July 14, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A Queens lawmaker has introduced a bill that aims to stop zoos from drugging female animals as a means to promote mating.
Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas said that some zoos carry out the practice so male animals have a greater chance of being able to copulate. The approach is used to stop a female from being able to physically fend off a male in order to increase the chances of breeding.
González-Rojas said she wants that to change and has introduced a bill that would stop zoos from administering mind-altering drugs to female animals for such purposes.
“Breeding is a natural process that should not be forced by the use of psychoactive drugs,” said González-Rojas, who introduced the bill on July 9.
“Animals deserve our protection and that is especially the case for those in the captivity of zoos.”
González-Rojas said that she was spurred into action after reading an article in the New York Times about an incident at a zoo in Ohio.
A female gorilla called Johari was drugged with Prozac after she kept fighting off a male gorilla that was trying to mate with her. Johari was given the drug until she let him mate with her.
“What happened to Johari is state-sanctioned sexual violence on vulnerable animals who are harmed because of our capitalistic desire to entertain people at the expense of other species,” said González-Rojas, who represents Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and parts of Woodside and Corona.
The article cited a survey of U.S. and Canadian zoos that found that nearly half of the 31 respondents were giving their gorillas Haldol, Valium or other psychopharmaceutical drugs.
State Sen. Jabari Brisport from Brooklyn has introduced the legislation, called Johari’s Law, in the upper chamber. González-Rojas said that the bill is named after Johari, the gorilla at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio.
The bill has the backing of several animal welfare groups including Voters For Animal Rights.
“The fact that zoos are drugging animals in order to breed them demonstrates just how abusive these archaic institutions are both physically and psychologically for non-human animals,” said Matthew Dominguez, a political advisor for VFAR.
“We applaud Senator Brisport and Assemblymember González-Rojas for introducing this important bill that seeks to end the repulsive practice of drugging animals.”