It was appalling to read in The Times on July 1 that Betty Jo Williams, president of the San Diego Zoological Society, felt the keepers at the Wild Animal Park were "vindicated" by the city attorney's decision not to file criminal charges. Surely she knows that such a decision is based on the evaluation of the likelihood of a criminal conviction and nothing more. It is not a statement that Dunda wasn't chained or severely beaten. Nor is it a declaration that management, supervision and policy were as they should have been concerning animal welfare.
Regardless of the division of expert opinion concerning the nature and extent of elephant discipline, Zoological Society members and the public in general simply will not tolerate the beating of captive animals.
The society's leadership needs to be more sensitive to the public's desire for corrective action. Chest thumping statements about vindication go the wrong way.
Confidence in the proper care of animals at the park can be restored only by candor and a well-publicized policy against beating them. Sadly, the well-deserved publicity surrounding the birth of the condor chick and the many fine programs at the park have been trampled under the feet of an injured and scarred elephant deserving better.
NELSON P. BRAV