The director of the Reston Zoo is appealing her animal cruelty conviction after being sentenced Sept. 28 in Fairfax County General District Court.
An appeal date of Nov. 15 tentatively has been set for Meghan Mogensen, 26, in Fairfax County Circuit Court, according to her attorney, Caleb Kershner.
“We disagree in the outcome and are disappointed with the ruling,” Kershner said about last week’s sentencing.
On Jan. 26, 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 spokesperson 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, 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.
Mogensen was convicted and sentenced to 360 days in jail and ordered to pay $1,250 on the combined charges by Judge Ian O’Flaherty; the judge immediately suspended 330 days of her jail time.
“My client loves animals and did the best she could in an emergency situation concerning an animal that was suffering,” Kershner said. “We hope the truth comes out in court in November.”