Recently Dr. Sharon Dial, a pathologist at the University of Arizona’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory examined tissues from a jaguar named Macho B. Recall that jaguars are an Endangered Species. I find pathologists to be straightforward members of my profession. They call it as they see it based on facts and science. She described her findings to the media which brought into question the cause of death Arizona Game and Fish is putting forth to the public. (Arizona Game and Fish and U.S. Fish and Wildlife allowed the euthanasia after Dr. Dean Rice, a veterinarian at the Phoenix Zoo diagnosed severe kidney failure. Dr. Dial found the structure of the kidneys were normal and that euthanasia after only five hours of fluid therapy might have been premature.) In the face of patently inappropriate, extreme and unprofessional criticism by Arizona Game and Fish, she stood her ground. Her courage reminds me of another pathologist who spoke out on behalf of animals and effected change at our National Zoo.
In 2003 Dr. Donald K. Nichols wrote a letter to the Committee on the Review of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park that documented problems with animal care at the National Zoo. As a result, a massive investigation was launched. Those involved in the matter lambasted Dr. Nichols. They tried to discredit him by calling into question his motivation and professionalism just like Arizona Game and Fish is doing to Dr. Dial. The criticism stopped with release of the Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Interim Report. The animals at the National Zoo were suffering! The report documented severe problems including a zebra that starved to death, a elephant who suffered with an undiagnosed case of T.B. and red pandas that were poisoned.
We as a society have an ethical duty to care for the animals. We also must defend those who through scientific evidence reach inconvenient truths about the manner in which the Phoenix Zoo and our Government may have failed the animals. This is particularly so in the case of an Endangered Species. Dr. Nichols suffered horribly for standing by the animals. He was later vindicated. I believe Dr. Dial will be as well. Sadly, it is too late for the jaguar.