Reston Zoo director charged with animal cruelty - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Reston Zoo director, Meghan Morgensen, charged with animal cruelty

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Meghan Morgensen (Fairfax County Police Department) Meghan Morgensen (Fairfax County Police Department)

Kids and families are still visiting the Reston Zoo and interacting with the animals even though the zoo's director was arrested Friday.

26-year-old Meghan Morgensen is charged with animal cruelty and possession of a controlled substance because of an incident with a wallaby back in January.

A USDA inspection says a wallaby suffered severe face and head injury. Officials at the Reston Zoo told inspectors the wallaby was euthanized with a drug that had not been approved.

But another person at the Reston Zoo told Fairfax County Animal Control officers a different story.

"The allegations were brought to our attention when a wallaby died at the zoo. There were circumstances surrounding that death that caused someone to tip the police department off," said Master Officer Eddy Azcarate.

A search warrant affidavit for Morgensen's email and cell phone records says the person who contacted police put the injured wallaby in a crate and notified Morgensen. Other zoo workers allegedly saw Morgensen walking off with the crated wallaby.

Police say the tipster later found an empty crate, a five-gallon bucket full of water and a trash bag in a dumpster with a dead, wet wallaby in it.

The affidavit says, "The Director was interviewed about the allegations. The zoo Director made the claim that she humanely euthanized the Wallaby by IV injection..."

"When asked why the body (of the wallaby) was wet, the zoo Director advised that they routinely wash/rinse the bodies."

The Reston Zoo has been cited by USDA inspectors for:

- Inadequate care for a spider monkey with cuts to its hands and feet,

- Poor record keeping of animal transfers,

- Inadequate outdoor shelter, which led to a monkey getting frostbite

- Shelters with sharp edges

A follow-up inspection said all issues - except the wallaby incident - were corrected.

The two charges against Morgensen are misdemeanors in Fairfax County, but the facility could face further penalties if federal authorities determine that zoo officials violated the Animal Welfare Act. Drowning an animal would be considered such a violation.

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