Reston Zoo director guilty of animal cruelty charge

Kathy Stewart,

The director of the Reston Zoo was found guilty Friday of animal cruelty for drowning an injured wallaby last winter.

Meghan Mogensen, 26, of Silver Spring, was also found guilty of possession of a controlled substance. She did not have permits to possess expired drugs found in a locked safe in Mogensen’s office.

Mogensen was arrested in June on the charges after she was accused of drowning the wallaby instead of waiting for a trained veterinarian to euthanize the animal.

“This was a cruel method of killing an animal,” Fairfax County General District Court Judge Ian O’Flaherty said when he announced his verdict late Friday.

Mogensen was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $1,000 for the cruelty charge, which is a misdemeanor. On the drug charge, the judge fined her $250 and suspended her driver’s license for six-months.

Mogensen’s attorney, Caleb Kershner plans to appeal the case.

Former zoo employee Ashley Rood blew the whistle on Mogensen. Rood had been working at the zoo on Jan. 26, 2012 when she called police to report that she suspected Mogensen drowned the wallaby. She quit after the drowning.

But Mogensen told Fairfax County Master Animal Control Officer Jennifer Milburn, who came to investigate the animal cruelty complaint, that she had given the animal a lethal injection in order to euthanize it.

Authorities say the zoo did not have the proper permits or training to administer euthanasia drugs to the animal. And Milburn said investigators did not find the euthanasia drug at the zoo that Morgensen claimed to have used.

During the one-day trial, experts testified that no drugs were found in the animal’s liver. Witnesses also testified that the animal’s body was “soaking wet.”

The prosecution, Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch, paraded in about 19 witnesses Friday to testify in the case. Meanwhile Mogensen did not testify in her own defense and declined to speak before being sentenced.

In his closing argument, Mogensen’s attorney said that Mogensen seriously cares about animals. And that if she did drown the animal, it was not cruel considering that the animal was in pain and that the zoo’s veterinarian was more than an hour away.

Ashley Rood’s mother, Deborah Rood says no one knows what her daughter has been through and that the ordeal has been very hard on her. But she stood up for what is right and didn’t back down.

“She did the right thing. We’re proud of her,” Deborah Rood says. “I think justice was done for a small little animal that needed to be heard and everybody pulled together and did it, says Rood.

Mogensen’s father Eric Mogensen owns the zoo. He did not attend Friday’s trial and sentencing.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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