Student starts petition against petting zoos

By Jake Tiger

Controversy sprouted from “107.7 The Bronc’s Eggscellent Egg Hunt” on March 26 when a student launched a campaign against the radio station, claiming that its use of petting zoos was “unethical and unsafe.”

Junior graphic design major Maggie Kleiner said she knew there would be petting zoos at the egg hunt, but had no plans to take action; however, once she arrived and saw the prolonged attention the animals were receiving, she began to worry that they may be exhausted and overwhelmed.

“Prior to seeing it, I didn’t have any strong feelings about it,” said Kleiner, who is also photo editor of The Rider News. “It was only when I walked up and I saw the animals in an enclosure with bunny ears on that I thought to myself, ‘Maybe this isn’t OK.’”

Before the egg hunt concluded, Kleiner said she began creating flyers urging students to take action against 107.7 The Bronc’s use of petting zoos.

Later that day, she put up about 100 flyers around academic buildings, the Bart Luedeke Center and the Student Recreation Center, knowingly neglecting to get them approved by the Office of Campus Life for the sake of timeliness, she said.

John Mozes, the general manager of 107.7 The Bronc, described the situation as stressful and surprising, stating that the egg hunt had never received any backlash since it came to campus seven years ago.

Mozes said the unapproved flyers were on the walls outside of the radio station when they returned from the egg hunt.

“I don’t think it was handled the way it should have been handled by the student,” said Mozes. “[The student-workers] work all this time, and they didn’t even get a moment to enjoy it. They came back and there were flyers all over the Fine Arts building, and I think it deflated them.”

According to Mozes, workers for 107.7 The Bronc noticed the flyers around campus and started taking them down, seeing that they were missing Rider’s approval stamp.

In defense of the egg hunt’s petting zoo, Mozes said the yearly tradition brings happiness to campus and has become a mental health resource for students.

“I’m not saying we’re going to decide no petting zoo, petting zoo or somewhere in between, but one of the great things about the egg hunt, and I think was getting lost in all of this, is the mental health of our students,” said Mozes. “The petting zoo has also become part of the welfare of our students. … There’s a human element that I believe Maggie’s not taking into consideration.”

The flyer features a photo of an animal in a cage, and text that claims petting zoos are “unethical and unsafe.” It also contains information sourced from PETA, but Kleiner said she has no affiliation with the group and disagrees with some of their views on animal rights.

“[PETA thinks] that in order to advocate for animal rights, you should be vegan, and I think that choosing to be vegan is an independent choice that should not be forced on anybody,” said Kleiner. “There’s always been a controversy with PETA. … That’s not something that I want to be associated with personally, which is why I only used them as a resource.”

On March 29, Kleiner had a second round of about 70 flyers approved by the university, and she distributed them around campus in similar locations.

The newer version featured a QR code that led to both a petition and a drafted email that could be sent to 107.7 The Bronc.

She mentioned that along with the bulletin boards, she taped her materials to undesignated walls where they were more visible. Campus Life contacted her about the infraction and the out-of-place flyers were taken down.

Mozes said the radio station alerted Campus Life of Kleiner’s error.

Junior communication studies major Nick Witkowski, who is the assistant general manager of 107.7 The Bronc, said, “People were definitely just disappointed that not everyone was OK with the result of the egg hunt.”

Kleiner’s petition, titled “Stop 107.7 The Bronc from hosting petting zoos at Rider University,” began on March 28 and amassed 167 signatures as of April 9, but Mozes believed the number did not accurately represent the community, as the form does not require a Rider email address and could be signed anonymously.

Kleiner responded to Mozes’ claim by saying that the petition was almost solely publicized via flyers around campus, and that students were signing anonymously to protect themselves from judgment.

“A lot of people don’t realize that petting zoos are unethical and unsafe, probably because they are a lot of fun,” said Kleiner. “We tend not to think about what their living conditions are when they’re not being put on display in some way.”

Kleiner met with 107.7 The Bronc on April 4 to discuss the issue and claimed the meeting went well, with both sides being considerate of the other.

“I viewed them as an entity rather than an organization made up of individual people,” said Kleiner. “When I did start the campaign, it did hurt people’s feelings. They took it personally and that’s something that I didn’t anticipate. If I could change my approach, I would have started with a conversation with executives from The Bronc.”

In place of petting zoos, Kleiner offered the alternative of animal-shelter adoption fair, where rescued pets could mingle with students and potential adopters.

“She came in with an amazing proposal,” said Witkowski. “The dog shelter proposal … was brilliant and we did take that into consideration.”

Kleiner mentioned the university already has connections with EASEL Animal Shelter, based in Ewing, New Jersey, who hosted a “Pet-A-Pup” event at Rider the past two springs.

However, Mozes said 107.7 The Bronc has had poor experiences with adoption and dog-therapy organizations in the past.

The radio station will consider all options moving forward and is undecided on if it will have a petting zoo next year, according to Mozes.

“A lot of people didn’t agree with me, and that’s OK. I think most of all, I wanted to start a conversation about it,” said Kleiner. “Next year, when they begin planning the egg hunt, I’m going to sit down and have a conversation with them, and if they still plan on having a petting zoo, I will organize something.”

Maggie Kleiner is the photo editor of The Rider News. Kleiner had no part in the writing or editing of this story. 

Section editors Julia Train, Benjamin Shinault, Jay Roberson, Logan VanDine work for 107.7 The Bronc. They had no part in the writing or editing of this story. 

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