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Nicoletti Walker Law Group May 11, 2016

Many heard about the terribly tragic incident of a zookeeper being killed by a Malayan tiger in South Florida’s zoo recently. In spite of an ongoing investigation into what exactly happened, the zoo actually reopened to the public on April 18th, leaving many wondering whether the desire for profit is superseding the need to ensure that the public itself is protected from an attack.

One thing is known: The staff member killed was the zoo’s lead keeper who had worked there for some years and had “extensive experience” in managing large cats like tigers, indicating that the tragedy is not likely due to her own error. One of the agencies investigating the incident is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—the same agency that insisted that SeaWorld trainers no longer directly interact with killer whales to provide entertainment for crowds after one was killed.

Is This an Inherently Dangerous Liability Issue?

What kind of protection can folks who work at or visit a zoo expect, exactly? While this particular tiger was held in a contained area—an exhibit closed off to the public—that does not necessarily mean that it is fully equipped to prevent injuries to both employees and zoo attendees in other areas of the facility. There are also protocols in place to try and ensure that employees stay protected, but as mentioned in this case, this victim followed all of those protocols on a daily basis.

According to experts, facilities like the one where this incident took place are ripe for incidents like this precisely because areas where they are fed and sleep (in this instance, the “tiger night house”) are where they feel the most comfortable and thus trained to see that area as their territory. In fact, there are fatal maulings connected with zoos and similar facilities all over the world. Some feel that, by nature, confining them to small spaces when they are used to expansive home ranges will inevitably bring out this kind of aggressive behavior, all linked to their own stress, anxiety, and frustration.

Indeed, this is an issue not only for those working at these facilities, but those visiting them with their family. Wild animals at these zoos and parks have attacked patrons before, and when it comes to wild animals, facilities can be held strictly liable for injuries that they cause. Facilities can also be found negligent if they do not properly house a species based on that specific species and the damage it could cause to the public.

Contact Us for Assistance

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed as the result of negligence—including incidents linked to animal-related injuries—a lawyer can help. Clearwater attorney Mike Walker has handled many personal injury and wrongful death cases like these—including those that occur while a family is on vacation. He is prepared to help you—contact him today for a free consultation.