The Oregon Zoo today announced that Dr. Mitch Finneganwill return to employment as a staff veterinarian on July 22.
The zoo also announced the appointment of Dr. Tim Storms as the new senior veterinarian. Dr. Storms, a current member of the zoo’s veterinary medical team, will manage the veterinary program with the support of a new hospital manager, a position that is currently under recruitment.
The new management structure allows Dr. Finnegan to focus on veterinary care without the responsibilities of managing a staff, and reconfigures the vet team in a format similar to that of comparable zoos.
Dr. Finnegan’s departure was announced May 5 following an investigation surrounding the January death of Kutai, a 20-year-old orangutan.
“We made a decision based on the information we had at the time,” said Teri Dresler, interim zoo director. “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,” Dresler added, “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.”
“I support Metro’s decisions to improve management and communications within the zoo’s animal care team and with the leaders of our organization,” Dr. Finnegan said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to working with and fully supporting Dr. Storms as senior veterinarian and the new hospital manager. Improving protocols and accountability for animal care is essential. I can do this best by focusing my work on animal care. I’m grateful to Metro for seeing me as part of the zoo’s future."
A national search for a new senior veterinarian commenced upon Dr. Finnegan’s departure. Dr. Storms’s management expertise and experience working in private practice and clinical and zoo settings ranked him as the top candidate. Prior to joining the Oregon Zoo in 2012, Dr. Storms worked at the Dallas Zoo, where he was lead veterinarian.
“Dr. Storms’s previous experience managing a zoo veterinary program makes him an excellent choice for senior vet,” said Chris Pfefferkorn, zoo deputy director. “And with Dr. Finnegan back on staff as well, we will have a very strong veterinary team.”
“I was drawn to the Oregon Zoo because of its strong commitment to animal welfare, its established record in on-the-ground conservation, as well as the exceptional new Veterinary Medical Center,” Dr. Storms said. “We’ve gone through a significant transition in recent months, but we have a great team in place and now can focus on what we do best: provide great care for the animals.”