That the Pittsburgh zoo bears some responsibility for the sad death of 2-year-old Maddox Derkosh is becoming increasingly clear. See the news story "Zoo Knew of Danger Before Dogs' Fatal Attack, Papers Show," Oct. 24. Nonetheless, the primary onus rests squarely on Maddox's mother. Her actions in the incident don't fit in the category of "normal behavior by untrained people," despite the lame attempt by the plaintiff's attorney quoted in the article.
I've seen women plant a baby carriage in the street while waiting, safely at the curb, for the traffic light to turn in their favor. I've witnessed toddlers scampering about a subway platform, getting perilously close to the edge, while their adult caretakers remain sublimely unconcerned. Thank goodness there are not examples of "normal behavior."
When Maddox's mother put him in harm's way -- by consciously holding him close enough to the dogs' exhibit that he could fall in -- she was not engaging in "normal behavior." It took no special knowledge or insight to comprehend the excruciating risk Maddox's mother took when she exposed him to what became his fatal fall. Indeed, out of all of the parents who took toddlers to the exhibit, I'm willing to bet that only a minute minority did what Mrs. Derkosh did.
I know that the thought that she committed a grievous error in judgment is extremely painful for her, but it's Mrs. Derkosh who chose to reopen her wounds when she sued the zoo.
MARVIN M. WITOFSKY