By Shannon Haupt, Contributor
The stated goal of the student organization known as ZooKeepers, formally known as the Kalamazoo Students for the Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals (KSPCA), is to “allow students to connect with animals and improve their well-being[…] and plan to develop relationships with other organizations that work towards animal welfare”.
After being exposed to the kind of cruelty that exists in the realm of exotic animal captivity for the purposes of research or entertainment through my internship at Save The Chimps, Inc., I feel it is necessary to dispute the acclaimed purpose of this so-called advocacy organization.
Is this group’s intention truly to protect the rights of animals, or is it to serve the amusement, and entertainment of humans? Based on my observations of ZooKeepers, a large amount of the money they use from the Student Activities Fee is allocated toward bringing exotic petting zoos and shelter dogs to campus. Over the past year I have witnessed the mistreatment of many animals, including an infant capuchin monkey, a camel, and a handful of rescue dogs at the hands of this student organization.
Last year, ZooKeepers hosted a ‘Dogs on the Quad’ event, where shelter dogs were doled out to students for a fixed amount of time, and they could take them for a walk around the quad. While seemingly harmless, the general student population was not educated beforehand on how to properly hold a leash or pick up a dog, and this resulted in an afternoon of mild negligence and mistreatment of untrained, rescued puppies.
Since the beginning of last year, ZooKeepers has brought a mobile petting zoo to campus twice. Petting zoos exploit captive exotic animals, who were at one point procured through the illegal exotic pet-trade for the sole purpose of human entertainment. It being a mobile petting zoo only makes matters worse, as it means that all animals brought to campus are subjected to the trauma of being put into a cage and then riding in a trailer or the back of a car.
As stated by BornFreeUSA.org, a true animal rights advocacy organization, “Keeping wild animals in captivity is inherently cruel, as it deprives them of the ability to engage in instinctual behaviors in their natural environment.” ZooKeepers aims to educate about and connect students with animals, but all they are doing is perpetuating the idea that it is acceptable to use animals for human amusement.
By bringing these animals to campus to entertain the student body, ZooKeepers is supporting the very industry they should be fighting against. Their resources would be more effectively spent to help shelter dogs gain the medical treatment they need and be put up for adoption. They could also spend more time educating themselves on the cruelty that occurs behind the scenes of petting zoos, especially mobile ones, so that rather than supporting the degradation of the lives of animals they can join the fight to end it.