Santa Barbara Zoo Announces Bradley The Golden Retriever, the Zoo's First Ambassador Dog

Bradley, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s first Ambassador Dog.

Bradley, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s first Ambassador Dog.

The Santa Barbara Zoo announced today that its latest addition is a ten-month old Golden Retriever named Bradley, who is in training to be the Zoo’s first Ambassador Dog.

As Ambassador Dog, Bradley’s overall duty “is to connect with Zoo guests so they can understand and care about all animals, especially those in the wild animals.”

“Bradley can connect with people in ways many of our other animals can’t,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the Zoo’s Vice President of Animal Care & Health. “If people care about animals, then they are more likely to want to save them in the wild by preserving habitat, making sustainable choices, and other actions we talk about here at the Zoo.”

Dr. Barnes reports that Bradley is still young, so the training is takes place at his pace and is going quite well.

Bradley with Kristen Wieners

Bradley with Kristen Wieners

If it goes as hoped, Bradley will eventually participate in keeper talks on subjects like responsible pet choices and animal training using positive reinforcement. He may be involved in education programs such as Zoo Camp. He might provide outreach to local schools, retirement homes, hospitals, and elsewhere.

“Though they might catch sight of him with his handlers and wearing his ‘In Training’ vest, Bradley is not ready to meet the public,” adds Barnes. “Currently, we tell people not to make a special visit to the Zoo just to see him. He’s rarely visible and not on a regular schedule.”

About Bradley’s Training

As with the Zoo’s other animal residents, Bradley is trained using positive reinforcement, meaning he is rewarded for good behaviors and following instructions, and ignored or redirected for negative behaviors. The Zoo has retained a professional dog trainer who works with Bradley most days and is training specific staff to work with him as well.

“The goal is to guide him into making the right choices on his own,” says Dr. Barnes. “The training is currently going well, but will last as long as needed. Some training will continue indefinitely, to keep Bradley engaged as an ambassador dog.”

About Bradley

Bradley is an English Cream Golden Retriever who was born on May 12, 2018. The “English Cream” refers to the light color of his fur. His original family lived in Northridge and had him as a young puppy. A family member’s unexpected medical development made it impossible for them to care for a puppy. The Zoo adopted him when he was nine months old.

“Zoo staff spent six months visiting dog rescue facilities and following leads for a dog with the right temperament to be trained as our ambassador,” said Dr. Barnes. “Bradley has what we were looking for.”

Bradley lives at the Zoo. It is hoped that he will eventually make visits to local schools, retirement homes, hospitals, and community events, but that depends on his training.

His sleeping area is in a heated office. The Zoo’s security guard checks on him several times during the night and gives Bradley toilet breaks. Bradley has a fenced exercise and play area on Cabrillo Lawn, across from Cats of Africa. There he is allowed to run free and play, and have play dates with specially selected dogs. During breaks from training, Bradley also has “Sniff Time” while on the leash, when he is allowed to follow his nose and explore the Zoo.

“Zoo animals are not unfamiliar with dogs, as service dogs sometimes accompany guests,” says Dr. Barnes. “However, his presence does help reinforce that the sight or smell of a dog is normal. So far, Bradley has responded well to zoo animals by remaining calm in their presence. Acclimating him to the other animals that live at the zoo is part of his training.”

Bradley is sponsored by a local family that wishes to remain anonymous and is recognized at the Zoo simply as “Jackson and Alaia.”

Dogs in Zoos

Ambassador dogs are not uncommon in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). The Oklahoma Zoo debuted canine animal ambassador Max, a two-year-old terrier mix, in summer 2018. Other zoos with ambassador dogs include the Denver Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (Tacoma, Washington) and Rosamond Gifford Zoo (Syracuse New York).

While dogs are sometimes used as companion animals for specific species, Bradley does not go into any animal enclosures.

The Santa Barbara Zoo provided dog companions for African lion cub Kiki when she was being hand-raised in 2004. The San Diego Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, and Metro Richmond Zoo, among others, have had companion dogs for cheetah cubs.

The Santa Barbara Zoo

Known as one of the world’s most beautiful zoos, the Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres of botanic gardens and is home to nearly 500 individual animals in open, naturalistic habitats. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), representing the highest level of animal care, and participates in AZA endangered species programs for Asian elephant, California condor, island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. A private 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the Santa Barbara Zoo depends on community support, not tax dollars, for operations and improvements. Visit

The Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; general admission $18 for adults, $13 for seniors 64+, $11 for children 2-12, and free for children under 2. Parking is $11.

Dog Park Slated for Westlake Village in Spring 2018

Update 9/30/17:  Slated opening date is late Spring 2018.

Update 7/2/17: Final plans in place for the new dog park. It will open in late fall 2017. On-street parking along Oak Crest Drive will be available for approximately 25 cars. More details at

Posted 9/2/16: In April 2016, the City of Westlake Village City Council approved a plan to design and construct a dog park on a 1.19 acre city-owned parcel at the southwest corner of Oak Crest Drive and Agoura Road.

Oak Crest Drive and Agoura Road actually happens twice. This intersection is the one closer to Lindero Canyon (the other one is at City Hall).

Dog park is slated to go in at the southwest corner of Agoura Road and Oak Creek Drive in 2017.

Dog park is slated to go in at the southwest corner of Agoura Road and Oak Creek Drive in 2017.

The plan is for a 14,160 sq ft small dog area and 18,120 sq ft large dog area with separate entrances. Other features include natural turf, pet washing stations, seating, drinking fountains, trash and pet waste receptacles and security lighting.

The total budget is $830,300 and the project is scheduled to begin in February 2017.

Petco Coming to Janss Marketplace in the Fall of 2017

We recently learned that Petco will be opening later this year, probably in the fall time frame, at Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks. It will be on the east side of the mall, next to the ULTA Beauty that is anticipated to open in the same time frame. 

The old Rite Aid space will be renovated for these new businesses. 

Speaking of pet stores, the new Pet Food Express at the Conejo Valley Plaza Shopping Center is slated to open next month.

Grand Opening of the Springville Dog Park in Camarillo on Friday, September 28th

The Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District & Friends of Camarillo Dog Parks celebrates the Grand Opening of Springville Dog Park at 801 Via Zamora, Camarillo on Friday, September 28th from 5:30-6:30pm. All people and pooches are invited.

The event will begin with a ribbon cutting followed by light refreshments and treats for humans and pups alike.  Bring the whole family for a fun evening at the new Springville Dog Park!

Donate to Springville Dog Park! Purchase an engraved DONOR BRICK to show your support and pave the dog park entrance. Buy a brick for your favorite dog or dog owner as a gift!  What a great gift to give to any dog lover you know?  Your donation will support your local dog park and be memorialized with a personalized brick.  Learn more at

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Off Leash Dog Park Pilot Program at Two Camarillo Parks Starts on June 13th

The Pleasant Valley Recreation & Park District Board of Directors recently approved an off-leash pilot program at two parks beginning Monday, June 13. A designated area of each park is available for off-leash use Monday - Friday from 6am - 9am and 5pm - 7pm.


Mission Oaks Park: See map for designated off-leash area

Springville Park: See map for designated off-leash area

Please be considerate of others and do not allow your dog to be off-leash outside the designated times and locations. This is a pilot program and off-leash hours will be in effect until September.

Looking for another location to exercise your pooch? Check out Camarillo Grove Park.