This weekend, many patrons of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium witnessed sheer horror as a child was mauled to death by African painted dogs.
The attack happened on Sunday morning, reports CBS Pittsburgh. The two-year old victim was visiting the zoo with his mother. The mother put the boy on the railing so that he could get a better view of the dogs. He lost balance on the railing and fell over eleven feet into the dog pen.
According to reports, he was attacked by eleven dogs. Ten of the eleven dogs were secured by zoo staff. One dog was shot at the scene.
Now, the question that authorities are asking is whether the boy died from the fall or from the attack.
In either case, the boy's death will present some issues of liability for the zoo. Animal attacks aren't as rare as they should be, and there have been several deaths at animal parks in the past few years.
Back in 2007, the San Francisco Zoo had a notorious story and accompanying lawsuit involving a tiger attack. In that case, three young men were attacked, with one of the men dying as a result of the attack.
The San Francisco lawsuit alleged negligence, claiming that he zoo officials had ignored employee warnings that the enclosure wall housing the tigers was not tall enough. Consequently, the tigers were able to jump the enclosure and attack the men.
Pittsburgh Zoo might be faced with a similar problem. Was the painted dogs enclosure substandard? Did any aspect of it fall beneath industry norms? Was there any reason to believe that such an accident could occur?
These are all questions that zoo officials will be struggling with over the coming weeks and months.
But the mother of the boy is not off the hook, either. While she won't be liable for the death, her mistake could cost her in a lawsuit. If she is found negligent, in any part, in the boy's death, her damages in the lawsuit could be reduced by her proportion of the negligence.
And if her negligence is found to be greater than the zoo's negligence, she won't be able to collect damages at all.
The zoo is closed until further notice.
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