Return AZA Standards at the Pittsburgh Zoo


In 2015, the Pittsburgh Zoo forfeited their AZA accreditation over their elephant handling policy, which constitutes a material breach of their lease with the City of Pittsburgh. Even with several extensions, the Zoo has not yet come into compliance.

Separating bonded elephant pairs, fighting progressive and humane Pittsburgh ordinances, and a veterinarian referring to the Zoo as a “third world jail for elephants” have earned the Pittsburgh Zoo the title of In Defense of Animal’s “2019 Worst Zoo in North America for Elephants.”

elephant eyes portrait


ACCREDITATION MATTERS – They are now accredited by the much lower ZAA (the letters deceptively resemble the AZA), a trade organization promoting the right for private citizens and exhibitors to own exotic animals.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE — If the City of Pittsburgh continues to be ignored by the Zoo, or worse yet, drops the AZA requirement from the terms of the new lease, essential animal protections like routine veterinary care requirements could be replaced with the ZAA’s substandard policies. Considering the zoo has received numerous USDA violations, there’s even more reason for AZA standards to be restored.


The Facts

HAP is not trying to shut down the Pittsburgh Zoo. We simply insist that AZA accreditation is restored to ensure proper care for the animals, and that meaningful and enforceable damages are written into the Zoo’s new lease with the city, since the only recourse for noncompliance in the current lease is to evict the Zoo.

The ZAA caters to roadside zoos (think Tiger King) and its standards do not meaningfully protect animal welfare or public safety. They have actually lobbied against animal protection legislation and continue to push to exempt their members from animal protection laws.

Barbara Baker, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo, is also the Board Chair of the ZAA. This means Dr. Baker is in charge of accrediting her own organization, a clear conflict of interest.


What Is HAP Doing About It?

HAP continues to meet with Public Safety officials, Pittsburgh City Council, and the Mayor to demand that AZA accreditation is restored.  Letters have been sent to the Pittsburgh Zoo Board and the zoo’s donors and sponsors to inform them of the breach of lease, the importance of proper accreditation, and how to resolve the issue.

The Zoo’s current lease expires on December 31, 2022. We have detailed recommendations for the zoo’s new lease to include definitive and actionable damages for failure to comply.

In March of 2021, the Pittsburgh Zoo announced they were planning to reapply for AZA accreditation. Please see our Public Statement in support of this action here.


How You Can Help

Email your letter of support for restoring the gold standard AZA accreditation and demand lease compliance to Pittsburgh Zoo President Dr. Barbara Baker, Pittsburgh Zoo Board Chair Ed Goncz, Mayor Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross, and the Pittsburgh Zoo sponsors.

Follow and share HAP for progress on this campaign and come to our community meetings 

Donate to support this and other HAP campaigns.

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