On February 28, it was announced that the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, would be closing permanently in light of suspected animal negligence in order to initiate investigations. Allegations had been present for many years, with activists calling for the zoo to close back in October 2018 after animal deaths. Many people had observed that the over 300 species held at the zoo at that time were receiving inadequate care due to the zoo’s financial concerns, especially after Hurricane Maria. An investigation concluded that as many as 127 species were in need of physical tests or vaccinations, and many animals did not have proper shelter at the zoo. The zoo has been temporarily closed since these incidents, and the February 28 decision confirmed it would be permanent.
Governor Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D) publicly stated that “Animal welfare comes first,” noting that there had been concerns over these animals for a long time. Animal experts from The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado were sent to evaluate the animals’ conditions and planned to transfer 50% of the animals to their facilities. It has not yet been decided where the other animals will be taken. Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources is currently searching for arrangements and locations to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals currently housed in the zoo.
However, just days after the investigations were brought to public attention again, they were shut down. The federal authorities notified the public that all investigations would be dropped due to the timeframe of the neglect, noting that it was too far in the past to do anything. The lack of government accountability for the death and injury of many animals is angering animal activists who want the government to be held responsible. US Attorney Stephen Muldrow stated that the past cannot be changed and emphasized that court action would delay getting the animals to safety.