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Could the fatal Pittsburgh Zoo accident have been prevented?

This morning, hundreds of people gathered at a Pittsburgh-area church to say goodbye to the two-year-old boy that died at the Pittsburgh Zoo earlier this week. The series of events that led to the boy's death was shocking, to say the least: the child fell over a guardrail and dropped 14 feet to the ground of the African painted dog exhibit. When he fell to the ground, the animals attacked.

Now, many are wondering who, if anyone, is to blame for that tragic accident, questioning whether and how it could have been prevented. Wild animals are just that - wild - and they pose a danger to anyone that comes in contact with them, regardless of how long they have lived in captivity. So is the zoo responsible for not putting the proper precautions in place and, by doing so, for failing to keep the boy and other patrons safe?

The answer to this and all of the other questions raised by this horrifying accident remain. Recently, however, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a list of other similar incidents that have taken place at the zoo over the past 25 years.

In March 1990, a zoo volunteer was giving a dolphin named Chuckles a sponge bath when the dolphin bit the volunteer's finger. That was not an isolated incident: Chuckles also bit three zoo visitors during his 32-year life at the zoo.

In July 1989, an animal keeper was trying to give medicine to an African elephant named Tribby when the animal kicked him. The keeper suffered cuts, bruises and a broken leg. A similar accident took place in November 2002, when an elephant handler was killed after being repeatedly head-butted in the chest by a mother elephant.

What do you think? Could the zoo have prevented the fatal accident?

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Other Pittsburgh Zoo incidents," Nov. 6, 2012

At our Pennsylvania law firm, our attorneys handle cases like those discussed above. To learn more about injuries that take place on a commercial property, please see our premises liability page.

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