin

Seattle, WA – Acclaimed actress, comedian, writer and producer Lily Tomlin will appear at a news conference with Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, a campaign of Northwest Animal Rights Network and national zoo watchdog group, In Defense of Animals to make an impassioned plea to the City of Seattle and Woodland Park Zoo to send the elephants Watoto, Chai and Bamboo to a sanctuary.

What: News conference with Lily Tomlin
When: Monday, April 27, 2009 at 11am
Where: Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103 Room #1 [directions]
Who: Lily Tomlin, Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants (FOWPZE), In Defense of Animals, elephant advocates and concerned citizens
What else? Doughnuts and coffee

Tomlin’s visit comes on the heels of FOWPZE’s shocking finding that the elephants at Woodland Park Zoo are locked indoors in small, barren rooms for 16 – 17 hours a day for about 7 months out of the year. In contrast, free-ranging elephants walk tens of miles a day and are active for 20 hours a day.

“Elephants were never meant to live in the confinement of small urban zoos,” states Tomlin. “They are the world’s largest land mammals and they need to move to stay healthy.”

“The intensive and prolonged confinement of the elephants at Woodland Park Zoo is causing serious physical and mental suffering,” adds FOWPZE co-founder Alyne Fortgang. She says Zoo medical records paint a disturbing picture, with the elephants suffering painful joint and foot disorders, arthritis, and obesity. They also display abnormal stereotypic behaviors such as repetitive pacing and swaying.

“We’re happy to welcome Lily Tomlin to the fight for these elephants’ lives,” says Nancy Pennington, FOWPZE co-founder. “Woodland Park Zoo cannot provide the space, climate or habitat the elephants need to live a decent life.”

Tomlin has a long history of advocating for elephants. Turning her attention to Seattle, Tomlin will urge that the humane decision be made to send the elephants to the 2,700-acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The Elephant Sanctuary has agreed to transport and care for the elephants for life at no cost to the City of Seattle or Woodland Park Zoo.

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