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Sequester Panda-monium: ThinkProgress Blames Zoo Escape on Budget Cut

The sequester has apparently reared its ugly head once again — except, in this situation, it’s actually pretty cute: a young red panda, Rusty, escaped from the National Zoo today. Faster than Rusty could scamper away from his keepers, ThinkProgress was quick to blame this breakout on the sequester.

“While everyone is hoping for Rusty’s safe return, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the decrepit state of America’s zoo system — and what that says about America’s budget priorities,” reporter Zack Beauchamp writes. (Rusty has since been found and returned.) He details that the Smithsonian Institute saw $40 million in cuts due to the sequester, which could have resulted in Rusty’s day on the lam.

Although he notes that “no one knows yet if sequestration-related cutbacks set the stage” for Rusty’s getaway, Beauchamp calls for more spending on public zoos, which he claims are “chronically underfunded.” He cites examples of hiring freezes and trainers having to take on more animals. It’s unclear what this has to do with Rusty’s escape, which the National Zoo has yet to nail down either.

Zoo workers discovered that Rusty was missing from his enclosure early this morning and shortly sounded a “Code Green” at 8 a.m. The red panda was found around 2:15 p.m. in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington, D.C. and crated back to the National Zoo.

Even though everything ended happily ever after, Beauchamp urges readers to not take this matter lightly. “There’s a general point here: if the United States wants to have nice things, it needs to adequately pay for them,” he concludes, still leaving open “whether or not Rusty’s escape is Congress’ fault.”

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