Please help stop the City of Pittsburgh from legislating exotic animal care and best practices. Here is what I wrote in an open letter.


Bruce A. Kraus, President of Pittsburgh City Counsel, as a professional exotic animal manager, I ask you to please reconsider the legislation you introduced to involve the city in controlling tool use, and the care and management of exotic animals. These issues are well overseen by experts in both the zoo and the federal government. However, animal rights activists keep urging, and pressuring our legislators to change what we do and force others to take up the extremist agenda.

These forces often stipulate that they just want to see animals out of association with people – even if the animals die, or the entire species becomes extinct.

Most animal professionals find this abhorrent. We have an agenda also. We fall in love with the animals we care for, and we share that love with both the animals, and the people we help them to connect with. We strive for a world where people and animals live together in harmony. It is not acceptable for the animals to die. AND, we similarly have a strong allegiance to our citizens who also learn to love, and care for, the animals AND their environments. Zoos are the most popular family venue in the world. They are far more popular than all the sports venues combined.

It may seem like outlawing cattle prods would be a good idea. Frankly, as a zoo professional, I have never seen a cattle prod used. However, zoo staff often carry pepper spray and other non-lethal means of self protection, in case of a dangerous encounter with an animal. We strive to use things that will deter problems without ever harming the people or the animals.

It is prudent to do this. A bit of deterrent can save lives, both human and animal, in the case of an exhibit failure, sabotage or human error.

To interfere with these safety measures does not make sense. Many tools can be used in cruel or abusive ways, but they are not. Professionals, and competent lay people, wield tools to make work safer and more efficient. I bet you have knives in your kitchen. Knives can be used to murder people. Does that justify outlawing knives? Evil will find a way to harm, regardless of tools allowed.

By the way, I had the privilege of helping to train some Pittsburgh Zoo professionals, many years ago, when I was at the Smithsonian. Some very fine people in the service of animals, citizens and conservation.

Thank you for your service and your consideration.

Kayce Cover

Professional Exotic Animal Manager,

Photo credit:   Courious merkat | Foto: