News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,                                                                            
July 19, 2018
Chicago Zoological Society Issues Statement on PETA FOIA Litigation
     Brookfield, Ill. -- On July 10, 2015, Brookfield Zoo experienced the tragic loss of 54 stingrays at its Stingray Bay experience. The Zoo issued a press release pertaining to the incident and provided all information known at the time regarding the cause of the deaths. As a result of the incident, the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the Zoo, conducted a thorough investigation into the cause of the incident and concluded that a malfunction in the life support system of the exhibit caused depleted oxygen levels, ultimately resulting in the death of the stingrays. All investigation materials and conclusions were then submitted to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the most recognized association of zoos in the United States, which inspects and provides the Zoo with its accreditation.

Shortly after the incident, PETA issued a request under the Freedom of Information Act directly to Brookfield Zoo, seeking all documents relating to the Zoo and SeaWorld. Brookfield Zoo, which is an acknowledged national leader among accredited zoological institutions in the science of animal care and welfare, as well as the first Humane Certified Zoo in North America, strives for transparency in all of its operations. When members of the public request information about Zoo operations, the Society generally provides the information, even though it is a private, not-for-profit entity that is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

At the time of PETA’s original request, the Society decided not to provide documents voluntarily because PETA was seeking information for use in its ongoing advocacy against SeaWorld, who provided the stingrays to Brookfield Zoo. PETA appealed the Society’s denial of its request to the Illinois Attorney General, who issued a non-binding opinion holding that the Society was not considered a public body within the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act, and thus, the Society was not obligated to provide the documents to PETA.

PETA then issued a second Freedom of Information Act request to the Forest Preserves of Cook County, claiming that the FPCC had contracted with the Society to perform a government function. Despite a 2015 Illinois Supreme Court determination in O’Toole v. Chicago Zoological Society that the Society does not conduct the FPCC’s public business, the Attorney General issued another non-binding opinion, this time holding that the Society was required to produce the documents because it was performing a government function on behalf of the FPCC.

In its request, PETA seeks thousands of pages of documents. Its allegations of a “cover-up” are false and hurtful. While the Chicago Zoological Society will continue to strive for transparency in its operations, it cannot allow PETA to inappropriately use our private, not-for-profit institution for this political advocacy agenda.
#      #      #
About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

Read about our innovative practices in animal welfare to ensure the ultimate care of our individual animals.


Visit Brookfield Zoo

Create extraordinary connections with animals and nature!

Animal Welfare

You Can Help!

Become our partner in caring for animals and in connecting people with wildlife and nature.