A group called Defense of Animals has placed Utah’s Hogle Zoo on its list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants — and zoo officials strongly disagree.

Defense of Animals ranked Hogle eighth on its list, the first time the Salt Lake City zoo has been included. “We urge Utah’s Hogle Zoo to stop dominating elephants, shut down its cruel exhibit, and send its herd to accredited sanctuaries,” said group spokeswoman Fleur Dawes.

Hogle spokeswoman Erica Hansen pointed to the zoo's “well-trained team of experts” who do “an excellent job caring for our elephants on a daily basis.”

But, Dawes said, “Holding elephants in small, unnatural groupings is one of the worst cruelties imaginable for this social species. … This is what Hogle Zoo forces Christie and her 10-year-old calf, Zuri, to endure.”

The two have been Hogle’s only elephants since a third died in 2015; the Association of Zoos and Aquariums calls for a minimum of three at zoos.

Hansen said the Hogle is “working closely” with the AZA and Species Survival Plan “to increase the size of our herd, but that takes time. Our current master plan calls for a greater investment in elephants, with bigger barn, additional yards, and large walking paths. We are committed to the species.”

Defense of Animals also took Hogle to task because it “is located at high elevation” where temperatures are near or below freezing several months of the year — and “during cold weather, the elephants are confined inside barns.” Hansen, however, pointed out that the zoo’s Elephant Encounter includes “overhead heaters and heated concrete for year-round comfort.” The elephants are outside most of the year, and are “given the option” on cold days, when they often choose to be outside and “have been known to play in the snow.”