House Committee approves study on animal safety at Baton Rouge Zoo

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs approved a study on the Baton Rouge Zoo's condition after speedy debate Friday.

"Our concern has been for the safety of the animals in the area and the economic drain from one end of the Parish because it is clear there's been some unequal management," Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge, said.

Carpenter originally authored a bill that would have prevented BREC from moving the zoo from Greenwood Community Park near Baker, but she offered a substitute motion in committee amid opposition to the original.

The Baton Rouge Zoo lost its accreditation from the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums in March. The zoo association cited issues with aging enclosures and escaped animals in its report.

Carpenter's new motion would have required BREC to submit a report on the zoo's progress toward regaining accredited status.

Most of the measure's opponents feared it would set a precedent for state interference in what many consider to be a local matter, although the legislature created BREC in the 1940s.

"What's next? Where a golf course is? Where a library is?" lobbyist Kevin Hayes asked. "The legislature cannot micromanage this."

The committee compromised by turning the bill into a request for a study on the zoo, which could provide the legislature with similar information to Carpenter's substitute bill but in a less formal manner.

"The study will help to bring some accountability because very little attention has been given to the zoo," Carpenter said. "Very little money has been put into maintaining the zoo in its 70-plus years and it's just absolutely ridiculous."

Carpenter says the new study will be easier to pass through the legislature than her original plans. It now moves to the House floor for debate.

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