Zoo Blames Mom for 2-Year-Old’s Fatal Mauling In Wild African Dog Exhibit

Remember that horrible story about the 2-year-old who was mauled to death by wild dogs at the Pittsburgh zoo? Maddox Derkosh's mother, Elizabeth Derkosh, had lifted her child, who had trouble seeing, to view the dogs, who were in an enclosure 14 feet below. The boy suddenly lurched forward and fell into the pen and, bleeding from the fall, was engulfed by the pack of dogs. It's a devastating situation all the way around. Derkosh was cleared of wrong-doing in the matter, with the district attorney calling it a "tragic accident." Which it was. But hardly any devastating accident goes by without someone suing -- and of course, the family is suing the zoo. The zoo, however, says the accident was caused by the mom's "carelessness, negligence and/or recklessness."


The language is harsh -- and I'm sure the zoo wouldn't have used that language if it wasn't being sued and there weren't lawyers involved. But now someone has to blame someone. Can it not be that no one is to blame? Except maybe a human race that insists on putting wild animals in a pen so we can gawk at them?

Elizabeth could have never foreseen that her child would suddenly lurch forward and fall into the enclosure. The zoo couldn't have foreseen it. No one could have foreseen it.

This doesn't mean that maybe the zoo couldn't have had better safety measures. It doesn't mean that maybe the mom shouldn't have picked up her son.

Can a tragedy never just be a tragedy? Can we never just admit that shit, horrible shit, happens, and sometimes no one is recklessly at fault?

The wild dogs never asked to be put into a zoo. And if we're going to have zoos, and going to have people actually be able to see the animals in them, then you've got to have areas from which you can see the animals. Perhaps the zoo could have done a better job with safety. Reportedly, employees warned the zoo that the observation deck would invite parents to lift their children to the railing. The zoo says that visitors have a responsibility to act in a "reasonable and prudent" manner.

True, but people are so accustomed to animals in Disney movies, cracking jokes and dancing around, that we humans have forgotten that wild animals can and will kill you. But they kill a lot less of us than we do of them.

Do you think the mom or zoo was at fault? Or maybe no one was at fault?


Image via Luca Venturi Oslo/Flickr


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