Monday, March 11, 2013

Sad lessons

The last thing I want to do is seem unsympathetic to the young woman who was killed by a lion at a big cat zoo in California.  

Ms Hanson
Dianna Hanson was a self-described big cat aficionada, and she was a volunteer at Cat Haven, out near Fresno.  She told her father that she chafed at the zoo's policy of not allowing people to be in the cage with the lion, a four-year-old named Cous Cous.

So last Wednesday, she unlocked a door which was supposed to be locked and, in so doing, unlocked the door to her own mortality.  The lion broke her neck when he attacked, killing her at once.  Responding personnel had no way of knowing for sure that she had died, and were unable to get the lion away from her recumbent form, and so were forced to kill the lion as well.

Her brother, Paul Hanson, told CBS News, "Anybody that encountered Dianna couldn't help being enraptured with her and with her enthusiasm," he said on Thursday. "She knew the risks and we knew the risks, but that was her passion. You always wondered when she was going to work, but the risks were part of that."

Ms Hanson loved these animals, but sometimes, love is just not enough.  Again, I hate to say anything critical of her in death, but this seems like another case of someone so in love with something that they feel the rules really don't apply to them - or can be broken "just this once."  After all, maybe 99 times out of 100, the lion would sit docilely by as an attendant cleaned the cage.  Maybe 999 times out of 1000.

But this rule was not put into effect to curtail the volunteers' enjoyment of the animal, or to do anything other than make them safe.  There is a tendency in our world today for people to assess the rules that are in place and then to decide if following the rule is really what they care to do.

In our county seat, we have the annual Towsontown Spring Festival.  Signs are all over the place asking people not to bring their dogs to a crowded street festival.  This policy is mentioned in the ads, and in most of the promotional articles in the local papers.  

I happened to be present at the Festival on the day that a little girl was sitting on the front steps of a bank, eating a pit beef sandwich.  A dog in the crowd attacked her and severely mauled her face.

This is why the policy is there.  People love dogs, but large crowds and dogs don't mix well.  But ask any officer who deals with someone who has brought Poochie to the festival, and they will tell you, the answer they get all the time is, "But people LOVE my dog and it would break his heart to miss the festival."

Ms Hanson's brother said she would be "devastated" to know that Cous Cous was put down.  And to think, none of this had to happen, had the rules been followed.

Perhaps her life was lost so that others will be saved. I'd like to think that personnel at these zoos will learn from her sad, sad death. 

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