Friday, August 04, 2006

Step Away from the Meerkats

Every weekday, I take the light rail to the Hennepin County Government Center where I work. As we approach the Government Center Station, the train’s crappy speaker system turns on and the driver gruffly announces, “Please remember to use the cross walks at this station”. Nothing says “good morning” like an aural assault. Sometimes I use the crosswalk and sometimes I don’t. My mama taught me to look both ways before crossing and I have gotten pretty good at it in the past 37 years. Should I suffer Death by Southbound Train, I take full responsibility for it - it would be my own damn fault. Similarly, Hennepin County has replaced the bricks in the courtyard twice because people slipped on them in the snow, fell and then sued the County. Millions of dollars have been spent replacing bricks because, it turns out, that most pavers get a little slippery when icy. Crazy, I know. Maybe we need the county commissioners to stand in the courtyard on winter mornings announcing, “It is icy. Please wear winter boots.”

Enter the meerkats. Yesterday, the staff at the Minnesota Zoo euthanized 5 meerkats because a 9 year old girl climbed onto a rock, put her hand down behind the protective glass in the exhibit and was bitten by a meerkat. This shouldn’t be that surprising. These aren’t kittens in a pet store. These are wild animals – plastic rocks and protective glass aren’t part of their natural habitat. You poke at a wild animal and the shocking truth is that it may bite you. In my mind, the parents needed to take some responsibility here. It is impossible to watch a child every moment, so, I don’t blame them for the daughter climbing the exhibit and for her attempt to touch the meerkat. The part that I cannot accept is that the parents then refused to allow their daughter to receive the rabies vaccine. There are laws and policies and all sorts of stuff that governs action in these type of cases and the Department of Health ordered the animals to be killed. The meerkats had no choice, the Department of Health had no choice and the staff at the zoo had no choice. The only ones with a choice were the parents and they chose to avoid any personal consequences for the incident.

The idea of personal responsibility seems to have been lost here in the United States. In Portugal, you can climb on the edge of a castle wall and do a little jig and no one will say a word. There aren’t ropes to keep you out or signs to advise you. They operate on the basic principle that people should use some common sense and, if they don’t, then they should bear responsibility for the outcome. In the U.S., when people do something stupid, they look around for someone to blame or expect others to clean up the mess. Maybe the parents should have had to kill the meerkats themselves – that might have changed their decision.

Read the article here: Minnesota Meerkats

8 comments:

Kristin said...

This sounds like you are standing on the top of Mount Kristin. I definitely agree that the parents should have had to kill the Meerkats themselves.

I think you should submit this as a letter to the editor. Brilliant.

Vikki said...

This just in...the meerkats did not have rabies.

Vikki said...

It's not often I get on top of Mount Anything but, if I did, I certainly wouldn't put my hand behind the protective glass.

Ranger Bob said...

Amen. I've read several comments on this incident, and you cut clearly to the heart of the matter. RIP, meerkats, and RIP any sense of accpeting the consequences of one's actions in this society, as well.

Susan Raffo said...

ditto from me and i almost blogged about the same thing because i was so outraged. i remember a really good rake article last year where a parent was talking about taking their kid to the indoor playground in edina or eden prairie or wherever the suburban hell it is. the author talked about sitting on a bench with a novel while her 6 or 7 year old went off to climb the ropes and play in this very carefully crafted indoor protected kid's play area - and then suddenly noticing that she was the only parent with a novel and that, instead, most parents were sausage-squeezing themselves through the child sized tunnels, following their little angels to make sure they were ok. also reminds me of what i saw on the today show this morning - yep, i had the TV on - about a women living in britain who wrote an op ed saying that while she loves her child, there are some aspects of childraising that are boring - apparently it has caused a minor word war on the internet with parent's being outraged etc. give them space, let them deal, be accountable, their bones set quickly, bruises disappear, back off. mount susan closes here.

Susan Raffo said...

of course, i also recognize that i have one of those children who doesn't climb on top of things, get into dangerous situations, etc. maybe i'd feel differently with a different kind of child.

Vikki said...

I have two of those climbing kind of children. My oldest climber could probably make his way into just about any exhibit with ease. It's our responsibility to see that if he does, we are accountable for that. So, yeah, our kids would be getting the shots.

renee said...

It's gross, isn't it? My mother would have told me it served me right....I wouldn't do it again.