Patterico's Pontifications


San Francisco Zoo Update

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 2:20 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The director of the SF Zoo admits the wall around the tigers’ den was too low:

“The director of the zoo where a teenager was killed by an escaped Siberian tiger acknowledged today that the wall around the animal’s enclosure was 12 1/2 feet — well below the height recommended by the main accrediting agency for the nation’s zoos. According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the minimum recommended height for tiger exhibit walls is 16.4 feet.

San Francisco Zoo Director Manuel A. Mollinedo said safety inspectors had examined the wall and never raised red flags about its size. “When the AZA came out and inspected our zoo three years ago, they never noted that as a deficiency,” Mollinedo said. “Obviously now that something’s happened, we’re going to be revisiting the actual height.”

On Wednesday, Mollinedo said that the wall was 18 feet high, and that the moat around the tiger’s pen was 20 feet wide. Today, Mollinedo said the moat was 33 feet wide.

Investigators have yet to say how the 300-pound tiger got out of the pen. But based on the initial estimates of the height of the wall, animal experts expressed disbelief that a tiger in captivity could make such a spectatular [sic] leap.

The accrediting association did not immediately return calls for comment today about the height of the wall.”

It’s hard to understand how the Zoo director could claim a 12-1/2 foot wall was 18 feet tall. That’s a significant difference. Coming on the heels of the zookeeper’s injuries last year that were held to be the Zoo’s fault, this is a serious blemish on the Zoo’s management. (Not to mention fodder for a big lawsuit.)

An earlier post on this is here.


110 Responses to “San Francisco Zoo Update”

  1. If the moat was 5 1/2 feet deep, then the outer wall could have been 18 feet tall measured from the base, but a net 12 1/2 feet tall in comparison to the risen tiger pen on the other side of the moat.

    aunursa (1b5bad)

  2. Is it too much to expect to hear what the brothers Dhaliwal, who were standing by the enclosure, told police?

    They’re matching their shoe prints with prints found on top of a railing.

    steve (35d5f7)

  3. I think aunursa has it; the differences in height on the inside (with and without the moat filled) and the outside (which is really not important.)

    htom (412a17)

  4. Now I’ve seen two drawings, and the numbers make no sense (or little) and the expectation of safety none.

    The moat was dry, and 33′ wide, so IMAO it was just a good place to get a running leap up the wall, which was only 12′ from the bottom of the moat. (The drop from the tiger area to the bottom of the moat looked to be half of the 12′, could someone have added six and twelve to get eighteen?)

    htom (412a17)

  5. Why was the moat dry? Did it say whether the moat was dry when this happened? Maybe they drained the moat after-the-fact.

    DRJ (09f144)

  6. Here’s the fuller story on the grotto’s measurements from the SF Chronicle, probably the best source at this point. Also, DRJ, in all the zoos I’ve visited “moats” are just big concrete ditches built between the animal’s area and where the people are. I think it’s a term of art and they’re not designed to be filled with water. They’re just designed to be too far for the animal to leap over and deep enough for the animal to leap up out of (maybe the problem here).

    JayHub (0a6237)

  7. That may be. My zoo experience is primarily at the Forth Worth Zoo and whenever I visited, the big cat boundaries have always had water.

    DRJ (09f144)

  8. JayHub’s link casts doubt on earlier reports about dangling legs:

    “On Wednesday, sources had said that authorities found a shoe and blood on the grass inside the tiger enclosure; today, Police Chief Heather Fong said there was no shoe found in the grotto. A shoe was discovered near where the third victim was attacked, she said, and a shoeprint was also found on the railing of the waist-high fence surrounding the grotto.

    “We have all three pairs of shoes from the victims, and now we will see if any of them matches the footprint (on the fence),” she said.

    Police have consistently downplayed the idea that the victims may have taunted the tiger, even though Mollinedo told The Chronicle on Wednesday that it was likely that the animal was provoked, noting that “a couple of feet dangling over the edge could possibly have done it.”

    I’m sure this Zoo director wants to protect his animals but he seems to be a source of speculative and possibly incorrect information.

    DRJ (09f144)

  9. Some team of lawyers are going to make a lot of money here.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  10. DRJ, you comment on wet moats intrigued me and I found the following in an article on Modern Zoo Design. Seems they do both and it’s probably more than you or I ever wanted to know about zoo moats. One point to note in the SF Chron article was that the SF Zoo enclosure was built in 1940. I think the SF Zoo moat was a two-sided dry moat. See picture at:


    * Dry moats are preferred over wet moats as it reduces water requirements and stagnation of water
    * Water acts as a psychological barrier in some animals for them wet moats are preferred.

    Dry moat-one sided dry moat – Suitable for more flighty animals or where visibility of the moat is unavoidable. Alternatively, the slope can be left as earth (with suitable planting). Erosion is then a risk.

    Dry moat-two sided dry moat – The inner vertical well acts to deter animals from getting into the moat. The depth and width has to be proportioned to suit each species and its abilities.

    Wet moats-shallow wet moat – Suitable for animals with a positive fear of water (that may even deter jumping over the water). and/or strongly territorial animals. Water depth should be shallow to reduce the risk of occidental drowning.

    Wet moats-one sided wet moat – As a rule, wet moats should not be two sided, unless very shallow. The initial slope is necessary to forewarn the animal of the increasing depth when visual clues are not available. Gradient and texture of the slope need to be considered for each species.”

    JayHub (0a6237)

  11. JayHub,

    I’m interested in understanding why things work the way they do so I’m glad you looked into it. Thanks.

    DRJ (09f144)

  12. The media cartel sensationalism guarantees a conspiracy.

    jim (5959f6)

  13. While water would make it more difficult for the tigers to jump, AFAICR, tigers are quite fond of water. At least, Bengals are. Not sure about Siberians.

    Rob Crawford (8578d9)

  14. According to some reports, the 17 year old had his foot over the fence, teasing the tiger.

    Young male challenges wild animal.
    Sometimes, the wild animal wins.

    How many tens of thousands of years has this been going on?

    I salute both the 17 year old male and the tiger.

    TomHynes (6c3e12)

  15. Siberians prefer snow.

    I have visited about 10 zoos, and do not ever recall seeing a wet moat for big cats.

    NCC (d671ab)

  16. That’s interesting. I guess I need to see more zoos. FWIW, here’s a link to the Fort Worth Zoo tiger/elephant/rhino exhibit called Asian Falls.

    DRJ (09f144)

  17. I bet a tiger could scale even an 18 foot wall if he really wanted to.

    gp (3c266f)

  18. At the zoo in syracuse. The Lion area is built against the side of a building so that you walk through and there’s a glass wall to view them through. It has a big pool and a waterfall and it’s rare to ever see them not hanging around in the water. The tigers are out on the nature trail and have a small pool to drink out of but I don’t recall seeing them in the water very much.

    Taltos (4dc0e8)

  19. There are Amur (Siberian) tigers in the Minnesota Zoo, about a mile from here. So many times we’ve heard Mommy or Daddy tell the kids, “tigers don’t like water, you’re safe”, while watching them pacing around in their moated ten acre display in the blazing summer heat. Then one of the tigers goes and sits in the waterfall, yawning as the water bounces off of his head, while one of the others goes for a swim in the moat. Mommy and Daddy have a hard time explaining this.

    htom (412a17)

  20. The San Diego Zoo website says tigers like water:

    “Some cats do like water—and tigers are among them! On a hot, steamy day in the Asian forest, tigers will take to the river to cool off. In colder climates, they enjoy the snow.”

    DRJ (09f144)


    krazy kagu (89f761)

  22. What is troubling to me is there apparently has never been any system of surveillance cameras installed at this zoo. Why wouldn’t that be a requirement in a public place like this with dangerous animals? Answer that?

    Question: are there going to be lawsuits as a result of this death?

    Michael Smith

    Michael Smith (56a0a8)

  23. Since the police are checking the shoes of the three victims against a print found on top of the fence, it seems almost certain that someone was, if not “taunting” the tigers, at least attracting their notice with unusual activity.

    My cats will pounce on anything that moves – and kill it unless they get bored with it first. They do this not because they are hungry, but merely to stay in practice and alleviate boredom. The thought of any of them being 300 pounds sends a chill up my spine.

    Jim Addison (50ab17)

  24. The thought of any of them being 300 pounds sends a chill up my spine.

    A full grown Liger (male lion x female tiger crossbreed) can run upwards of 1500 lbs.

    Taltos (4dc0e8)

  25. What were these poor kids doing to this cat and why were they there after zoo hours? Upon hearing the human victims were three teenage (early 20s) boys, my suspicions were raised. And from the reports leaking from the hospital of how belligerent the survivors are with investigators, my suspicions are heightened. Let’s face it, young guys like this aren’t likely to be hanging out at a zoo facility unless they’ve got some mischief in mind. And don’t tell me they aspire to degrees in exotic veterinary medicine.

    A higher wall was needed – to protect the animals from wise-guys like this. As far as I’m concerned, the real victim here is the tiger.

    Rescuer-123 (5ccee0)

  26. A higher wall was needed – to protect the animals from wise-guys like this. As far as I’m concerned, the real victim here is the tiger.

    Really? Not the teenager it mauled to death?

    If the zoo is going to show dangerous animals off to the public, don’t you think they have a responsibility to make sure the bars are strong enough, the walls high enough, etc., so that the animals can’t get out and harm people?

    Regardless of whatever “mischief” the teens had in mind, they should have been kept safe by the wall. Unless, of course, they overcame the safety measures by jumping in.

    An interesting case of blaming the victim: any suspicions raised by a lack of co-operativeness apparently condemns mischievous teens (but I repeat myself) to die.

    Even if they were taunting the animal, the zoo had a responsibility to make sure the wall was high enough to keep the tigers from pouncing over it. Otherwise, what’s the point? I mean, why not just have the tigers walking about freely and just warn zoo-goers to be very, very nice to them?

    CliveStaples (73307b)

  27. The National Zoo in Washington has a moat filled with water for the tigers to swim in on hot days and also they can’t jump from deep water.

    cj (b7d32e)

  28. Re the National zoo in DC:
    “We have a water moat that’s about 24 feet across and about 9 feet deep with a 10- to 12-foot wall on the other side,” Reser said. “Now imagine if you’re in a swimming pool and you’re trying to jump. You don’t get very high because you don’t have anything to kick off to. Exactly the same thing with our water moat.”

    The big cats are not allowed outside if it’s too cold or windy. The heated moat doesn’t freeze for them to get a footing.

    cj (b7d32e)

  29. Yeah, I highly suspect the kids were doing something they shouldn’t have, and it pissed the animal off…

    And if you don’t think the zoo won’t get sued for a couple of million by each surviving kid, and many millions by the family of the dead kid, you are sadly mistaken.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  30. From the SF Chronicle:
    The Dhaliwal brothers have been hostile to police in the current death investigation and were “extremely belligerent” in an earlier encounter with police this year, authorities say. After the zoo attack, authorities said, the brothers had refused to give their own names, identify the victim or initially give authorities an account of what occurred.

    Thursday, police interviewed the two brothers, as well as Sousa’s father. Authorities didn’t release the details of the interviews but did say their investigation showed that the tiger first attacked the older brother. The brother yelled, police said, and the tiger released him, then grabbed Sousa. At that time, the brothers ran toward the cafe. The tiger caught up to them and again attacked before police fatally shot her.

    aunursa (090908)

  31. So I hope someone can clear this up…

    WERE these boys there after zoo hours? Was the place actually closed? If so, did they enter while the zoo was NOT closed? When DID it close?

    If they go in after hours, I would think their folks will lose any sort of lawsuit.

    Or they SHOULD lose. Sorry, the zoo’s crappy pen doesn’t fix the fact that you weren’t there legally. Don’t break the law, and you don’t get mauled by the animals.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  32. Per the comments: When the AZA came out and inspected our zoo three years ago, they never noted that as a deficiency

    This kind of reactive, compliance-oriented thinking is really troubling. As an IT risk manager in the financial industry, I’ve seen most catastrophic incidents fall into this category of avoidable issues ignored by executives because they weren’t derived from audit findings.

    Given limited budgets and financial performance pressures (which are magnified in public corporations per the drive to meet quarterly expectations), execs and managers increasingly use the audit process as a method of screening and prioritizing. In my role, many of our risk findings are proactively identified, yet I have perhaps a solid half of managers refuse to treat them seriously because they “already have audit findings to work on and this isn’t even a finding yet” – never mind the finding was extremely serious (e.g. a critical vulnerability making the exploitation of Internet-connected systems trivial).

    My recommendation for those of you invested in companies is to increasingly evaluate and demand enterprise risk assessments. Bond-rating organizations are beginning to do just that, as too many firms have “made the numbers” by shifting the risk into operations. The same goes for nonprofit organizations like this zoo. It’s clear this executive is a risk-avoider and shifter and the zoo ought not to have any public support until he and his staff are removed.

    redherkey (9f5961)

  33. Keeping captive wild animals is considered a dangerous activity which incurs absolute liability. The zoo is essentially an insurer of its patrons when it comes to animal attacks. It need not be shown that it was negligent and the defenses of comparative/contributory negligence or assumption of risk are not available.

    nk (c87736)

  34. Or they SHOULD lose. Sorry, the zoo’s crappy pen doesn’t fix the fact that you weren’t there legally. Don’t break the law, and you don’t get mauled by the animals.

    Ah, I wasn’t aware that the tigers in question were only able to attack people in the zoo illegally.

    Oh, wait, that’s completely retarded.

    Whether or not they were in the zoo illegally, the question is whether the tiger’s pen kept the tigers inside or not. If they didn’t, it doesn’t matter that the person they mauled was there during the wrong hours of the day.

    CliveStaples (73307b)

  35. MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST DO AWAY WITH ZOOS ALTOGETHER. The poor animals are taken out of their habitat and forced to live in a caged environment, and for what? So people can enjoy them. It’s ridiculous!

    KcPebbles (a55403)

  36. The poor animals are taken out of their habitat and forced to live in a caged environment, and for what? So people can enjoy them. It’s ridiculous!

    What’s ridiculous is the notion that your entertainment preferences should interfere with John Q. American’s. You don’t like zoos? Don’t patronize them. If enough people think like you, the zoos won’t turn a profit and will shut down.

    CliveStaples (73307b)

  37. If they didn’t, it doesn’t matter that the person they mauled was there during the wrong hours of the day.

    Assuming for the moment they weren’t there legally, my point is utterly valid.

    They would not have been mauled had they obeyed the rules. If they are there illegally, they have, in my mind, assumed full risk.

    Just like walking into my home late at night, uninvited.

    Sure, the door might be unlocked, but are good you’ll at LEAST have a gun pointed at you. Walking into my home illegally places every ounce of risk upon you.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  38. They would not have been mauled had they obeyed the rules. If they are there illegally, they have, in my mind, assumed full risk.

    The only rule they broke was in entering the zoo grounds. They didn’t jump down into the tiger’s cage. If the zoo had done its jobs, the tigers should have been kept out of the general zoo grounds.

    By your logic, if someone enters my house illegally, I don’t commit a crime by, say, raping them. After all, their presence wasn’t legal!

    It seems pretty damn clear to me that whatever crime they committed doesn’t justify the zoo’s negligence in holding the tigers in a cage that didn’t properly contain them. If the cage had properly contained them, and the kids had illegally gained entrance to that cage, I’d agree with you. But those aren’t the facts.

    CliveStaples (73307b)

  39. nk, I’m rusty on Calif governmental immunity, does its waiver include such strict liability torts?

    someday I need to tell the story of my “mass murdering genocidal cat case”.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  40. CliveStaples, perhaps you are right, negligence law is that screwed up these days. But outside of that whacky world, there comes a point where their behavior is their fault and no one elses’.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  41. CliveStaples, perhaps you are right, negligence law is that screwed up these days. But outside of that whacky world, there comes a point where their behavior is their fault and no one elses’.

    Of course their behavior is their fault and no one elses’. The question is about the tiger’s behavior.

    Imagine, if you will, a man walking his tiger down the street, improperly leashed. The tiger breaks free and kills an illegal immigrant. “Nothing wrong”, you protest, “the illegal immigrant shouldn’t have been there!”

    The problem with your position is that you’re completely ignoring the fault of the zoo (improperly keeping their tigers restrained) because of the time that it happened (not during zoo hours). If the tigers could jump over the wall after the zoo closed, they could jump over the wall before the zoo closed too. It was just a matter of time before someone was killed. A ticking tiger bomb, if you will.

    CliveStaples (73307b)

  42. That is a silly analogy.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  43. But not an inaccurate one.

    CliveStaples (73307b)

  44. Yes, a completely inaccurate one. There is no relation between the status of illegal alien, and the affirmative conduct that is being alleged against the three.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  45. I am sure there is much more to this story than we are hearing at this point. It is obvious these boys did something that contributed to the situation. One of them lost their life because of their stupidity. No sympathy here. And the parents, what a bunch of morons. Admit your son was a contributing factor.

    Bretsuaz (cc27a0)

  46. SPQR #39,

    I don’t know. I know there’s federal case law that imposes the absolute liability standard I described above. I’ll see if I can find something specific.

    nk (c87736)

  47. The conduct alleged merely places them in the place of an average zoo-goer during non-business hours. Nobody, as far as I know, has shown that the three descended into the tiger’s pen. The only way they could have been hurt by a tiger is if the tiger, on its own power, managed to escape its pen. If it did, then the zoo is responsible for allowing it to escape.

    To use my analogy, nobody alleged that the illegal immigrant broke the leash, or went within the leashed tiger’s reach; rather, because the leash was insufficient, the otherwise-safe (though illegally present) immigrant was injured. Same goes for the illegally-present teens.

    CliveStaples (73307b)

  48. This family would not want me on the jury. Their damages would be reduced. Significantly reduced. They would be lucky if they received enough to pay off their double-wide.

    Bretsuaz (cc27a0)

  49. SPQR #39,

    P.S. In Illinois, even if the zoo were considered a public entity, it would only enjoy a special statute of limitations and a special pre-suit notice requirement. No shift in the standard of care.

    nk (c87736)

  50. nk, I’m just rusty on Calif govt immunity, have not worked with it for a decade or so. There are states where I’ve seen some strict liability torts excluded from the waiver.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  51. During a taped interview, the victim’s father commented that he had no idea that his son was at the zoo or why he was there. These were not animal lovers who just happened to get mauled. My 13 year old son knows that you don’t taunt an animal (of any size)…why didn’t these boys know that? While I have tremendous empathy for any parent who has lost a child, we should not excuse these 3 from taking responsiblity for any action that might have provoked this animal. My strong hope is that the zoo is not financially responsible for a lawsuit, assuming they followed guidelines issued during their last inspection. If the agency that last accredited the zoo is at fault, they should be held accountable.

    Cathy (46ab30)

  52. WERE these boys there after zoo hours? Was the place actually closed? If so, did they enter while the zoo was NOT closed? When DID it close?

    According to reports (includingthis one)

    The zoo actually closes at 6 pm. The gates close at 5, and no more visitors are let in at that time. Visitors already in the zoo should be out by 6, and the attack happened around 5. So they were fine to be in the zoo.

    MayBee (ab5f01)

  53. While I have tremendous empathy for any parent who has lost a child, we should not excuse these 3 from taking responsiblity for any action that might have provoked this animal.

    So if anyone manages to provoke an animal, they deserve whatever they get? Zoos are only responsible for restraining unprovoked, tranquil animals?

    CliveStaples (73307b)

  54. My strong hope is that the zoo is not financially responsible for a lawsuit, assuming they followed guidelines issued during their last inspection.

    If the wall is too short, the zoo didn’t follow the guidelines even if it passed inspection.
    If the tiger escaped the cage, even if it was taunted, there was something wrong with the cage.
    There seem to be simultaneous problems here. The victims were punks, and the enclosure was inadequate. Let’s not let the punk part lead us to say they brought this on themselves. The tiger should not be able to escape from its enclosure. Period.

    MayBee (ab5f01)

  55. At the Cincinnati zoo, I once watched with fascination as a leopard stalked a man in a wheelchair. Something about the shine of the wheelchair must have attracted the cat, I don’t know why, but it crouched and moved and followed this man intently. Everyone watching felt safe because the cat was in a zoo enclosure.

    Sure, punky kids can provoke a predator’s instincts, but so can perfectly innocent human behavior. As Clive said, it can’t be that zoo visitors are only safe from unprovoked animals.

    MayBee (ab5f01)

  56. These three are almost perfect examples of the result of a politically driven, attempted risk-free society (we must be completely protected against ourselves: seatbelts, helmets, no dodgeball, etc). In a more perfect world (non-PC), they would have not been protected from their foolish actions, and they would have learned to not do stupid things because the consequence is a lot of hurt.
    It is obvious that they failed, at an early age, to learn that actions have consequences, and that there are certain things one does not do.
    After the courts award them million$ (another Rodney King moment), their learned mis-information will be re-inforced.
    The only positive I see in this, is that, though San Francisco may not deserve this, they are going to get it, and a lot of fly-over country will just shrug.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  57. KcPebbles: “MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST DO AWAY WITH ZOOS ALTOGETHER. The poor animals are taken out of their habitat and forced to live in a caged environment, and for what? So people can enjoy them. It’s ridiculous!”
    KC, consider with the growing pressure on native habitats throughout the world, the best zoos everywhere are refuges, study and breeding centers for endangered animals. They also encourage public interest in the preservation of these animals. These have really become their main purpose, not providing menageries for people to gawk at. The tiger at the SF Zoo was a Siberian Tiger, which is critically endangered. Captive breeding and conservation programs are very active and this tiger was born at the Denver Zoo.

    “The Siberian Tiger is bred within the Species Survival Plan programme. … Developed in 1982, the Species Survival Plan for the Siberian Tiger is the longest running program for a tiger subspecies. It has been very fortunate and productive, and the breeding program for the Siberian Tiger has actually been used as a good example when new programs have been designed to save other animal species from extinction.” – Wiki

    JayHub (0a6237)

  58. And remember, not all of the wild animals are behind the enclosures.
    BTW, up to the point where the guards/police killed the tiger, does Darwin’s Law apply here?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  59. Another Drew, we’ll have to see what the full story is, but one of them may have qualified for a Darwin award.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  60. Gee, Hispanic last name. Thanks to affirmative action, I have to wonder if this guy was qualified to be a zoo keeper. Not knowing how tall the fence is that keeps the man-eating tigers in would be a clue that the answer is no.

    See, don’t you love how liberal diversity programs make people stereotype and mistrust minorities even more!??!

    Mr. Obvious (7a2278)

  61. Another Drew,

    As discussed by NK earlier in the thread, there are certain activities that the law treats as absolute liability issues where any injury is per se considered to be the vendor’s fault, even without proof of negligence. In a sense, this is the ultimate nanny-state response but this type of treatment is rare and restricted to specific, highly dangerous activities where it is difficult for a consumer to reasonably protect him/herself.

    The examples I learned about in law school include things like businesses that use dynamite for excavation, imploding, etc.; fireworks manufacturers; and sometimes common carriers like airlines. I suspect this also may apply to theme park rides and, as NK indicated, in some jurisdictions it may also apply to protection from dangerous animals at zoos. Thus, in these limited areas, the legislature and/or case law puts the burden on the vendor to provide a safe public environment.

    DRJ (09f144)

  62. And this is a bad thing? Certainly, it gives them an incentive to make the environment actually safe.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  63. Comment by Mr. Obvious — 12/28/2007 @ 3:45 pm

    Your blaming liberals for your bigotry!??!

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  64. Spring Company v. Edgar describes what I believe is still the prevailing law:

    “Three or more classes of cases exist in which it is held that the owners of animals are liable for injuries done by the same to the persons or property of others, the required allegations and proofs varying in each case. 2 Bla.Com., per Cooley, 390.

    Owners of wild beasts or beasts that are in their nature vicious are liable under all or most all circumstances for injuries done by them; and in actions for injuries by such beasts it is not necessary to allege that the owner knew them to be mischievous, for he is presumed to have such knowledge, from which it follows that he is guilty of negligence in permitting the same to be at large.

    Though the owner have no particular notice that the animal ever did any such mischief before, yet if the animal be of the class that is ferae naturae the owner is liable to an action of damage if it get loose and do harm. 1 Hale P.C. 430; Worth v. Gilling, Law Rep. 2 C.P. 3.

    Owners are liable for the hurt done by the animal even without notice of the propensity, if the animal is naturally mischievous, but if it is of a tame nature, there must be notice of the vicious habit. Mason v. Keeling, 12 Mod. Rep. 332; Rex v. Huggins, 2 Ld.Raym. 1574.

    Damage may be done by a domestic animal kept for use or convenience, but the rule is that the owner is not liable to an action on the ground of negligence, without proof that he knew that the animal was accustomed to do mischief. Vrooman v. Sawyer, 13 Johns. (N.Y.) 339; Buxendin v. Sharp, 2 Salk. 662; Cockerham v. Nixon, 11 Ired. (N.C.) L. 269.

    Domestic animals, such as oxen or horses, may injure the person or property of another, but courts of justice invariably hold that if they are rightfully in the place where the injury is inflicted the owner of the animal is not liable for such an injury, unless he knew that the animal was accustomed to be vicious; and in suits for such injuries such knowledge must be alleged and proved, as the cause of action arises from the keeping of the animal after the knowledge of its vicious propensity. Jackson v. Smithson, 15 Mee. & W. 563; Van Leuven v. Lyke, 1 N.Y. 515; Card v. Case, 5 C.B. 632; Hudson v. Roberts, 6 Exch. 697; Dearth v. Baker, 22 Wis. 73; Cox v. Burbridge, 13 C.B.N.S. 430.”

    nk (c87736)

  65. Christoph,

    It’s never bad to encourage vendors to make the public environment safe but you need reasonable limits. We could have a law that says people or businesses are responsible for all injuries that happen on their property but we don’t do that because that would limit almost all activities. Who could run a business, especially a small one, if strict liability applied?

    The examples above are situations where the legislature and/or the law has decided the risk of harm is so great or the ability to lessen the risk is so one-sided that the vendor (rather than the consumer) should bear the risk.

    DRJ (09f144)

  66. Christoph, how is Mr. Obvious’s comment bigotry? If the S. F. government were known for another kind of patronage such as cronyism or nepotism (actually, it is…), would you consider it out-of-line to point that out? What would be wrong with saying, “This zoo administrator sounds incompetent, I wonder whose son-in-law he is”?

    Why is affirmative action patronage any different? Since many minorities and women are hired over more qualified white men what is wrong with suspecting whether a minority is an unqualified boob who got his job through affirmative action? Oh, sure, it’s unfair to all of those women and minorities who got their jobs through hard work and excellence but the same would be true in any other patronage system. Maybe the mayor’s son-in-law really was the best qualified for the job. But if your courtesy is going to prevent you from pointing out the system’s failures, how are you ever going to change it?

    Doc Rampage (01f543)

  67. His heritage is not an issue for me but there are questions about the zoo director’s management skills:

    “The deadly attack comes as an enormous embarrassment to the nearly 80-year-old zoo, the largest and oldest in Northern California. The zoo was just moving past controversy over the highly publicized deaths of two elephants in 2004 that prompted it to move its remaining elephants to an animal sanctuary.

    It also comes as an embarrassment for director Mollinedo. The Los Angeles Zoo, under his leadership, was criticized for animal escapes a decade ago. Federal inspection reports indicated that during a 12-month period, a dozen animals at the Los Angeles Zoo escaped from their cages, including a gorilla and a snow leopard.”

    DRJ (09f144)

  68. Heh! Given that this is San Francisco, it’s less likely that he got his job because of his ethnicity than because he looks good in a Speedo.

    nk (c87736)

  69. Safe…
    As one who has been involved in many aspects of motor racing, and the shooting sports, I think I can state with some authority that though we always strive to make our sports safer, it is virtually impossible to make them safe. This applies to almost all areas of life!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  70. Another Drew, the strict liability classification of certain activities is really an obsolete one – it comes from an era where negligence was a much more difficult thing to prove. One has to think up artificial hypotheticals to even find a situation where it really makes a difference in modern tort law.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  71. Heh. I just realized I’m from that obsolete era.

    DRJ (09f144)

  72. I didn’t mean it that way, DRJ 😉

    SPQR (26be8b)

  73. Ok, I don’t know why some of you are arguing because it all comes down to one point.

    The zoo did not properly contain a vicious tiger that killed innocent people. This will be an open and shut case, and they will be awarded millions.


    Michael (80fd98)

  74. The SFPD strongly suspects at least one of the young men did enter Tatiana’s enclosure. There is a possibility that this was a prank, initiation of sorts,(ie:hazing), or a dare. Human blood has been found inside of the enclosure. If it turns out that this is indeed true, it may be determined that one of the young men provided assistance,(not necessarily meaning to), in Tatiana’s escape.

    LMS (56a0a8)

  75. Well it might have been an open and shut case, but the surviving two have evidently hired Mark Geragos to represent them. Think of how few cases Geragos has won.

    Further, it is being reported on CNN/HN ( citing NY Post ) that slingshots were found on the two survivors.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  76. Slingshots. I like that tiger more by the minute. I wondered why it stalked the two brothers for three hundred yards.

    nk (5221ab)

  77. If they were shooting the tiger with slingshots, yes, there should be compensation because the wall was too low.

    But damn if I were the judge and/or jury, this would be a relevant factor and I would hold it against the plaintiffs and lower my judgment back down to reality accordingly.

    I’m not sure if contributory negligence is legally relevant… but torturing the damn tiger with slingshots! Hard to feel sympathy for the louts, including the one who is dead. And who, by their combined actions, killed this poor tiger who was just defending itself from sadists.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  78. Even with absolute liability, proximate cause needs to be proven. If the proximate cause of their injuries is found to be not the low wall but their tormenting of the animal …. If I’m dynamiting and somebody comes by and deliberately tries to set off my charges and gets blown up in the process, his unlawful actions are the proximate cause of his injury and not my dangerous but legal activity.

    nk (5221ab)

  79. If I read Section 597 of California’s penal code correctly, that torturing an animal is a felony, then the two survivors may be guilty of felony murder for the death of the third guy. They will need a good lawyer.

    nk (5221ab)

  80. nk, ah we might enjoy seeing Geragos arguing that pelting with slingshots is not torture … ah, the irony.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  81. Damn, I hope so, nk. At least a plea to manslaughter or something similar. A felony conviction for something.

    If they win a lawsuit due to the SF Zoos’ admitted negligence, so be it. But their torturing that animal was a serious crime and obviously caused the consequence of another person’s death. Whether as a straight felony for animal abuse, manslaughter, or felony murder, prosecuting it is the only just thing to do.

    You can’t torture a wild animal penned in a zoo, kill your friend by provoking it (the friend of course being part of this cruelty), and get no criminal punishment at all!

    They are responsible for what happened more than the zoo is, and the zoo was still negligent in not having a proper size wall.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  82. I don’t know the law — can a person committing a felony win a lawsuit for consequences caused by their felony? I assume so, but wouldn’t know.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  83. Yes, but your crime has to be worse than his. Setting a springtrap for a burglar is the classic case.

    nk (5221ab)

  84. So, just so I’m clear, nk, are you saying they may not only face criminal charges, but may not win a lawsuit despite the fence being too short because they allegedly committed a felony and attacked the tiger?

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  85. If the defense establishes that it was more likely than not that the tiger would not have tried to come out of its enclosure at them if they had not been shooting it with slingshots, they get nothing.

    nk (5221ab)

  86. That should be easy to establish.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  87. Three tigers are talking at the San Francisco zoo:

    First Tiger: What I can’t stand most about these hairless monkeys (humans) who are keeping us captive are their soft, furless skins.
    Second Tiger: I can’t stand their high-pitched monkey chattering.
    Third Tiger: What bothers me the most is that they bring a slingshot to a tiger hunt.

    nk (5221ab)

  88. If I read Section 597 of California’s penal code correctly, that torturing an animal is a felony, then the two survivors may be guilty of felony murder for the death of the third guy.

    It reads more like a wobbler to me. In any event, I’m pretty sure California’s felony murder law covers only those felonies deemed “inherently dangerous to human life,” which animal cruelty presumably isn’t.

    They will need a good lawyer.

    I agree. Too bad they hired Mark Geragos instead.

    Xrlq (b65a72)

  89. As a non-lawyer and layman, your interpretation makes more sense to me in this case, Xrlq. But I know less than either of you.

    For what it’s worth, I think they should be charged and convicted if the evidence warrants for the underlying felony of animal cruelty, they should lose in any civil lawsuit, whether as plaintiffs or defendants (presumably plaintiffs: I’m sure the zoo won’t sue for publicity reasons!), and the zoo shouldn’t pay a dime to then, but should be sanctioned including financially by whatever regulators it has… and leave it at that.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  90. Yeah, does California deliberately write its criminal laws to be unconstitutionally vague? Where’s Christoph? Christoph, won’t you please argue with Xrlq, an attorney licensed in California, that attacking a tiger with a slingshot is an act inherently dangerous to human life? I’m too deferential to.

    nk (5221ab)

  91. Sorry, Christoph. I took too long to write my comment #90 and in the meantime you were posting your comment #89.

    nk (5221ab)

  92. Has the slingshot story been confirmed? Everything I’ve read say the police won’t confirm it.

    DRJ (29b04b)

  93. “(01-04) 19:38 PST SAN FRANCISCO — Soon after their 17-year-old friend was mauled to death by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo, the two brothers who survived the attack made a quick pact not to cooperate with the police as they rode in an ambulance to the hospital, sources told The Chronicle.

    “Don’t tell them what we did,” paramedics heard 23-year-old Kulbir Dhaliwal tell his brother, Paul, 19.

    Sources also say that the younger brother was intoxicated at the time of the incident, having used marijuana and consumed enough liquor to have a blood-alcohol level above the .08 limit for adult drivers. The older brother also had been drinking and using marijuana around the time a 350-pound Siberian tiger escaped and killed Carlos Sousa Jr., the sources said.”

    Full story at:

    JayHub (0a6237)

  94. Thanks, JayHub, I saw this on CNN earlier — I hope they are charged.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  95. siberian tigers are rare, beautiful animals. teenage punks are neither rare nor beautiful. i wish the tiger had killed all three of them. i wouldn’t give them a nickel in compensation.

    assistant devil's advocate (ebed6f)

  96. ada, your unpleasant side is showing.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  97. The Dhaliwal brothers have been hostile to police in the current death investigation.

    Mark Geragos got them to do a ‘180’:

    SF police: No criminal charges against brothers in zoo tiger attack

    SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) — Investigators will not file criminal charges against two brothers injured in a Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo that left a teenager dead, the lead investigator in the case told CNN Monday.

    San Francisco Police Inspector Valerie Matthews said the investigation had found no evidence that Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal had taunted a 300-pound tiger that apparently scaled a 12-and-a-half-foot wall surrounding its enclosure, attacking and killing 17-year-old Carlos Sousa and injuring the Dhaliwals.

    Matthews also said the Dhaliwals were cooperative with investigators.

    Police shot and killed the 4-year-old Siberian tiger, Tatiana.

    steve (bb6d0d)

  98. Latest: “San Francisco city officials obtained an emergency court order Tuesday preventing police from giving back the cell phones and car belonging to the two survivors of the tiger attack at the zoo.”

    City is thinking photos on phones and something in the car might help in inevitable lawsuit against it, but police don’t have probable cause to search phones and car. Hearing on whether city can review cell phones, etc. on Friday.

    Full story at:

    JayHub (0a6237)

  99. Full story where, JayHub?

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  100. Christopy, sorry, here’s correct link:

    And there’s more news that’s not good for the zoo, if true:

    The Christmas Day attack was not the first report of a tiger getting out of its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo.

    “A retired entymologist in Kuranda, Australia, said he accompanied the zoo director when he decided to test the big cat enclosure one evening in 1959. David Rentz, who was 17 at the time, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the director dangled a piece of meat on a pole on the side of the exhibit’s 33-foot-wide dry moat.

    ‘Once the tiger saw it, he literally flew across the moat from his position on the other side, grabbed the meat, and sprung back to the grotto all in one graceful movement,’ Rentz wrote in a Web posting.

    Several years later, another tiger got past the same moat and was found in bushes next to a low railing that separates the animals from the public, retired zookeeper John Alcaraz told The Associated Press. Alcaraz was with fellow zookeeper Jack Castor when they came upon the tiger.

    ‘Jack yelled at him, ‘Get outta here!’ He was all very quiet and he responded to the yelling,’ said Alcaraz, who first told his story to the San Francisco Bay Guardian. “We put water in the moat, 2 feet of water, and we never had problems again.”

    Zoo spokesman Sam Singer said officials were not aware of either incident at the enclosure, which was built in 1940.”

    JayHub (0a6237)

  101. And if this story interests you still, there’s a very long, but fascinating article called: Tiger Tales – I grew up with tigers. I built tiger pens. And the tiger grotto at the privatized San Francisco Zoo was a disaster waiting to happen. BY CRAIG MCLAUGHLIN at:

    JayHub (0a6237)

  102. Interesting Article on potential legal issues of zoo’s liability for attack.

    JayHub (0a6237)

  103. The tiger baiting brothers have been charged in separate September ’07 incident with misd. public intoxication and resisting arrest, one with misd. battery on an officer. The police were granted a search warrant last night for their car and phones, but the decision on whether the city can see them was put off till Friday.

    JayHub (0a6237)

  104. Er….Why has this gotten so much attention? Big cat jumps poorly managed enclosure and kills kid, zoo has had other problems with this cat before. 2 guys managed to escape with non-life threatening injuries.
    Enter typical Bay Area gossip, oh the kids had a police encounter before. They aren’t talking, they must be guilty.
    Ask yourself why they were so insistent on getting legal access to the phones and the car. Answer: the pigs already went through it illegally. You people should be more concerned with THAT fact more than anything. Why won’t they talk? They don’t need to, there is enough on the 911 tapes to describe what happened and how little help was being offered to these guys by zoo workers.
    “Thats practically impossible, i think they are just crazy or on drugs…” So every 20 something kid he comes up to yelling and screaming is crazy? This wasn’t an old man in depends talking about the bogeyman.
    Keep in mind the Zoo is still being sued by the tigers’ previous handler after her skin was ripped off. Ask yourself, if there were two incidents of negligence with the same animal in the same zoo, AND with a spineless director who has had a failing history of managing his previous zoo he was at, and very likely an insurance company waiting to cut the strings on a very expensive client…wouldn’t it be better if the victims involved suddenly became suspects….
    THINK about it….Ok, maybe the director isn’t spineless but he certainly seems to be passing out conflicting information that puts the zoo in better light than some of the facts already mentioned. tape measure anyone?

    SFZooSUCKS (fda112)

  105. OK, I thought about it. I find your argument illogical. And I am reaching the conclusion that three kids taunted a predator at a zoo that also happens to be incompetent.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  106. Which is also the gist of the latest AP story on the incident, citing filings by police that one had admitted being drunk, taunting the tiger from atop its enclosures wall. 1 Darwin award winner, and two runners up.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  107. I am trying to find source materials related to the incidents described in post #100. Can someone supply links, if available? Also, is Alcaraz still alive? Can David Rentz be contacted? This is key. It demonstrates how the Dec 25 scenario happened. RE: “Several years later, another tiger got past the same moat and was found in bushes next to a low railing that separates the animals from the public, retired zookeeper John Alcaraz told The Associated Press.” This seems to be exactly how this tiger got in position to attack the three young toughs. The only real mystery at this point is, when the toughs were trying to get the attention of tigers located down in the grotto, what Tatiyana one of those tigers, or had Tatiyana already jumped up? In any case, it is ultimately irrelevant, since, the demonstrated repeat occurrence of tigers leaping up and hiding in that bush / small tree in the middle section of the viewing area, essentially means that there was a known, unmitigated failure mode of the enclosure. One thing I am very worried about is that the zoo has tampered with the evidence by making their “emergency modification.” The more ethical approach would have been to take the tiger grotto completely off line, send the tigers to other zoos or sanctuaries, and lock down the entire area, as is, so that a complete understanding of the actual scenario could be gained. But of course, the moment the escape was known to Mollinedo and co, they would have gone into spin / slime / obfuscate mode. And the City is in cahoots, since the poor grotto design is a preexisting condition and opens the City to litigation in addition to the Zoo.

    NeedToFindAlcaraz (fda728)

  108. #107

    David Rentz’s original post is on his blog, BunyipCo – Nature observations in a Rainforest in Kuranda, Queensland, Australia, 12/28/07 at:

    Alcaraz appears to be alive and well, since he contacted, or was contacted by the AP, in connection with the story.

    The SF Chronicle has a site that contains all their stories on the incident:

    JayHub (0a6237)

  109. The SF Chronicle is reporting that the “police investigation into the tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo has been suspended after a search earlier this month failed to turn up evidence that the victims taunted the animal or committed other crimes, police said Tuesday.”

    The police had gotten a warrant to search the surviving brothers’ car and found “a partly empty bottle of vodka and a kit commonly used to thwart drug testing, including a vial of unisex synthetic urine.”

    However, despite one of the brother’s saying that they “yelled and waved at the tiger while standing atop the 3-foot-high railing of the tiger’s exhibit, … they denied throwing anything into the enclosure or otherwise antagonizing the animal, and police were unable to find any evidence to contradict that account.”

    Probably the last on this, since I expect civil lawsuits for damages will be settled because of obvious liability of zoo. Sad story for both the victim and the tiger.

    JayHub (0a6237)

  110. The SF Chronicle is reporting:

    “(02-18) 18:21 PST SAN FRANCISCO — After being in quarantine since the fatal Christmas Day tiger mauling, the big cats at the San Francisco Zoo were let back into their newly renovated digs over the holiday weekend and promptly did what all cats like to do: They lazily sniffed around, showed signs of indifference and then lay down and went to sleep.

    … While in quarantine, zookeepers stimulated the cats by giving them toys to play with and showing them nature videos, including the Disney movie ‘The Lion King.’

    They also used techniques to appeal to the cats’ senses while they were locked up, including giving them hay that contained a variety of scents from other animals. But hay scented with cheap perfume proved to be the overwhelming favorite, Jenkins said.”

    JayHub (0a6237)

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