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Reston Zoo Director Charged in Wallaby Death

Facility head charged with cruelty to an animal and improper possession of a controlled substance after animal found dead last winter.

Fairfax County Police have charged the director of the with animal cruelty and improper possession of a controlled substance after an investigation into a wallaby's death at the zoo. 

Meghan Mogensen, 26, of Silver Spring, MD, was arrested on Friday, police said.

The investigation into the

Animal Control Officers were alerted in January to a situation at the facility, at 1228 Hunter Mill Road in Vienna, after an employee complained of suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of an adult wallaby.

On Jan. 26, officers opened an investigation relating to allegations of improper treatment of injured animals and improper use of euthanasia drugs. A search warrant was executed on Feb. 16.

According to the search warrant, an employee told a police officer he had put the wallaby (similar to a small kangaroo) in a crate. He later observed the empty crate next to a water spigot with a five gallon bucket of water.

The warrant says the employee jumped into a dumpster and found a trash bag containing the dead wallaby.

The zoo director told police she euthanized the wallaby by injection with a drug called Beauthanasia and the animal was disposed of properly. However, police said earlier the Reston Zoo does not have the training and certification to do that.

Zoo employees could not be reached for comment when police released news of the arrest on Sunday.

The investigation is still ongoing, police said. Animal Control Officers are working jointly with the United States Department of Agriculture, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and other entities that ensure proper protocols involving humane animal euthanasia, treatment and practices are used.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, e-mail atwww.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES/274637 or call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.

The Sound of Tongues June 24, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Do you people read? the issue at hand is being improperly certified. YES the animal was sick and suffering.
Scott June 24, 2012 at 10:46 PM
WRONG "The Sounds of Tongues - perhaps you need to re-read the first sentence. It states "Fairfax County Police have charged the director of the Reston Zoo with animal cruelty and improper possession of a controlled substance" So the issue at hand is animal cruelty AND improper possession of a controlled substance.
The Sound of Tongues June 24, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Forgot to provide a contextual citation from article -- "officers opened an investigation relating to allegations of improper treatment of injured animals and improper use of euthanasia drugs." further... "The director told police she euthanized the wallaby by injection with a drug called Beauthanasia and the animal was disposed of properly. However, police said earlier the Reston Zoo does not have the training and certification to do that." So yes - the animal appears to have been suffering. And for everyone getting up in arms about someone killing a helpless animal...would you rather it suffered? or, if sick, spread the ailment to other animals at the zoo? That being said - proper certification is certainly important, but I would be surprised if improper certification is the reason for the emotional responses I have seen to this story. Obviously a zoo should have a vet on staff, and the vet should be properly certified. Bottom line - keep in mind the allegations do not involve some crazy woman putting animals down for fun. It's just a crazy woman in possession of controlled substances without the authority to administer them. :)
Scott June 24, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Problem here is that the only person that said the animal is sick is the person charged! Much speculation is occurring; but one school of thought is the animals care would be costly. Therefore rather then treat the animal she killed it! As the investigation continues the truth will be told. Bottom line is a VA licensed Vet should make the call and administer the drug if called for. It certainly does not fall up management to draw up a needle and put the animal down. Furthermore evidence shows the animal was WET supporting the theory she did not use the drug (maybe because she did not know how to) but yet drowned the animal in a 5 gallon bucket. I hope Karen can get a copy of the investigation and post it. However my gut is saying this entire mess stinks to the high heavens. Way too much conflicting information in this saga and I hope and pray the truth be told. What is clear if they made an arrest now the burden is upon her to prove otherwise.
Elizabeth June 24, 2012 at 11:10 PM
The Sound of Tongues said, " Obviously a zoo should have a vet on staff, and the vet should be properly certified." I couldn't agree more! However, we may never know what prompted the director to break the law and euthanize the wallaby without seeking veterinary assistance! Frankly, the entire scenario makes it appear that she was covering up abuse leading to the necessity for treatment or euthanasia, something which will probably be brought out in court. Something is radically wrong when a person not trained in veterinary medicine is in charge of a collection of animals in a zoo setting and who euthanizes any animal without the advice of a licensed veterinarian or at least under veterinary supervision. It just has all the earmarks of someone trying to hide evidence, and it should disturb anyone who cares about living creatures. In other words, allegations of cruelty need to be thoroughly investigated, and the director's behavior looks like she was hiding something. Where there is smoke, sometimes there is fire.
Scott June 24, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Something I was just thinking. I would suspect that a toxicology report was performed of the animal. I am speculating here but, because she was charged with cruelty and possession of unauthorized drugs perhaps the animal did not have the drug in the blood work. By her own admission she stated she used the drug therefore perhaps that is how they charged her with administration of the drug??
Laurie Dodd June 25, 2012 at 01:16 AM
I was asking about the employee who found the wallaby in the trash, not the zoo director. Did anyone other than the director know the status of the animal's health? I expect a journalist to report on the facts, not on what she would "imagine" to be true.
Bob Myers June 25, 2012 at 01:20 AM
An animal cruelty charge would not have happened IF all she did was fail to have a license to use a euthanasia drug. That would have just been a fine, or just the charge of having substances they are not supposed to have. Obviously since there IS an animal cruelty charge she did something considered cruel under the law to that animal. Previously, the report said she was accused of drowning the wallaby, but claimed she used proper drugs. Sounds to me like she may have infact drowned it, and IN ADDITION got charged for having illegal drugs in the zoo’s possession
Skipper L. June 25, 2012 at 01:42 AM
If she is a Director and not a Vet, then she is administrative in nature and responsibility. So, it would appear to me at this point the one question is why were there drugs of this nature at that facility and how did they get there. It is obvious that her action in this instance exceeded the boundary of her duties and responsibility. Therefore it seems she should be held accountable for this action. She should have sought proper assistance in this case and not undertaken something she is neither trained for, allowed to do or within her responsibility. There is a hard lesson to be learned here folks.
Karen Goff June 25, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Laurie- when I am answering a question asked in the comments, I am not reporting, I am having a conversation with readers. The facts that we know as of now are in the story. Of course I will be following up tomorrow. This has been a hard story to get accurate info from the start (read the previous story and the comments to see what I am talking about).
ebc1973 June 25, 2012 at 10:49 AM
If the issue at hand is being improperly certified Sound of Tongues, then where is the cruelty charge coming from? You are quick to ask if we read. Do you?
Daniel June 25, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Why is there a law requiring training and certification to administer this drug? It's a shot! Bid deal, why should the zoo have to pay the government money in order to give an animal a shot. I hope the poor girl gets out of this.
Laurie Dodd June 25, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Perhaps the certification is required so that the shot is only administered to animals whose health condition is so serious that euthanasia is the best response. I would want this drug available to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet.
James Allworth June 25, 2012 at 12:16 PM
So the Reston Zoo just throws dead animals in dumpster's after they euthanize them?
Kim June 25, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Like almost any job, training is important. When my dog was euthanized, the vet explained where my dog would be injected and exactly what would happen. Not knowing that could cause increased pain to an already suffering animal.
James Allworth June 25, 2012 at 12:18 PM
And why was a 26 year old Director of the Zoo?
Scott June 25, 2012 at 12:26 PM
James - Her Daddy Owns the zoo and several others.
Scott June 25, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Daniel - As a healthcare provider the reason is to ensue properly trained personnel deliver healthcare service. That is why we have laws against practicing medicine without a license. Additionally, these drugs have to be regulated for a multitude of reasons one most importantly is that the drug is not used for reason other then the intended use....ie: illegal activity.
LH June 25, 2012 at 01:45 PM
What does her age have anything to do with this? I know any number of responsible (and also any number of irresponsible!) 26-year olds. It's not like the Reston Zoo is the National Zoo, either.
Skip Endale June 25, 2012 at 02:05 PM
just another example of overzealous prosecution. on a similar note they just paid 70K Lanigan who was wrongly accused of molesting a 12-year old in Centreville. And he did not even get his legal fees covered. Before the cops lay charges and start dragging people into court they better get the facts straight. The animal was sick. And so is our attorneys office.
Laurie Dodd June 25, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I meant to say: "I would NOT want this drug available to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet."
Daniel June 25, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Well, I would disagree with all of those explainations and urge you to think differently. Just because they didn't pay for a certification to some State Board doesn't mean they were not trained. Adding bureaucracy to every profession is not the answer (see healthcare industry). They are a small business they simply can't afford to hire a full time Vet. It's as simple as that. Now they'll have to close down!
Daniel June 25, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I strongly agree! Can we leave this girl a lone and go fix the real problems.
M. Bono June 25, 2012 at 04:02 PM
@Daniel - You said "They are a small business they simply can't afford to hire a full time Vet." They are not just a small business - they are a small zoo. If they can't afford to have a vet on staff they should AT LEAST be able to call a vet to come in when an animal is sick or injured. We own a large horse boarding facility - we don't have a vet on staff but you can bet we will call a vet out if an animal is sick/injured/suffering.
Doc Funk June 25, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Agreed. Society is better off when we can drown animals in a bucket without all those pesky lawyers and law enforcement officials getting in the way. Clearly, the only humane thing to do when dealing with the sick is to get a wallaby-sized bucket and find a dumpster. Don't get me started on the elderly (hint: bigger bucket).
Daniel June 25, 2012 at 05:24 PM
The bucket is immaterial, the animal was dead, you are naive if you think zoos use coffins and have ceremonies. She did the humane thing by giving the injection. Had she let the animal suffer, she would NOT have been arrested. I doubt she regrets giving the injection.
Raul June 25, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Sorry Uncle Smartypants Meghan is infact married.
Uncle Smartypants June 25, 2012 at 08:12 PM
So are half the people on match!
Stephanie June 26, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Zoos have policys in place for a reason. A vet should have been notified immediately. If there were no vets available the zoo should not be in business. Most instittutions have at least one vet on grounds. Even a small zoo should have a et available for situations like this. Vets are certified for a reason and just she hould not have been able to make the call of a vet. If the animal was suffering so much that she needed to drown it in a bucket rather than seeking vet help why did the keeper that found the wallaby go to lunch rather than stay with the animal? The fact that the wallaby was wet makes it so obvious to me that it was drowned rather than injected. Why would anyone wash an animal after being euthanized just to throw it in a dumpster?? They wouldn't!
Dena Ellison July 10, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Unfortunately, animals do not always die right away when administered those injections, even when adminstered correctly. Ask any vet. And it is not always a pretty death.

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