Dr. Timothy Reichard, the Toledo Zoo's chief veterinarian for the last 22 years, was fired last week.
Dr. Reichard, a popular member of the zoo community, confirmed he was terminated Feb. 28.
"They've been working for a month to get me to sign a resignation letter and release agreement," the veterinarian said last night. When he continued to refuse administrative pressure, the zoo fired him, he said.
Dr. Reichard declined to go into details of his dispute with the zoo, saying, "Right now I want to pursue reinstatement."
Employees were notified of Dr. Reichard's departure mid-week. Some staff members said they were told the veterinarian resigned, which Dr. Reichard said was inaccurate. Zoo Director Bill Dennler did not return calls regarding the firing.
Andi Norman, zoo spokesman, said Dr. Reichard was "no longer with the zoo." She declined to say more, calling the issue a "personnel matter" requiring confidentiality.
The zoo has another veterinarian, Dr. Wynona Shellabarger.
Dr. Thomas Mowery, a veterinarian and part owner of High Point Animal Hospital, has assisted at the zoo for the last 15 years. He called Dr. Reichard's dismissal "the biggest blow to the zoo they've had for a long time."
"He has just put his heart and soul into the zoo forever," Dr. Mowery said.
Dr. Mowery said he would no longer offer his pro-bono services to the zoo. "Dr. Reichard is exceptional, a very well-respected colleague."
"It's just unfortunate. Dr. Reichard has done so many positive things with the Toledo Zoo. He is such a gifted individual, period," Dr. Mowery said.
"When it comes to levies they're going to need to be passing - I've never questioned to vote for one. I'm going to have some big question marks from here on out," Dr. Mowery said.
Andrea Walters, who was a primate keeper until a year ago, when she decided to stay home and raise a newborn son, said she was shocked to learn of Dr. Reichard's dismissal.
"I couldn't believe they really did it. I think he's fabulous. He's a huge asset to the community and an irreplaceable asset to the zoo. I really can't speak highly enough of him. Not only was he incredible as far as his technical skills, but as far as his emotional investment and support of the keeper staff, he was incredible."
A western Pennsylvania native, Dr. Reichard grew up on a farm and worked with animals most of his life.
He lost his left hand in a farming accident when he was a senior in high school, but has said that has not been a serious impairment in his work.
After receiving a master's degree in wildlife biology and management from Michigan State University, he went to work for a Seattle company. However, when he found himself tied more and more to a desk, he entered veterinary school at Washington State University.
When he finished that program, he went to work for the San Diego Zoo, where he completed a two-year internship before beginning to look for full-time work.
Shortly after he arrived in Toledo in 1982, he began updating and improving record-keeping systems and interviewing zoo employees about the medical histories of the animals.
He also worked with curators to make sure that the animals were fed properly and not under too much stress from their living conditions.
He also performed dental work. One of the first things he did when he arrived at the zoo was to stop allowing the public to feed the animals because the junk food was rotting their teeth.
He increased the use of squeeze cages to hold animals during veterinary work.
Dr. Reichard appeared on the zoo's former weekly television show, Zoo Today.
Contact Jenni Laidman at: email@example.com or 419-724-6507.