Animals at Zoos – Not as Cute as They Appear!

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If your family outing this week includes a visit to a zoo or wildlife park, you know how exciting it can be to be up close and personal with those critters. Many spectators enroll in feeding sessions, animal petting opportunities, safari trips and other ways to see and visit with animals we would never see in the suburbs. We believe that the authorities and park rangers know our risks and dangers, and that they would never put us in harm’s way. But what about those of us who still want to take chances—on our own? Doing so may not be the best way to ensure that we will see the animals again.

We hear of incidents where parents put their children on the safety walls, and the child falls into the wild dog enclosure. We know that even the best of instructors can be injured as in the Sea World incident involving trainers and killer whales. We’ve heard of elephant or lions pulling children and adults into their cages when the feeding hand gets a little too close. And, sadly, we have all heard of campers and hikers who try to take photos or feed animals they find on their journey, and end up not so lucky in the end.

The main thing to remember is that if it’s a “wild animal park” chances are the animal will be wild. It is that simple. No matter how well trained or how passive the animals appear, anything could trigger an animal to attack. Such reasons could include:

  • Protecting their young. You may not immediately see any small animals in the area, but Mama Bear knows right where her cubs are and how she needs to protect them from any foreign object that could cause harm.
  • A sparkle of clothing or a color they don’t like. This might just be the day that the animal has had “the final straw” and you happen to be wearing clothing that has a shiny button or accessory.
  • Slight or overt invasion of their territory. Particularly in the wild, animals to have set boundaries. Don’t find out too late that you might be overstepping that boundary.
  • Taking chances. When it comes to wild animals, or animals in enclosures, don’t take any chances that put you in a situation out of the ordinary.

When visiting a zoo or wildlife park, here are some ways to protect yourself:

  • Be smart about the situation. It may be tempting to put your child on the railing because you know you will have a strong grip. But if your child squirms or becomes scared, that mishandling could result in a fatal fall into a wild animal enclosure.
  • Never reach beyond the animal barrier established by the zoo.
  • Never taunt or entice the animals to do something like jump, growl or run toward the part of the cage where you are.
  • Act passively. This means, do not jump around, scream, yell or run from a wild animal.
  • Take precautions by reading up on how to project yourself from a wild animal attack should you encounter one on a trail or hike.

Wild animals are dangerous, no matter what the situation. If you or someone you know has been injured by a wild animal at a zoo or other public viewing location, the challenges will be difficult in showing who may have been at fault. Start by finding a law firm who knows how to handle those challenges so you can resolve your case sooner than later.