July 16th, 2014 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: Metro

Oregon Zoo Re-Hires Veterinarian Mitch Finnegan

lede_4030(extraction)BEAR CARE: Oregon Zoo veterinarians pull a tooth from Vivian, a Malayan sun bear, in the zoo’s new veterinary medical center. The facility includes retractable sunroofs and larger quarantine areas for sick animals. - IMAGE: Molly Woodstock

The Oregon Zoo has re-hired Dr. Mitch Finnegan, the veterinarian fired by regional government Metro in the wake of the death of Sumatran orangutan Kutai.

Metro fired Finnegan, along with zoo director Kim Smith, on May 5 after an investigation found that zoo leaders didn't report all the human errors around Kutai's death.

Zoo officials now say Finnegan will return to animal care, while a new hire—Dr. Tim Storms—will manage employees as senior veterinarian.

“We made a decision based on the information we had at the time,” Teri Dresler, interim zoo director, said in a press release. “However, in the weeks following Dr. Finnegan’s departure, I spoke with numerous animal-care experts and veterinary professionals both within the zoo and across the country. It became clear to me that it would be a mistake not to have a veterinarian of Dr. Finnegan’s caliber on our staff.”

The re-hiring was first reported by The Oregonian.

Metro's investigation, released in May, implied that Smith and Finnegan attempted to cover up the errors that occurred in Kutai’s final days, and failed to discipline staff for mistakes.

The investigation summary said Finnegan told one curator "that they had killed Kutai." But it said he didn't mention the issues his managers raised with his staff.

In the month since Finnegan's firing, trouble in the zoo's veterinary hospital only grew worse. On May 24, six cotton-top tamarins—an endangered monkey—were found dead in quarantine.

Zoo records show the monkeys probably died of stress-related shock after traveling for at least 50 hours in a van from the East Coast. The records also showed zoo staff wondering if the monkeys died because they were given plastic picnic coolers as nests.

Meanwhile, zookeepers protested Finnegan's treatment and demanded he be reinstated. 

“I find it just inconceivable that you destroy a man’s career over that,” former keeper Phil Prewett told WW in May. “There’s something that really stinks about this whole mess, and it’s not animal byproduct. It’s some political bullshit.”

 
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