Supes take aim at zoo overhaul

As a proposal to turn the San Francisco Zoo into a rescue center heads to a vote Tuesday, Supervisor Bevan Dufty is looking for other ways to bolster the future of the facility and its animals and Mayor Gavin Newsom has come out against the rescue plan. 

Supervisor Chris Daly introduced a plan to convert the zoo into an operation that would focus on rescuing exotic animals from dangerous wild or private situations. On Aug. 7, a Board of Supervisors committee voted 2-1 in support of the proposal, with Daly and Supervisor Tom Ammiano backing the concept. Dufty voted against it. The full Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the proposal Tuesday.

Conditions at the zoo have remained under close scrutiny since a Siberian tiger escaped from her enclosure Dec. 25, fatally mauled a 17-year-old patron and injured two of his friends.

Recently, the zoo boosted ticket prices to patch cost overruns associated with improving safety measures after the attack.

“I’m opposed to this legislation because of [Daly’s] abuse of process,” Dufty said, referring to the fact that The City’s contract with the zoo was open for negotiation last year — and won’t be again until 2012.

“I just don’t think it’s workable,” he said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office also came out against Daly’s legislation.

“The last thing we want is Daly monkeying around with the zoo,” mayoral spokesman Nathan
Ballard said.

Although Dufty is not working on a counterproposal for Tuesday, he is considering a future move that “would address a bit of what could be improved [at the zoo],” he told The Examiner on Thursday.

“I think everyone agrees there needs to be progress in terms of animal welfare and greater oversight,” he said.

Daly did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Zoo officials, who have met with supervisors in recent weeks, asked supporters this week to flood City Hall with letters opposing the overhaul, zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca said.

“We’ve gotten thousands of e-mails,” said Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, whose district includes the zoo. Elsbernd said he plans to vote against the Daly plan.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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