The Pittsburgh Zoo has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for using dogs to herd and scare captive elephants.
In a report, based on a January inspection and released on Monday by PETA, the USDA also noted that some of the elephants showed signs of distress when the Australian sheep dogs lunged at them, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
A video shot by CBS News showed the dogs charging at the elephants, who ran in fear from them. The report reads:
"The dog showed aggressive behavior, growling and lunging at one elephant and entering its enclosure before being called by the manager. The manager also reported the dogs' having bitten the elephants during the course of their work."
The zoo released a statement Monday defending the use of herding dogs in its elephant program:
"The introduction of the dogs has been a valuable tool as we continue to elevate the care and management of our elephant herd," says Dr. Barbara Baker, President & CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo. "The safety of our keepers and animals is a top priority and we provide an additional safety level with the use of trained cattle dogs...This method of animal management, in the livestock field, is referred to as a low-stress method. These methods, which have been scientifically proven and recognized by the USDA, ensure a calm and controlled interaction between an animal, the dogs, and keepers they work with."
The USDA ordered the Pittsburgh Zoo to stop using the dogs, because "unrestrained lunging and biting may cause undue stress to the elephants."
The Dodo has reached out to the Pittsburgh Zoo for comment on their plans for future use of dogs to control their elephants.