Insurers Take Another Look At Zoo Liability Policies
|By Adam Smeltz, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"I think the (zoo insurance) rates will go up" because of those and similar incidents, said
He said the zoo "does a great job" with animal welfare. But the African painted dogs that mauled
He said he ranks the dogs with hyenas and "even the tigers" in riskiness.
"They're wild animals; they're an exotic animal by nature. They are not a pet."
Kalmanson said that if he had insured the
Maddox fell 14 feet from the railing of an observation deck and into the dog enclosure.
The boy bounced off a mesh barrier during his descent, although zoo officials said the mesh is meant only to catch debris from the deck. Maddox's death, ruled a result of the dog attack, was the first visitor fatality from an animal in the zoo's 114-year history.
The zoo has closed the dog exhibit for the time being and quarantined the dogs for 30 days.
Baker said the zoo will decide the future of the exhibit -- and the dogs -- in the coming months.
"We're not making any major decisions right now," said Baker, who called safety "our top priority."
"This is an incredibly sad time for the zoo family," she said. "Of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the child."
Baker said various agencies have conducted more than 35 inspections at the
Baker said she knows of no earlier safety or security concerns with the exhibit. "We would have addressed them immediately," she said.
The enclosure style is similar to exhibit set-ups in other zoos and has proven effective for years, according to zoo officials in other cities.
The Derkoshes, who could not be reached for comment, have two years to sue the zoo in state court. They had not filed any litigation as of Friday.
Civil action has materialized in other zoo incidents, including in
Negligence becomes the central question in such litigation, said
"In general, when there is negligence, there are liability lawsuits," said Baranoff, who specializes in risk management. "At this point, you don't know if the family is going to do anything."
He said the zoo is "well insured, as they should be."
"There's no question they have liability coverage for every incident like this," Ogg said of the dog attack. "This was foreseeable and preventable. You can't stress that enough."
The case might push some insurers to avoid liability coverage for zoos with painted dogs, said
"But a zoo is a zoo, and you need a wide variety" of wildlife, Grace said. He and other industry observers said insurers who maintain coverage for painted dogs likely will put a new emphasis on physical safeguards.
And if investigators tie the
"It causes insurers to become more critical about what they've done in the past," he said.
That happened several years ago after the
Some carriers weighed whether to cancel policies with zoos housing tigers, Schlack said, but ultimately kept covering the tiger exhibits.
"I don't foresee any carrier saying, 'We're going to raise rates on you if you have painted dogs,' " Schlack said.
Insurers will rely heavily on the industry accreditation agency, the
"Underwriters rely upon the expertise and industry standards set by accreditation agencies such as the AZA," said Shaw, executive director at
The AZA reaccredited the
An AZA accreditation commission will revisit the
"You can't take away all the risks from a zoo, or it's not any fun to go," Schlack said. "It's important to have some connection and not just have (wildlife) in cages, where there's no interaction at all."
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