Swiss zoos are reportedly accepting unwanted pets which are killed and then fed to large carnivores such as tigers.
At the Zurich Zoo, rabbits, guinea pigs and rats are given to the carnivores to eat, according to Swiss local media.
Zoo director Alex Ruebel, who revealed this happens around six times a year, said: ‘The guinea pigs or rabbits are killed by a veterinarian, then fed to the tigers, lions and snow leopards.’
The zoo director also said that mice are given to the zoo’s owls. Other animals such as dogs are however denied by the zoo.
According to Ruebel, the pets are not cut up into pieces but are fed in their entirety to the zoo’s carnivores.
He said: ‘The reason for this is that we want to show what is natural. And carnivores eat meat together with the entrails.’
Ruebel said that some desperate pet owners even smuggle their pet inside the zoo where they release them inside an indoor rain forest.
The Daehlhoelzli animal park in the Swiss capital of Bern also receives inquiries from visitors who want to get rid of their pets.
Zookeeper Marc Rosset said: ‘We speak of one to five animals per week, which become food.’
According to Rosset, these are also mostly smaller rodents or mammals such as mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits.
However, not all Swiss zoos accept pets.
Spokesman Valentin Kressler of the Basel Zoo said: ‘We do not accept such animals, as we do not know their health status.’
Swiss animal protection NGOs are shocked by the number of pets being offered to zoos.
Helen Sandmeier of Swiss Animal Protection said: ‘It is not possible that one accepts the death of their pet.’
Sandmeier said that when buying a pet, you automatically take on the responsibility of caring for the animal, which includes giving it a good new place when someone can no longer take care of it.
Antoine Goetschel, founder of Global Animal Law, also blasted the ‘predominant throwaway mentality’ of many pet owners.
However, both Goetschel and Sandmeier showed some understanding for the zoos.
Goetschel said: ‘If they would openly offer the acceptance of pets, they would become a shelter for unwanted pets.’