Meghan Mogenson, Reston Zoo Director, Found Guilty In Wallaby Death

11:02 PM, Sep 28, 2012   |    comments
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FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA) -- Reston Zoo director Meghan Mogenson has been found guilty of animal cruelty for drowning a wallaby, and possession of a controlled substance.   At the end of today's one-day trial, which included 15 witnesses put on by the prosecution, Judge Ian O'Flaherty found Mogenson guilty on both charges and sentenced her to 30 days in jail plus a $1,250 fine.   She also had to surrender her driver's license due to the drug charge.

The case began on January 26, 2012 when a wallaby named Parmesan was found that morning with a ruptured eye. It shared an enclosure with Kangaroos.

As the first witness, former Zoo curator Ashley Rood said she showed the injury to Mogenson and explained that the animal needed to be seen by a veterinarian. Rood said Mogenson  called her farther, Eric Mogenson, who is the Zoo's  owner.  The father apparently told Mogenson that he wanted the animal euthanized. 

Rood said when she came back from running an errand, she noticed Parmesan's cage empty, which made her suspicious the animal may already be dead.   Rood testified that she jumped into a dumpster and found the dead Wallaby in a plastic bag.  It was soaking wet.   Rood said she immediately quit her job and called police.

Rood said she was extremely upset and told Meghan, "I think you and your father are sick, sadistic people and I'm not going to have any part of it any longer!"

Rood testified that Mogenson then said to her, "These are Eric's animals, they're his property and we have to do what he says, whether we agree or not."

A Fairfax County animal control officer arrived soon after the death and also found the soaked wallaby's body.  Court documents say Mogenson told police she had euthanized the animal humanely using an injection of euthanasia drugs. But doctors who examined the body and the liver found no sign of the drug. 

 Dr. Jamie Wiseman who performed the necropsy found blood in the animals lungs, which is consistent with drowning.   She said with drowning, water in the lungs is often not found because the larynx closes as part of natural instinct to stay alive.  Dr. Wiseman said the animal looked as though it had been in general good health, except for the injured eye, which would have needed to come out.

Mogenson's conviction of possession of a  controlled substance came from euthanasia drugs.   Much time was spent in the trial focusing on a file found in Mogenson's office that described the wallaby's euthanasia by drowning.  The only approved forms of humanely euthanizing animals in Virginia are injection and gunshots (mainly used by farmers.)

In Mogenson's trial, Ashley Rood was questioned by the defense attorney about her job description and that fact that it included euthanasia. Rood says she did not handle euthanasia because most are done by gunshot and she does not know how to handle a gun. Rood also stated that rabbits were killed by banging their heads against a hard surface or putting them in a bucket under a tractor. She said chickens were "feeder animals" and that when they were to be euthanized, they were given to the pythons.

Mogenson did not have to report to jail immediately as she is appealing the misdemeanor convictions.

In June, 9News obtained documents indicating the wallaby was not the only animal that was mistreated at the Reston Zoo. A USDA February 2012 inspection report identified euthanasia, frostbite, and an injured spider monkey left in pain as major problems.

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service report cited the Reston Zoo with six violations, including cages that exposed a spider monkey to such cold temperatures the "hands and feet of the animal became frostbitten."

Inspectors also cited the zoo for improperly treating the spider monkey's "superficial cuts on his hands and feet," indicated the "veterinarian was not contacted" and "the pain the animal received from its injury was not relieved promptly."

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