Cleveland Metroparks Zoo acted quickly and decisively when a toddler fell into the cheetah exhibit over the weekend, allegedly dropped by his mother who was inexplicably dangling the child beyond the secure parameters of the exhibit’s enclosure. Once the child was recovered safely, Zoo officials quickly determined through eyewitness interviews that the mother ignored warning signs and put her child in danger, allegedly leading to the accident.
What makes this situation different than many is that Zoo officials chose to communicate their findings and intent to pursue criminal charges immediately so the media could include that important information, even in the first round of coverage. Without that decisive action, the media would have been left to speculate as to what happened. It’s certainly possible that they would have suggested insufficient warnings or fencing as a potential cause, forcing the Zoo to prove otherwise after the fact.
While it’s still possible that the parents will find a lawyer who will try to make that claim now, all the media coverage that has so clearly indicated the parent was at fault will make it harder for that claim to be heard. Simply by getting out front, being confident in their facilities and in their investigation of the incident and being willing to talk about it, the Zoo has probably saved itself a bigger headache down the road.
It will now be interesting to see what Kindercare does, as the childcare provider confirmed that the child’s mother is one of their employees, presently on suspension pending outcome of the investigation. The choice is not as clear, particularly if she has a clean employment record. Fire her now and probably face a lawsuit, or cite her employment record (and presumably a contrite posture with a sincere apology) as a reason to give her a second chance. If they choose the latter, it’s probably safe to assume this childcare worker won’t be leading a field trip to the Zoo anytime soon.