Cheetah now calls home the African painted dog exhibit at Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
Children squealed on Friday for the cheetah at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium to show herself, while parents whispered about the enclosure's former inhabitants.
Even though the cheetah remained hidden in the long grass for most of the afternoon, the exhibit attracted many who spoke of the Nov. 4 accident in which the zoo's African painted dogs fatally mauled a little boy when he fell into their pen.
“I thought they were going to close it for good,” said Pamela Faber, 37, of Shaler, who took her son Dylan, 4, and daughter Rebecca, 7, to the zoo for the day. “It's so tragic what happened, and now they have another dangerous animal in there.”
Maddox Derkosh, 2, of Whitehall died after his mother, Elizabeth Derkosh, lifted him onto a railing for a better look at the animals. The boy fell 14 feet from the observation deck onto a mesh net and bounced into the pen.
Zookeepers rushed to save him, but it was too dangerous for them to enter the yard. It was the first visitor death in the zoo's 114-year history.
The zoo removed the observation deck from which Maddox fell and replaced it with a tall fence and shrubbery running from a food shack in the nearby food court to the African Overlook, where visitors can view the cheetah through a glass panel.
The zoo quietly replaced the dogs early last month, said spokeswoman Jaime Szoszorek. The city originally built the enclosure for cheetahs in 1992.
Ten dogs were moved to other zoos across the country, Barbara Baker, the zoo's president and CEO, told the Tribune-Review in April. Fewer than 3,000 of them remain in the wild, making them an endangered species.
Elizabeth Derkosh and her husband, Jason, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May, claiming zoo administrators knew the observation deck was dangerous and had ample warning that parents routinely lifted children onto the rail. Their Philadelphia-based attorneys, Robert Mongeluzzi and Andrew Duffy, did not return calls seeking comment.
Szoszorek refused to answer additional questions, citing the “pending litigation,” while representatives for the Department of Agriculture and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit organization that accredits zoos and aquariums, did not return calls.
A USDA spokesman last year said investigators were looking for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which governs the treatment of animals in public exhibits. The spokesman at the time said there was no timeline for the investigation, and any violations would be made public.
Mike Dillon, 41, of Uniontown said he specifically sought out the enclosure in his first trip to the zoo since last summer to see the changes.
“It seems like they saw the problem and have fixed it,” Dillon said.
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has said that neither the zoo nor Elizabeth Derkosh will face criminal charges. The Derkosh family couldn't be reached for comment.
Louise Gephart, 71, of Murrysville applauded the zoo for the changes it's made.
“I definitely think it's safer now,” she said. “But I feel like it's a little too soon to have something else in there.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ambridge police chief went undercover in attempt to catch person who robbed 2 people at knifepoint
- No federal funds to help enforce Pa. ban on texting by drivers
- Allegheny County Council wants to hike members’ $3K expense accounts
- U.S. Steel Tower tenants stand to benefit from company’s relocation
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- Coaches lead discussions to influence athletes’ attitudes toward women, avoiding violence
- Brentwood police chief to get nearly $200K as part of settlement agreement with borough
- Girl, 12, rescues 4-year-old sister from burning house in Homestead
- U.S. Steel to relocate corporate headquarters on former Civic Arena site
- Newsmaker: Christine Pease-Hernandez
- Suspect in Route 28 death has long history of ignoring vehicle registration, license laws, records show