Are Child Deaths Involving Wild Animals Accidents or Plain Ole Neglect?

Besides all of the other egregious news headlines of terrorists attacks, racial and social divide and just plain ole day to day crime, two stories in particular involving children being attacked (and in one case killed) by wild animals have gained international attention and raised serious dialogue about child neglect and whether or not parents should be held responsible when “accidents” happen.

Back in May 2016, a 3 yr. old Cincinnati boy wandered off from his mother and accidently fell into a gorilla exhibit at the city’s Brookfield Zoo. The terrifying incident was captured on video as terrified onlookers, including the boy’s parents and zoo officials, frantically grappled on how to rescue the small child from the grips of the massive 17 year old mammal before it attacked. In the end, the zoo officials decided to shoot and kill the 450 lb. gorilla rather further risk the child’s life. Animal lovers and activists cried foul and held vigils in the name of the slain gorilla, Harambe. Shortly after, Cincinnati police began investigating the parents for child neglect. In the end, officials decided not to prosecute the family, setting off a storm of controversy with many blaming the boy’s mother for failing to “control her child.”

Fast-forward to mid June 2016, a 2 yr. old Nebraska boy was vacationing with his family at Walt Disney in Orlando, Florida. The family was attending movie night outdoors at the Grand Floridian resort when the boy waded into about a foot of water in the Seven Seas Lagoon. Witnesses, including the boy’s horrified parents, tried to save him as a gator dragged him underwater. According to reports, there were multiple danger signs warning visitors against swimming in the waters. No word on if charges will soon follow, but the tragedy has raised even more controversy on whether the parents were neglectful in this particular matter. So far the public outcry has been that of support for this family. A total of at least 5 alligators were euthanized in attempts to recover the boy’s remains.

I try to not judge anyone’s parenting, especially in such traumatic situations such as these. Though I am not a parent, I would have to agree that parenting has got to be one of the most challenging “jobs” ever. There’s no step by step manual. However, I do believe that the parents’ main focal point should be to protect and keep their child safe -to the best of their ability. Even animals of the wild practice the law of protecting their young.

In these scenarios where the family is grieving the loss of their child, it is hard to imagine pointing a finger of fault at the parents, but nonetheless it raises the question of why a parent would not keep a closer eye on a 2 year old, especially around swampy waters accompanied with danger warnings all around. To me, that could be defined as neglect but it’s certainly not that cut and dry.

There is a big difference in an accident and actually allowing or putting a child directly in harm’s way, and most of us don’t believe tragedies will happen to us therefore we might not exercise proper caution at all times. When a child is involved does that constitute neglect?

Careful not to compare apples to oranges because both incidents are clearly horrifying accidents in which the kids were put in extreme danger for being typical curious 2 & 3 yr. olds. Kids are inquisitive and fearless little beings, especially little boys. Can you blame parents?

Both are tragic, but the real question is why one family received backlash for not keeping a close eye on their child and the other received public support. In both cases animals were killed as a result of possible parent neglect, but there was no public outcry for the 5 alligators euthanized, only the gorilla.

Either way, these stories are still horribly gut wrenching and if nothing else will hopefully heighten awareness surrounding child neglect, pinpointing the truthful dangers of not keeping an close eye (and hand) on kids, especially around animals. Who is to blame when something like this goes wrong?

What’s your opinion?

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