published Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Chattanooga Zoo forced to close after missing license deadline

Chattanooga Zoo
Chattanooga Zoo
Photo by Staff File Photo.
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    Visitors to the Chattanooga Zoo walk past the main entrance. This week the zoo is closed due to a paperwork foulup.
    Photo by Staff File Photo.
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The Chattanooga Zoo is closed at least until Friday.

Every year, the zoo must renew its Animal Welfare Act license. This year, officials did not submit the proper paperwork until June 28 -- three days after it was due.

As a result, a U.S. Department of Agriculture representative said Monday that it will not renew the license.

The zoo's mammal exhibits -- the chimpanzees, the snow leopards, the jaguars -- are now closed. The zoo has reapplied for a license, a spokeswoman said, but it cannot reopen until a USDA representative inspects the exhibits on Thursday.

It would be illegal for the zoo to operate the exhibits without approval from the USDA.

If all goes well, the zoo will open again Friday. In the meantime, the managers and animal care staff continue to work as if the zoo were open, CEO Darde Long said in a news release.

Scheduled birthday parties are continuing as planned, and so is zoo camp. This summer, about 500 children will spend a week at the zoo. Some of those children signed up for this week, and they won't see the mammals, at least until Friday.

Those campers still can go to the reptile and bird exhibits. The USDA does not regulate those animals.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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