Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Who Should Be In the Cages?

I'm certainly not an "animal rights" activist--but the killing of a wolf at the Menominee Park Zoo over the weekend really gets my goat.  (I don't use the term "euthanization" because that really means to put down a suffering animal as an act of mercy.  The wolf killed was not suffering.)  It became the innocent victim of the irresponsibility of humans.

Oshkosh officials have provided us with few details, so all we know so far is that a child of an undisclosed age accessed an off-limits area around the wolf enclosure at the zoo last Friday--stuck his or her fingers through the fence and had them bitten by the wolf.  How the child got into the area we don't know, but I have a hunch that his or her parents didn't take the child back there on their own.  Which raises the question: why was a child running around unsupervised at the zoo?  I understand that you cannot keep an eye on your child 24/7 but in a setting such as a zoo--with restricted areas that are obviously a bit dangerous--I would think that would be one time you'd want to keep the little ones close by.

Or maybe the parents actually did bring the kid back there.  They probably thought the "KEEP OUT" or "EMPLOYEES ONLY" sign didn't pertain to them.  Or maybe they thought they "deserved" a special "close encounter" with the wolves and that their child should be allowed to "pet" the animals.  There have been hundreds of incidents in just the past few years of people jumping into moats or climbing over fences to get into animal enclosures because they wanted to "play with the beautiful creatures".  And before you go blaming the wolf for this, keep in mind that while he lived in a pen, he was still a wild animal.  He didn't see humans as "friends".  And when he had something that smelled like fresh meat shoved in front of his face, he did what a wolf does--he bites it.

So the bite incident happens and unfortunately doctors need to know if the wolf has rabies in order to determine what treatment the child will require.  That leaves zoo officials no choice but to kill an otherwise healthy animal for testing.  Killing the wolf didn't "send a message" to the other wolves in the exhibit not to bite the hand of children who are where they are not supposed to be.  It was a waste of not just the animal, but the work and money put into the exhibit by the Zoological Society and the City to purchase these wolves to replace the original pack that all died off a few years ago.

The cherry on top of all of this would be if the family of the child now sued the city for its "negligence".  I'm sure they can find hundreds of lawyers willing to take the case--seeing as how nobody has deeper pockets than municipal governments and taxpayers.  The attorneys will argue that the zoo "failed to properly secure their off-limit areas".  A sign saying KEEP OUT is not sufficient--the door or gate should have been triple-locked.  They will also claim that the designers of the exhibit should have known that people would go where they weren't supposed to go and not allow trespassers to get so close to the animals.  I'd even bet there will be an argument that the holes in the fence should have been too small for any person--regardless of size--to stick even a single finger into the enclosure.  By the time that trial is over, the jury will believe the Menominee Park Zoo is a death trap and that visitors are at risk of being attacked at all times.

Of course, we could always put the visitors in cages at the zoo, in order to protect the animals from their stupidity.

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