Reston Zoo Director pleads guilty to animal cruelty
The former director of the Reston Zoo has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and is currently serving time in jail on the charge, according to her attorney.
Last September, Meghan Mogensen, 27, was convicted and sentenced to 360 days in jail on both animal cruelty and drug possession charges and ordered to pay $1,250 on the combined charges by Fairfax County General District Court Judge Ian O’Flaherty; the judge immediately suspended 330 days of her jail time. Her attorney, Caleb Kershner appealed O’Flaherty’s ruling.
An appellate hearing was originally scheduled for November in Fairfax County District Court, but a plea agreement was reached last week.
Mogensen pleaded guilty to the animal cruelty charge — a class one misdemeanor — in exchange for the drug possession charge being dropped.
Kershner said Mogensen is currently serving out her 30-day jail sentence on the animal cruelty charge but that she is expected to only be incarcerated for 14 of the 30 days.
“She should be out on, or around, Jan. 13,” he said.
As part of Mogensen’s plea agreement, she also is banned from making any euthanasia-related decisions should she resume her position in the future as an animal caretaker.
“That will not be an issue, because she is moving on to other employment,” said Kershner on Friday.
Mogensen’s family owns the zoo.
On Jan. 26, 2012, after receiving a tip from then-zoo employee Ashley Rood, Fairfax County police opened an investigation relating to allegations of improper treatment of injured animals and improper use of euthanasia drugs. Rood has since resigned from her position at the zoo.
“This was a complex, five-month-long investigation that included both state and federal agencies,” Fairfax County police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said at the time Mogensen was charged.
Mogensen was charged with animal cruelty by county police, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to court testimony and a Feb. 16 warrant filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court, Rood told police a sick wallaby was found dead in a trash receptacle after having earlier been placed into a crate. Wallabies are part of the kangaroo family.
Rood said the crate later was empty and the wallaby was discovered in a nearby trash container. Rood told police she feared the wallaby had been illegally drowned.
Mogensen said she euthanized the wallaby with an injection of a drug called Beauthansia because it was suffering from a severe eye injury, but police said no injection mark could be found on the wallaby.
Police said in the search warrant that the zoo was not legally authorized to euthanize animals.
In their search of the zoo, police also found amounts of the prescription tranquilizer Ketamine, a controlled substance also known as the street drug “Special K.” Police said the zoo did not have a permit to possess the drug.
“Meghan is a tremendous person, but the state felt that in this case her actions constituted animal cruelty, so she is complying with her sentencing,” Kershner said Friday.