Ellen Trout Zoo to allow open carry despite confusion

Ellen Trout Zoo to allow open carry despite confusion
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's one of the last places you'd expect to see a gun but following the new Open-Carry law, on your next visit to the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, you just might.

"The zoo is owned and operated by the City; we are a department of the municipal government," said Gordon Henley.

A unique position in that the Ellen Trout Zoo is built on public land which is owned by the city and receives its funding from the city as well. Meaning…

"We are bound by all the laws that affect city hall, the public works department or any of the other departments of the city," Henley said.

And since you can open-carry inside those places, you can in Lufkin's zoo too. Other zoos across Texas including those in Dallas and Houston have already opted out, resulting in a number of visitor complaints.

Some zoos make the argument that they are educational institutions. And despite Ellen Trout educating over 10,000 people a year through various programs, many still argue…

"Since we don't give diplomas or degrees or certificates or bonafide academic credentials, that we're a not real education center," Henley said.

Whether you agree or not, the law in place and for zoo officials at Ellen Trout, it's a decision that brings uncertainty for the future.

"We just don't know what to expect. So far it hasn't been an issue with us," Henley said.

And after 131,000 thousand visitors in 2015, zoo officials are hoping it stays that way.

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