Search at Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge County ends


According to Virginia State Police, the search at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge County has come to an end.

On day two of the search at Natural Bridge Zoo, crates were taken from the zoo and local organizations were spotted assisting. Read more here.

We’ll continue to follow this story and update you on air and online with the latest information.


Virginia State Police is executing an investigative search warrant at Natural Bridge Zoo along with the help of the Attorney General’s Office.

Outside the zoo, there has been a police presence all day, but there’s much more going on behind the zoo walls.

Debbie Mogensen, who owns the zoo with her husband Karl, claims that they’re being raided unfairly.

Mogensen’s lawyer Mario Williams told 10 News that they will have 10 days to prepare for a court seizure hearing.

“It’s an abuse of authority, and we’re absolutely going to fight this all the way up and down,” Williams said. “Appeals to the next year to come if we have to.”

10 News captured drone video of an animal being carried out by five people to a Botetourt County Animal Control trailer. Although, it was too far away to tell what kind of animal it was.

A second trailer was also seen entering the park.

Earlier Wednesday, police were seen walking around the animal enclosures to document their findings.

According to Virginia State Police, the search is expected to continue into Thursday.

10 News reached out to the Attorney General’s Office for comment and received the following response:

The Office of the Attorney General Animal Law Unit offers support and prosecution of animal cruelty cases upon request of a local Commonwealth’s Attorney or law enforcement agency. Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, we cannot comment further.

The Office of the Attorney General

The USDA said they are not a part of the search.

PETA issued a statement in response to the investigation, which can be found below:

PETA thanks the Office of the Attorney General for executing an investigative search warrant at Natural Bridge Zoo and hopes it will bring much-needed relief to the 40-year-old solitary elephant, Asha, and other long-neglected animals held there. The roadside zoo has long been the subject of public concern and PETA complaints to local, state, and federal agencies. Although female elephants are highly social animals who spend their entire lives with their families, Natural Bridge Zoo has kept Asha all alone—on a small patch of barren ground and chained at night in a barn—since 2005. She’s the last solitary African elephant in North America exploited in such a facility for rides, during which her handler carries a heavy steel-tipped weapon resembling a fireplace poker, known as a bullhook, as a reminder of the pain he will inflict on her if she doesn’t obey his every command. For years, Asha has swayed and bobbed her head, recognized signs of loneliness, boredom, and stress. PETA looks forward to sharing additional information about Asha’s condition and how she has been kept, pending the outcome of this search warrant.


10 News called the Rockbridge County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jared Moon, who told us that it’s a pending investigation and he can’t comment.

The Natural Bridge Zoo has been under fire by animal rights groups for nearly a decade. Learn more in the video below.

About the Authors

Amy Cockerham joined the 10 News team in January 2023.

Jazmine Otey joined the 10 News team in February 2021.

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