Controversy Continues Over Safety of Infamous Zoo Enclosure

safety, Naperville business law attorneyWhen you own and operate a business, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that your company remains in full compliance with all applicable regulatory guidelines. For a restaurant owner, these guidelines may include fire prevention and extinguishing systems in the kitchen, food safety certification for your staff, and health inspections of your food preparation areas and practices. Other businesses, of course, may be subject to different regulations, but compliance is no less important.

As a business law attorney who has been serving the region for nearly 30 years, I realize that regulatory rules exist for a reason. They have been put in place to ensure the safety of workers, customers, visitors, and anyone else who may visit your company and purchase or sample your products. Sometimes, however, the agencies responsible for verifying safety compliance may contradict themselves, which seems to be the case at the Cincinnati Zoo following the famous incident involving a 3-year-old little boy and a 400-pound gorilla.

A Worldwide News Story

In late May, a young visitor to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden climbed over a fence and through some bushes, then fell 15 feet into the moat surrounding the zoo’s gorilla exhibit. A 17-year-old male lowland gorilla named Harambe grabbed the child, forcing the zoo’s emergency response team to act. One of the team members determined the boy was in grave danger and shot and killed Harambe to save the boy’s life. In the months that have followed, Harambe has become a household name and the subject of countless memes, jokes, and protests.

Post-Incident Review

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report this week stating the barrier around the gorilla enclosure did not meet federal standards. The USDA claimed that the wire cables of the barrier could be “manipulated to an eight-inch gap,” and that if the child was able to get in, the barrier automatically failed to meet the standards.

The zoo issued a statement in response saying that the barrier system has been in operation since 1978 and has never failed a USDA inspection, including the most recent one a month before the Harambe incident. Zoo officials, however, have increased the height of the barrier and added nylon mesh to prevent anyone from climbing between the cables.

The USDA acknowledged that the exhibit’s barriers have never failed an inspection before, but that the incident proved the barrier to be insufficient. From an outsider’s perspective, it is difficult to understand how the same entity that verified that the barrier was in compliance for the last 28 years can now claim that it was not. This is especially important because the zoo could face fines or other disciplinary action for noncompliant enclosures.

Get Answers to Your Regulatory Questions

If you are facing fines or sanctions due the inconsistency of a regulatory agency or an individual inspector, we can help. Contact an experienced Naperville business law attorney at The Gierach Law Firm today. We will work with you in exploring your options and taking the necessary steps toward protecting your business.



Washington Post


Cincinnati Zoo