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Group files complaint against Natural Bridge Zoo

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Local,Virginia,Animals

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — An animal rights group is asking Virginia officials to investigate the Natural Bridge Zoological Park for exhibiting exotic animals without the required permit.

Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter Monday to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The letter alleges the zoo exhibits two Siberian lynxes, a Geoffroy's cat and two fennec foxes without proper permits and provided false information to the state agency. The animal rights group also raised issues related to the safety of the animals at the privately owned zoo that opened to the public in 1972. It's asking that the zoo's permits be revoked.

"This operation is not above the law," PETA's deputy general counsel Delcianna Winders said in a statement. "(The zoo's) history of run-ins with licensing agencies shows that the cats, foxes, and other animals at this despicable roadside zoo are also suffering from a lack of basic care."

The state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries said it has forwarded the complaint to the proper office for review and said a proper inquiry will have to be launched and the allegations carefully reviewed before it can comment. A phone message left for the zoo's owner, Karl Mogensen, wasn't immediately returned and an email address for media inquiries also was not working.

According U.S. Department of Agriculture documents, Mogensen previously had his federal zookeeper's license suspended and was fined $10,000 for violating the Animal Welfare Act in 1994 and 2007. The zoo also was cited last year for failing to provide bears with clean drinking water and failing to trim the overgrown hooves of a giraffe.

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.

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