Turn Off “My Life Is a Zoo”

Photo by Eddie Verhamme

The National Geographic Channel is known for its award-winning shows on animal care and conservation. However, one show, “My Life Is a Zoo,” featuring the DeYoung Family Zoo, does more harm than good and should never appear on television again.

The program misinforms the public while at the same time promotes roadside zoos and irresponsible animal ownership. The DeYoung Family Zoo is not accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and seems to be teetering on the edge of financial ruin according to comments made on the show. While the overall existence of a 400-animal zoo primarily run by only two people is concerning in itself, the program regularly shows reckless decisions and animals in dangerous situations

Wild and exotic animals belong in the wild and not in backyard zoos. Private ownership of wild and exotic animals often ends in injury and death to the animals and the humans who care for them.

Please write a polite letter to the president of the National Geographic Channel urging him to discontinue any further episodes of “My Life Is a Zoo.” Suggest he instead focus on lessons of conservation and welfare that can be better gained through humane education programs, responsible eco-tourism, and other non-intrusive methods.

Michael Rosenfeld
National Geographic Channel
1145 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 24724

9 Responses to “Turn Off “My Life Is a Zoo””

  1. Dana Gilson Says:

    Actually, I think the show is very good. I have not seen anything that shows they do not care for their animals. If everyone would work as hard as they do, we all would not be in the messes we are in.

    • Wendy Haugen Says:

      I watched My Life is a Zoo and as a former zoo keeper and animal welfare professional I was appalled. There is no way that two people can provide the proper care and behavioral enrichment that 400 plus animals require. There are so many surplus zoo animals already in our country, and they are breeding more. What will happen to those animals if one or both of those people can no longer care for the animals? Exotic animals are very hard to place. The enclosures that I observed on the show are very small and did not provide the stimulation that these wild animals require. In addition, the practice of socializing these wild animals to people is very dangerous-these are not domestic dogs and cats who have spent thousands of years bred to be with humans. These animals may appear friendly but instinct can kick in at any time and their behavior can be dangerous and unpredictable. I observed that the DeYoungs held the cage doors wide open several times during the filming and there did not appear any safety nets in place to prevent escape. The DeYoungs could not even provide electric heaters in water containers to prevent drinking water from freezing-what other fundamental basic needs are these people skimping on due to lack of resources?

    • Rhonda Says:

      I watched three episodes of the show last night..never seen it before but I really liked the show…I could see myself doing the jobs they do.. I love animals of all kinds..There were a few times when they should have shut the gates…I think they are working to make their animals enclosures bigger and better to suit the animals and their needs..

  2. The National Humane Education Society Says:

    Thank you for your comment, Dana. We cannot disagree that they clearly work very hard, but we do feel many aspects of this show send the wrong message. The program regularly shows reckless decisions and animals in dangerous situations:
    • The care of the baby chimpanzee is entirely inappropriate for this type of primate and sets the standards of care for chimpanzees back by decades. This animal needs the influence of his own species if he is to live a healthy, fulfilling life. Additionally, young chimpanzees grow into strong, dangerous animals. How is the zoo prepared for this future?
    • One episode shows the felling of trees in the grizzly bear cage. The bears were not removed, and the owners openly acknowledged the danger involved should a tree fall in an unexpected way.
    • The owners were very excited to acquire a young hippo. The animal is shown in an entirely too small enclosure. The zoo’s website indicates that it does not yet have the financial resources to build an appropriate enclosure and is accepting donations. Like the chimpanzee, this hippo is kept in isolation while he is a social animal who lives in large, gregarious groups in the wild.

    Also, where did they get the chimp and the hippo from? Did these animals come from commercial breeders selling into the pet trade? We do not know of the source of these animals and would be very curious to find out.

  3. Katie Says:

    I think the show is great. I am from Michigan and i have been to the zoo since seeing this show, in person they do alot more animal care then what you see. They take care of the animals very well, they are expanding enclosures for the hippo, and for the tigers, they have not been finished but the show is great and the people are great too, they also have more people there then what you see helping out.

  4. mary jackson Says:

    I really like the show and hope it will continue. These people are pouring all their energy, money and devotion to their animals. I understand that it can be a dangerous situation. I would not want to see other such zoos springing up around the country, it is true that would be bad for the animals. They work hard and I support their efforts; it is true that if anything happened to one of the owners, it would be tragic and a catastrophe. I hope they can remain strong and maintain the zoo properly. I’m puzzled as to how erratic the tv programming has become.

  5. Amanda Says:

    I agree. I just watched several episodes of the wonderful program “Zoo Confidential”….then this “zoo” program came on. It was shocking to see them go from an inspiring, education program about the Houston Zoo (which is only 15 acres larger than the DeYoung’s “zoo” and they have 4 veterinarians on staff) to this. I am an animal lover, but these two should not take on such a challenge alone. We will next see the DeYoungs on Animal Planet’s “Fatal Attractions”.

  6. Rich Says:

    I think the average person loved the show and watched it for its humor and how the DeYoungs interacted with the animals! I’ve been to the zoo numerous times and the animals seemed very well cared for! Having said this, I do believe that they should probably focus on the animals they have and don’t expand any further at this point.

  7. Joanna Says:

    I am from IL and have been to the zoo 3 times. It is a WONDERFUL place and they have a crew of volunteers. The big cats are fed fresh meat daily. How many zoos can say that? Zoo cats are fed a commercial product similar to cat food. The enclosures are big and provide as much stimulation as any zoo I’ve sen. (Chicago has a great zoo and I’ve been to the San Deigo Zoo).

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