Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More on the Troubles with Zoos: Inattentive Mom Let’s Young Boy Wonder Off to Pet Bears: The Result – Two Bears Killed and Dumped in a Land Fill

Can you believe this disgusting story? Not only are they killed, but dumped in a land fill! Now this truly is a compassionate country.

I’m heartened to see that so many people see this killing as completely insane and unwarranted. Again, some bureaucrats get power crazy and look for something to kill. I’m also glad to see that people think the actions of the mother and child are to blame and not the bears. After all, what in the world was a child doing unattended and attempting to pet a caged bear? And after all of this, the bears did not have rabies. What a joke. Shame on Maymont staffers -- along with officials from the state Department of Health and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

And, gee, guess what? They’ll replace them. Oh boy, just more frightened caged animals in an unnatural setting. Wow, what an idea.


Killing of 2 Captive Bears Ignites Va. Protest
Animals Suspected of Biting Child's Hand Were Euthanized, Dumped at Landfill


By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 5, 2006; A07

RICHMOND, March 4 -- This city said goodbye to two of its most prominent citizens Saturday, 350-pound black bears Buster and Baby, whose deaths at the hands of their human captors have plunged residents into mourning so deep that hundreds called the police to report their distress, thousands posted to online bulletin boards and the city's famed mayor ordered an investigation.

Two weeks ago, one of the bears was accused of biting a 4-year-old boy who had stuck his hand through the 10-foot-high, chain-link fence that encloses their habitat at Richmond's Maymont Park.

The child was not badly hurt -- no stitches were needed. But with his mother unable to peg which bear did the biting, park and health officials decided five days later to euthanize both animals and send their brains to a state laboratory for rabies testing. The episode became public Feb. 23 only after both bears were dead and their headless, chemical-laced carcasses had been dumped at a local landfill.

The outrage was immediate and extreme. Dozens called 911 upon seeing the first news report. City Hall was flooded with calls. So was the park.

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, the flamboyant former Virginia governor, promised quick action, including consequences for city officials involved in the decision to kill the bears and possible criminal charges against the child's mother. He ordered workers to find the bears and prepare a fitting memorial site. After three hours of sifting through garbage with a backhoe last week, landfill employees recovered the bodies.

And so, on Saturday, Buster and Baby were laid to rest at Maymont.

In a sign of the city's emotion, about 500 attended the funeral, many sobbing and clutching flowers and stuffed bears. A Boy Scout troop escorted a color guard and lowered bronze urns containing the bears' ashes into a hole dug in the soft mud. An Episcopal priest offered a prayer. Wilder gave the eulogy.

"These bears are making a contribution even in their death, because they remind us that they lived, but they were put to death not by their own kind," he told the crowd. "Let us continue to be certain that nature provides us with lessons for how to live."

Maymont is the Central Park of Richmond, a 100-acre oasis of rolling trails and gardens in the heart of the city. Its prime attraction has always been its animals, and for 25 years the most beloved of those creatures have been several generations of black bears. They are visited by about a half-million people a year, many of them children.

How, exactly, the 4-year-old was bitten is not clear. This much is known: The park separates bears from people with both the chain-link fence and a shorter, four-foot-high wooden fence. Neither was broken.

According to a preliminary report the mayor released Friday, the child's mother, who has not been identified, first told city officials that she helped the small boy over the lower fence to get closer. The report also indicates that she might have told a nurse at the hospital where the child's hand was examined that she had been visiting Maymont for years to feed the bears.

However, in an anonymous interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the child's mother insisted that she glanced away from her son for a moment and that when she looked back, he was over the short fence and trying to pet a bear.

Maymont staffers -- along with officials from the state Department of Health and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries -- have pleaded for calm.

They insist they had little choice but to destroy Buster and Baby after concluding that one had bitten the boy. Rabies is fatal for humans, and they contend that the bears could have contracted the disease after tussling with an infected bat or raccoon in their habitat. There is no way to test bears for rabies without killing them, they said.

The only other option was to administer rabies treatments to the boy just in case, subjecting him to a regimen of six shots with at least some risk of side effects.

The bears' rabies tests came back negative, health officials said.

"People say the bears were innocent, but this wasn't punishment for them," said Julia Dixon, a spokeswoman for the game department, one of several agencies participating in a three-hour meeting that resulted in the decision to kill the bears. "It was a set of circumstances that triggered . . . a no-win situation."

But residents and the mayor have been unforgiving.

"Our job is to protect them," Wilder said in an interview. "It's the same horror you have if someone says to an urchin on the street, 'Let me take you home, adopt you, keep you -- and then beat you, abuse you and kill you.' "

Maymont officials promise to replace the bears, which were given to the park by a state agency. One arrived as a 2-year-old labeled a "nuisance" and the other as an orphaned cub. But replacement, many said, will do little to stem the sadness.

"It'll be nice to have bears here again," said Steve Calos, one of the Boy Scout troop leaders. "But it can't be the bears that could have been here, the bears that should have been here."

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