The fatal property accident occurred on Nov. 4 when the mother lifted her son up on the side of a viewing platform so he could better see the African painted dog exhibit. According to police reports, the mother was holding the boy in her arms when he suddenly and unexpectedly lunged forward, causing her to lose her grip of him. Zoo officials were unable to get him out of the exhibit before he was killed by the animals.

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According to media reports, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. decided not to file charges against the mother of the deceased 2-year-old boy after determining that the accident was just that: an accident. As such, he determined, the mother was not at fault for the events that led up to the incident or for her son’s death.

It remains to be seen whether the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium will face charges, either criminal or civil, in connection with the fatal accident. Many people are of the opinion that the zoo should have taken additional precautions to protect zoo visitors from falling into the African painted dog pen and other exhibits. Reports indicate that the boy may have believed that there was a glass enclosure between him and the pen, which is why he leaned forward and lost his balance. Clearly, there should have been such a protection there for him and other zoo patrons.

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Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “A tragic accident: DA rightly spares a mom from charges in zoo death,” Nov. 30, 2012

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