Animal Rights Activists Kept Out of Zoo Elephant Meeting

Animal activists, media kept out of zoo meeting

SEATTLE — The elephant program at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo is closing.

Animal rights advocates want those elephants sent to a sanctuary instead of another zoo, and they gathered Tuesday night to voice that opinion at the Board of Directors public comment period during its scheduled meeting.

But the media and most of those who came to speak never got inside.

“They wouldn’t allow the press in, which I find appalling,” said Lisa Cane. “It is a public meeting. I don’t know how they could lawfully exclude the press and other witnesses for the rest of the community who would wish to be there.”

People were puzzled by the fact that access was limited even though the zoo is partially funded by public dollars. According to the zoo’s website, “public funding sources provide 30 percent of the zoo’s support, including City of Seattle and King County Parks Levy.”

The public was told seating was maxed out, but the media was originally told they were just not allowed in.

“I don’t understand when they put it out as a public meeting it’s not open to the public. It makes you wonder what they are hiding,” said Susan Hoppler.

Those who were allowed in told us they were stopped from recording and taking pictures.

When the board tried to leave by a side exit rather than the front door, none would talk or respond to our questions and some even covered their faces. Eventually we were allowed inside, where the board’s CEO spoke to us.

“It’s not a public meeting,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen. “It was not advertised as a public meeting”

But there was a public comment period on the agenda. She said it came down to seating and that even if there were seats, the media and the public are not allowed to record anything.

“It was actually a capacity issue,” Jensen said. “We don’t have a policy that keeps the media out of the room. We don’t allow filming in our meetings because it’s a private board meeting.”

The issue regarding the elephants was not on the agenda and no decision about where they will go has been made according to Jensen.

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