Pest control is an important part of zoo animal welfare programs, as it can be effective in reducing infectious disease, preventing contamination of food, and improving exhibit maintenance and appearance. Several years ago, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore (MZIB) was cited on its Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) inspection for deficiencies in its pest control efforts. The zoo did not have a pest management program for the whole zoo; different departments were using different external vendors or department personnel for pest control and the effort was overall less than successful in many areas. Around the same time, the zoo was questioned by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) for ordering regulated pest control products (rodenticides) without a certified applicator on site. The original certified applicator had let his certification lapse several years earlier. Individual staff members were bringing in ant traps and wasp spray from home. Pest control logs were not being utilized to track application or use. The zoo had always had a policy that the veterinarians approved all chemicals, including pesticides, used on grounds but that was the extent of the veterinary department involvement in pest control at that time.
Fortunately, the MDA was very willing to work with us, and the AZA citation encouraged administration to allocate more financial and staff resources to pest control efforts. All areas with outside pest control vendors were consolidated into one vendor as the individual contracts ended. Following discussions with the MDA, it became apparent that certified applicators on site were necessary in order to put out rodent baits, insect growth regulators, spray wasps, treat ponds for mosquitoes, and to use topical flea and tick products. Four staff members (two veterinarians, two animal department staff) became certified pest control applicators. The MDA allowed us to apply as public agency applicators, saving the zoo hundreds of dollars in testing and registration fees. One veterinarian is in charge of mosquito control efforts. The other veterinarian is in charge of all chemical approvals, including pesticides, and with the operations manager of the animal department, conducts staff training classes to create “registered users.” The operations manager monitors pest control in the animal department areas. The other animal department staff member directs most of the actual application of pesticides, oversees the registered users and works with the outside pest control vendor. The registered users are allowed to use regulated pesticides under the direction of a certified applicator. All regulated pesticides are kept in locked containers and may only be distributed by a certified applicator to the registered users. Every squirt of topical pesticide, ant trap, burst of wasp spray, rodent bait block, and line of insect growth regulator is logged. Horticulture maintains its own certified applicator and log books.
The biggest surprise was that topical pesticides, such as imidacloprid, fipronil, and fly sprays, are regulated pesticides. A veterinary prescription or a pest control log sheet must accompany these products. Different states may have different regulations.
The MZIB now has a well run, effective, and legal pest control program. Learn your state regulations regarding pest control, especially topical pesticides. Becoming a certified applicator was not difficult, was very informative, and has been very useful. The MDA Pesticide Regulation section was very willing to work with us to help us become compliant with all regulations. Pest control is not taught in veterinary school, but is very important to the zoo veterinarian and zoo animal welfare programs.