Pittsburgh Zoo Can't Use Dogs to Control Elephants

by | February 2, 2015

By Andrew Goldstein

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has ordered Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium to stop using dogs to help control its elephants and protect human handlers.

During an inspection in early January, USDA officials with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reported that after a manager ordered a dog to create a barrier between an elephant and its caretakers, the dog showed aggressive behavior, growling and lunging at one elephant.

In the inspection report, released Monday by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the manager also said that in earlier instances the dogs had bitten the elephants and verified a news video of elephants showing distress when they were charged at by the dogs.

The report said that the manager was clear that the dogs are not herding elephants but are protecting keepers during free contact time.

But the report continues that this contact may cause unnecessary anxiety to the elephants and "all animal handling must be done in a manner that does not cause behavioral stress."

The USDA ordered the zoo to correct the issues immediately.

The inspection report also cited the zoo for high chlorine levels in enclosures that caused corneal disease in marine mammals, particularly for sea lions.

(c)2015 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette