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

Heartbreaking 58

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


accidents, animals, death, in the news


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silve... silverdawn99

The mother is clearly at fault

there was warning signs everywhere saying not to place children on the guard rails but she did not follow those rules and she lost grip of her OWN child. Its her own damned stupidity that her child died. Take the blame for your own faults and stop trying to blame others for something you do

nonmember avatar Suni

Frankly I blame the mother too. She lifted a child above a fence. A fence that is there for a reason.

Eddie... EddiesMama83

I agree with the zoo. The mother shouldn't have placed her kid on the guard rail. She did something stupid and is trying to garner money from the zoo.

A.J.s... A.J.s_mommy

I do not feel they have any reason to sue the zoo. It was a horrible accident but not caused by the zoo.

kares... karesbears

I live in Pittsburgh and have grown up going to the zoo.  While I can only imagine that is devestating to lose your child, it must feel much worse to know that it is your fault.  Maybe suing the zoo is her attempt at mitigating her guilt.  The fact of the matter is on the viewing platform, it was clearly stated in numerous places not to place your child or basically anything you did not want to lose on the ledge of the fence. Not mention something that should have been common sense.  I have blamed the mother from the beginning, but knew it would only be a matter of time before she sued the zoo.  It's sad, it is a small zoo that many people have enjoyed for what seems like forever.  My only question to her... Is the money going to bring your child back?

Movie... Moviebuff

Not the zooo fault she was stupid.

Movie... Moviebuff

Not the zooo fault she was stupid.

nonmember avatar NoWay

From what I recall of this story, the mother had been warned by zoo employees not to put her child on the platforms at another exhibit before she even got to the wild dogs. And like others have said, there were signs saying not to do so. It was a tragic accident caused by the mother's negligence.

nonmember avatar Christie

I'm with everyone else. From the first minute I heard this story I said I can't imagine EVER putting my child's life in danger just so they can see an animal. We've been to the zoo many times and there are times when you walk up to a cage look in and can't see the animal, that's no excuse to try to get your child closer, and put them in danger in the process.

I also really have a problem with this line... " Except maybe a human race that insists on putting wild animals in a pen so we can gawk at them?" I am truly sick of people saying this about zoos and aquariums these places DO NOT go out into the wild and trap perfectly healthy prosperous animals from the wild, drag them back, and throw them into cages to be gawked at. These animals are rescues that had and have NO CHANCE of surviving in the wild, these people take them in, give them a place to live, food, water, and medical care. They have to charge for people to view them to raise the funds to feed, house, and care for the animals. F**K PETA and their propoganda

Kaela Wheeler

Our zoo has a lot of similar viewing areas...I know, especially after reading about this tragedy that I always stood a couple feet back from the railing so if my crazy toddler started flailing, he'd land on the landing, not in the cage. I'm trying to recall, I'm not positive, but I also seem to remember some of the enclosures having an inner fence and and outer ring of fencing so if someone went overboard (because people too are unpredictable), there was still a fence between them and the animals. Seems like a prudent safety feature (I still think the zoo is not at fault here though).

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