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Boston's Franklin Park Zoo won't kill animals due to budget cuts (despite what you may have heard)

July 16, 2009 |  7:54 pm

A gorilla at Boston's Franklin Park ZOo

Officials at Boston's Franklin Park Zoo caused a great deal of alarm last week when they announced that, due to budget cuts imposed by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, it might be forced to close and, worse yet, possibly euthanize some of its animals.

The state had originally budgeted $6.5 million to support Zoo New England, which runs Franklin Park and the smaller Stone Zoo, in the 2010 fiscal year. The amount represented more than 50% of the zoos' operating budget. But Patrick used his line-item veto privileges to cut that amount to $2.5 million, the Boston Globe reported.

Zoo New England shot back in the form of a statement released by a third-party public relations firm. In it, officials responded that Patrick's planned $2.5 million to fund the zoos would be insufficient for them to continue operating beyond October. In the statement, Zoo New England asserted that it would be unlikely to find homes for about one-fifth of the zoos' animal population in other zoos, assuming it took about three years to shut down in phases, which would mean "either destroying them, or the care of the animals in perpetuity." From the Globe:

The zoos, which ... attracted nearly 570,000 visitors over the past year, are operated through a public-private partnership that is funded by taxpayers and revenues from visitors. If the partnership dissolves, as it would in October if it runs out of money, the custody of the zoos would be turned over to state officials, according to state law.

On Monday, lawmakers announced their intention to try to restore the $4-million cut by Patrick to the budget. Patrick came out swinging as well, accusing Zoo New England of spreading "inaccurate and incendiary information" with its statement. 

Zoo New England offered a revised statement after public outcry erupted over the first, saying there are "no plans for the Zoo to euthanize any animals in the collection as a result of the budget cuts."  In the revised statement, it laid the blame for any future euthanizations of zoo animals squarely on the shoulders of Massachusetts politicians, who would control the zoos if they were forced to close.

In a paragraph full of bold text and underlining, Zoo New England said that, should the zoos shut down and control of the animals fall to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, state lawmakers "would be faced with the prospect of choosing between two options for the animals that could not be placed: caring for these animals for many years to come or euthanizing them."

But Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo seemed confident it wouldn't come to that.  "With the amount of support and calls I have gotten from membership, I daresay that this is one of those items that I think will be overridden," DeLeo told the Associated Press.

Bronx Zoo to evict animals in cost-cutting move

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A western lowland gorilla named Little Joe gazes back at visitors at the Franklin Park Zoo.  Credit: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

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