So it was with a heavy heart that I read an article where a wolf at the Menominee Park Zoo was put down because of the actions of people - any of which had they stopped and actually thought about things along the way, could have prevented the situation.
What do I mean by that?
A gate to a restricted area was left open. Had the employee made sure to do what they were supposed to, the area would have been secured. It might seem a small oversight, but when you have wild animals under your care - animals that depend on your for their safety and health, as well as depend on you to keep unauthorized people away, then that small oversight is a big deal.
A parent, who wanted a picture of the wolves in the exhibit CHOSE to go into a clearly marked restricted area. Not only that, the parent CHOSE to take their young child with them. Now as a parent myself, I remember when my daughter was young and constantly into things. Some place like, oh gee, a zoo meant I needed to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn't wander off, attempt to pull a feather from a peacock, climb up the rail and lean into the elephant exhibit, etc. So the parent made a bad error in judgement and placed the desire to get a picture, from an area they knew they were not allowed in to, to override their duty to their child.
As a result - while the parent was getting their picture of a beautiful wolf - their child was attempting to have its own encounter. Now many small children don't view dogs as a threat - and in fact view them as playful and a friend. This is natural. As we all know, wolves are the ancestral line for the modern dog - so to a small child, they can appear to be one and the same. So it should come as no surprise that the child attempted to pet and/or play with the wolf through the less rigorously controlled fencing. Zoo enclosures are regulated strictly by AZA to protect patrons. Zoo keeper areas are a little more relaxed because they are behind gates, and the relationship necessitates some access to the animals by the keepers. So in this situation, the child was able to get close enough to the WILD WOLF that it, feeling threatened, nipped at the child.
As a result - there was a potential for rabies.
Now here is where things get a little rocky. Rabies vaccines have not been "proven" completely effective for wolves - because to prove the effectiveness you have to kill the animal and dissect the brain after first giving the vaccine and then introducing the rabies virus. For a species we are trying to increase numbers of - killing off the required amount to prove the effectiveness of the vaccine is unnecessary. Those in the zoo who are in danger of being bitten have all had the necessary vaccine themselves.
So with potential exposure, even thought the wolf had had the vaccine, without the 'proven effectiveness' of the vaccine - there were only three possibilities.
1. Wait and see - which is not a good option, since there is no cure for rabies- just a preventative. So had the wolf had rabies, and infected the child, the child would have died.
2. Kill the wolf, dissect the brain - and then if it showed positive, give the child the rabies vaccine series of shots. If this is done quick enough, the child survives.
3. Just go ahead and give the child the series of shots.
The parents were given the choice of what they wanted done.
What did they chose? Option 2.
Now I understand the rabies vaccines are not comfortable. In fact, they hurt. And we are not talking just one injection, but a series of them. Having worked in animal rehab myself, I have enough friends who have had the vaccines to know they are not pleasant.
That said - because of the zoo employee messing up, because of the parent choosing to go into a restricted area and then further compounding the situation by NOT WATCHING THEIR CHILD, the wolf was put down. The wolf did not attack viciously. It didn't charge or aggressively come after the child. A stranger was in its 'safe place' attempting to touch it, and the animal simply reacted.
I know, had it been me, and I was the parent who acted foolishly, I would have opted for my child to have the vaccine and more than likely, would have gotten my own set - not because of any fear of the disease, but to suffer as my child was. I know that I would not have opted to kill an innocent creature for my own stupidity.
So what about you? Any thoughts on this situation?