Letters: Maintain high standards for Minnesota zoos; limit barriers for pharmaceutical research

30 March 2022

Maintain high standards for zoos

Why is our legislature considering bills that would weaken state law by allowing facilities accredited by a substandard group to acquire, breed, and sell dangerous wild animals?

Minnesota has three zoos — Como Park Zoo, Lake Superior Zoo, and the Minnesota Zoo — that are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). AZA accreditation qualifies them to be exempt from Minnesota’s current law that regulates which entities can possess some of the most dangerous species, including apex predators such as tigers and leopards. AZA has high standards, qualified professionals and has been around for a long time.

The other zoo trade group, the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) has not been around as long and has accredited some questionable facilities, including a place owned by one of the characters featured in “Tiger King.”

Changing state law to allow big cats, bears and primates at ZAA-accredited facilities would be a big step backward for Minnesota. Our current law is working well. I hope our legislators reject HF 4166 and SF 4280.

—Megan Helling, Lino Lakes

Don’t inhibit pharmaceutical research

Growing up, I loved sports. I even hoped that I might be able to play at the collegiate level. Then, all of a sudden, my strength, speed, and agility seemed to disappear. Things that had once been easy were becoming increasingly difficult, and it became evident that this was a serious issue.

Finally, I found out I was diagnosed with Friederichs’s Ataxia. For Friederich’s Ataxia patients like me, the outlook isn’t great. While medications and physical therapy can help delay the onset of serious symptoms, patients suffer from trouble walking, fatigue, loss of sensation, slowed reflexes, slurred speech, and hearing and vision loss. And unfortunately, these symptoms only get worse with time.

Despite my diagnosis, I have worked hard to remain positive and find a silver lining. And for me, that has been raising awareness about rare neurodegenerative disorders and advocating to find new cures and treatment options. Seeing the quick development of a COVID-19 vaccine and various treatment options was inspiring. It made me optimistic that with America’s biopharmaceutical researchers and scientists, I may see a cure for Friederich’s Ataxia in my lifetime. But we must ensure that barriers to innovation do not stand in the way.

For the sake of my wife, my son, and other Friederichs’s Ataxia patients in Minnesota and around the country, I ask our leaders to oppose legislation that might inhibit scientists’ abilities to invest in research and development.

—Jacob Thompson, Minneapolis

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