FARMINGTON -- As the sun broke through the rainfall in Farmington on Saturday morning, a slew of adults and children entered Lagoon Amusement Park intent upon enjoying their weekend. However, Lagoon executives and a group of animal rights activists had more serious matters on their minds as the park opened for business.
Jordan Kasteler, an online marketing strategist with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and a handful of supporters held a protest outside the park entrance to raise awareness about the abuse, he said, of animals in the park's "Wild Kingdom Train" ride. Kasteler, who has organized other protests with the same objective, said he has seen little change in the park's treatment of its animals since he began protesting it.
"They have had multiple AWA violations in the last 15 years," he said, referring to the federal Animal Welfare Act. "Most people do not even know they have the animals here. They are not the main attraction, and it would not hurt their business to have the animals put in good-sized sanctuaries, yet they still tout themselves as being the second-largest zoo in Utah."
Dick Andrew, vice president of marketing at Lagoon, said that there had not been any violations cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 2006, and maintained that the animals recieve humane treatment from staff and visitors to the park. Animals at the park's zoo include tigers, zebras,
eagles, and camels.
"We have three veterinarians on staff, a full staff of zookeepers, and each of the animals receives at least one check-up per month. We would not be open if what these people were saying about us was true. We are regulated by the federal government, and we are in full compliance with all the guidelines set forth for an accredited zoo," Andrew said.
The 2006 violation, Andrew said, concerned a sick animal whose veterinarian was unable to examine it because he was out of town, and another vet had to be assigned, one who was unfamiliar with the animal. Despite that, Andrew stressed that the park does its best to accommodate the animals, many of whom were rescued after having been injured or deemed unfit to live in the wild.
"What the public sees when they visit is not the full extent of the space the animals have. There is more space beyond the exhibits for the animals. We do not claim to be any Wild Animal Kingdom at Disney World, and everyone has a right to their opinion, including these protesters. But we provide a home for these animals that they might not get anywhere else," Andrew said.
Kasteler thinks that protests like the one held on Saturday, which former state Legislature candidate Lynn Anderson attended, are the best way to stress to the park that he does not intend to give up his fight until it makes changes.
"The reason we escalated to protesting is that they do not want to reason with us. Their statements are that Lagoon does not have more space to give to these animals, even though they have enough money and space to build more rides," Kasteler said.
It remains to be seen if the protests will eventually yield results. The park's zoo has remained open since the protests began, and there are not currently any plans to change or close down any of the habitats.