I am sure you have heard the news by now, a 4 year old boy fell into a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo this past weekend. He was retrieved by 450 lb. male Gorilla named Harambe. Due to the threat to the safety of the small child being in the possession of one of the strongest wild animals in the world the unfortunate - but correct - decision to shoot the animal to save the boy was made by zoo officials. The boy was saved, end of story correct? Nope, not in this era of constant outrage, ridiculousness and a bizarre national pattern of people caring more about animals than other human beings.
News starting breaking yesterday and continues today that the family of the boy will be the focus of an investigation into the incident. Cincinnati police said Tuesday that their review "is only regarding the actions of the parents/family that led up to the incident and not related to the operation or safety of the Cincinnati Zoo." "After the review, we will determine if charges need to be brought forward," police spokeswoman Tiffaney Hardy said. "If it is determined charges need to be brought forward, we would then discuss it with the Hamilton County prosecutor's office."
Perhaps I am jumping the gun here and this investigation will reveal that the parents are part of a large underground crime syndicate of parents chucking children into wild animal exhibits - but I get the sense that what happened here is a family with four children went to the zoo, that a mother was distracted for just a moment, and the child climbed up on a rail and tumbled into this exhibit.
So what exactly are the parents being investigated for? And what "charges" might the police be thinking about bringing? This entire "investigation" seems completely ridiculous and I am quite frankly embarrassed for those who are advocating for the parents prosecution. Let's assume for a moment that the this was a simple case of a parent taking their eye off their child. Who among us parents has not taken our eye off of our child at a playground or a supermarket, a public pool or a sporting event, only to turn around to find our child is no longer where we thought they were. A moment of panic sets in, we frantically scan the crowd for our child, perhaps we even shout their name and low and behold we find them...wandering off toward the ice cream stand, following other children to a different part of a park, gazing into the case of donuts at the grocery store. It only takes a second and each and every one of us is guilty of it. So if we criminalize this behavior, if we as a society charge these parents with neglect and child endangerment as the online petition proposes, aren't we headed down a slippery slope where any one of us can be charged for taking our eyes of our children?
I indicated in the heading that there is an Oshkosh connection to this story. Almost exactly a year ago a wolf at the Oshkosh zoo was put down after it "nipped" a child who slipped into an area that was off-limits to the public. The concern was whether the animal might have been exposed to rabies prior to nipping the child. The only way to be sure was to euthanize the animal to examine it's brain. It came back negative and the child was cleared. It was an unfortunate necessity to euthanize the animal and the parents were probably negligent for letting the child wander off, but it wasn't criminal and neither is what happened at the Cincinnati zoo.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!