Oregon Zoo rehires fired veterinarian

Oregon Zoo rehires fired veterinarian
Veterinarian Dr Mitch Finnegan working with a mountain lion while keeper Michelle Schireman observes in the Veterinary Medical Center at the Oregon Zoo. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham.

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon Zoo has rehired the veterinarian it fired after an investigation into the death of one of its orangutans.

Mitch Finnegan was the zoo's senior vet.

Zoo officials said his new position as a staff vet will allow him to focus on animal care without all the distractions of management.

The zoo said it heard from people around the country that Finnegan was too good to lose. The zoo also promoted another vet, Dr. Tim Storms, to that management position.

The May dismissals of Finnegan and the Oregon Zoo’s director, Kim Smith, were tied to the death of the zoo’s Sumatran orangutan, Kutai.

At the time, the zoo issued a statement, saying they were fired after an investigation concluded that “mistakes were made and important information was not disclosed.”

“We made a decision based on the information we had at the time,” Teri Dresler, interim zoo director, said in a statement. “However, in the weeks following Dr. Finnegan’s departure, I spoke with numerous animal-care experts and veterinary professionals both within the zoo and across the country. It became clear to me that it would be a mistake not to have a veterinarian of Dr. Finnegan’s caliber on our staff.

“Based on what I have learned over the past eight weeks, bringing Dr. Finnegan back as a staff veterinarian and promoting Dr. Storms is the best way to ensure our animals receive the most focused and compassionate care.”

Kutai died in January following an illness, zoo officials said. He was born Dec. 16, 1993 at Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan., and came to Portland in 2001.

Finnegan will start work at the zoo again July 22.