Local animal caregivers respond to community concerns over viral video of lion’s condition at Lagoon

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FARMINGTON, Utah (ABC4 News)- Video taken on the train ride through Lagoon is getting some attention.

The video shows a lion vocalizing and breathing heavily on the cement floor.

Officials at Lagoon say the lion is perfectly fine and this kind of action is normal for lions, but critics disagree.

Jeremy Beckham with Utah Animal Rights Coalition thinks park officials should assure the public the lion has been seen by a veterinarian.

“Vets that we’ve spoken to say that is not common lion behavior to be laying on their sides vocalizing like that,” he said.

Dr. Laura Boehler, a local veterinarian specializing in exotic cats said in part, “The fact that the cat is laying down vocalizing and potentially tempting to hack up a hairball predisposes him to aspiration pneumonia.”

Utah’s Hogle Zoo agreed to let us some time with their lions Friday, and while they won’t comment specifically on Lagoon’s enclosure, they did warn a ten-second video simply isn’t enough time for a diagnosis.

“The best I can say is it looks like a vocalization–without being there, and seeing it, it’s just too difficult to tell,” Hogle Zoo animal keeper Marianne Van Antwerp said.

She also said lions by nature are quite vocal.

“They can do anything from grumbles to roaring and often when they are on the lazy side, they will lay down while they’re roaring,” Antwerp added.

The Hogle Zoo cares for seven lions. They are AZA certified which is the gold standard for zoos in the U.S.

Lagoon is licensed through the U.S Department of Agriculture. A Freedom of Information Act request provided more than 70 instances where Lagoon violated the Animal Welfare Act in recent years, the bare minimum of animal care in the U.S.

“Although these violations document serious problems at Lagoon, I have no hope that the government will shut them down, ” Beckham said. “It’s going to take caring people to vote with their dollars and saying ‘while the rides may be fun, I’m not going to give the park any more of my money until they retire these animals where they can have happier lives’.”

Hundreds of people who have recently “signed” the Utah Animal Rights Coalition photo petition. For more information, visit LagoonCruelty.com.

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