When Teenagers Attack

On Friday of last week, the San Francisco Zoo reopened following a tiger attack on two teenage boys and the 23-year-old brother of one of the boys. If you haven't heard about it on the news, the basics are that following eye-witness accounts of the boys taunting, roaring at, and possibly tossing objects at a tiger named Tatiana, the tiger lept over her enclosure's wall (which was lower than it should have been) and attacked the boys, killing one of them.

I'm having a very hard time summoning any kind of empathy for the boys. This isn't the tale of an innocent life taken.

I don't like zoos. Wild animals kept in captivity are not entertainment. Lions, tigers, and bears (not to mention giraffes, rhinos, and monkeys) belong in their natural habitats, and not on display behind bars or walls or "natural habitat" enclosures. There's nothing natural about the extremely stressful, monotonous life of an animal kept in a cage. When I want Isabella to see these great creatures, I'll take her to the science museum, or I'll turn on the HD Discovery Channel.

But my dislike of zoos isn't the reason for my lack of empathy. Much as I wish all zoos to be put out of business, I certainly don't wish harm to those who choose to visit them.

No, my lack of empathy for these boys stems from their behavior just prior to the attack. According to witnesses, some or all of the boys were allegedly throwing things at the tiger, roaring at her, challenging her. The teenagers who were abusing Tatiana (and yes, I do consider their behavior abuse and so does California law, which states that taunting zoo animals is a misdemeanor) weren't little boys who didn't know any better. The youngest was 17 years old. These "boys" were practically adult men.

Those who abuse animals, children, and the elderly are the lowest common denominator in my book. Preying on the innocent and on those who can neither defend nor protect themselves makes you a cretin, and you deserve whatever punishment befalls you.

Wild animals kept in captivity are wild animals still. They have natural instincts, and when they're challenged by an aggressor, they're programmed to attack. Tatiana didn't suddenly go berserk for no reason. Zoo animals are accustomed to dealing with people, so there's no reason to suspect she just suddenly flipped out. Tatiana didn't go on a killing rampage and mow down all zoo visitors in her path. She attacked only three people. Three people who according to witnesses were harassing her and preying on her. Three people who didn't treat her with the respect and dignity she should have received. And one of them paid a terrible price for his mistreatment of her.

FBI studies have established a link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to human beings. Adults who commit acts of animal cruelty are also likely to commit crimes where the victim is a human. And FBI studies have found that almost all serial killers have engaged in repeated acts of animal cruelty.

I am not implying that those who harassed and abused Tatiana would eventually become serial killers or even commit further abuse of animals. I am simply stating that there is a link. It's real, and it's prevalent enough that there's a new bill in the Senate, which proposes that the FBI track animal cruelty crimes so that law enforcement officials can better monitor criminal trends.

As long as wild animals are kept in captivity, and subjected to the stress and anxiety that being on display brings, attacks like this one will continue to happen when these great creatures are mistreated. And no one should be surprised when they do.

You can read more information about the link between cruelty to animals and violence committed against humans here.

12 Responses to “When Teenagers Attack”

  1. # Blogger OHN

    cI couldn't agree with you more. I knew there had to be more to the story than a tiger randomly attacking kids. I have a wavering feeling on zoo's though. I hate seeing animals caged but in the next breath I say I love being able to see them. I have even told my family that I wish that at some point in my life I would have thought about studying animal science and working in an arena where I could be surrounded by animals...I like them better than a lot of people I know :)  

  2. # Blogger kenju

    I agree with ohn. YOu are right about taunting the animals, but I like zoos, as long as the animals are not mistreated and allowed to live as closely as possible to their native habitat. Those boys deserved what they got - and I realize that is harsh of me to say it. What idiots they were.  

  3. # Blogger Lis Garrett

    I like zoos, too.

    However, taunting animals is just a plain no-no and a disaster waiting to happen. I witness what our housecat does to my children when they tease him, I certainly hope they would have more brains that to harass a tiger.

    Still, that doesn't excuse the zoo from keep her in an enclosure that didn't meet saftey standards.

    Horrible story all the way around. I feel for the parents, and I am sorry that they boy had to pay for his mistake with his life.  

  4. # Blogger Beagle

    This is another example of the media's bias because while I didn't go out of my way to seek details, I did hear several news stories about this and not one mentioned the circumstances that preceeded the attack.

    I also believe that there is a link between animal cruelty and pure evil.  

  5. # Blogger Tracey

    I can appreciate your feelings on zoos, though I enjoy and love them.

    I feel like they provide a physical reminder to people that we need to care for our planet and its inhabitants better. I do wish that more zoos had better exhibits, though. I hate the small exhibits for large animals...

    I feel bad for the entire zoo and community after an attack like that. I can't imagine seeing such a sight! Nor can I imagine attending the zoo again...

    Praying for the families involved... and that the zoo doesn't go completely bankrupt from the lawsuits I'm sure they're going to get...  

  6. # Blogger Damselfly

    Yeah, I didn't get the idea of this because why pay money to go into a zoo if you're going to taunt the creatures there? It doesn't make sense. But of course it never makes sense to tease or torment any kind of animal. I  

  7. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I am also anti-zoo, although I will say that I think the work that zoos do is important. There is a lot of preservation and thought and a real caring for the animals, even if the end result is rather distasteful (animals cooped in cages to be seen). But I always say if Sam wants to see those animals, we will take her on safari in Africa so she can see them in the wild.

    As for the taunting kids, I agree that there is a special place in hell for anyone who would be cruel to animals and I hate that the creature that pays the price is often the animal itself (like Tatiana who was shot), but I definitely do not think a teenager taunting a tiger to show off for his friends is necessarily cruel. It is more just stupid and immature. And I feel kinda bad that he got mauled. I can think of a few ways I would rather go...  

  8. # Blogger l

    I experienced a similar feeling at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle a couple of summers ago. Some little kids were trying to throw things into the area where the grizzly bears were. One of them suggested throwing rocks. They weren't 2 - 4 years old little. They were around 10 years old. I was appalled that their parents didn't correct their ideas (they didn't actually throw rocks), and I remember thinking to myself, you just go ahead and see what happens when that bear leaps over and knocks your lights out with one swipe.

    I'm familiar with some of the studies linking cruelty to animals to cruelty to humans. Any time a child is found to have harmed an animal and human services finds out about it, they usually investigate the parents to see if there has been abuse of the child since there's also a link between being abused and animal cruelty (and later, as an adult, being an abuser themselves). It's a very sad and defeating circle.

    I hope they're not planning to put Tatiana down. She was just acting on her instinct.  

  9. # Blogger Binulatti

    Empathy is commonly defined as one's ability to recognize, perceive and feel directly the emotion of another. I am continually horrified at the extreme lack of this quality in those people who participate in, let alone agitate the lives of caged animals.

    These creatures don't "like" being held captive in zoos. It's not enjoyable or natural, it's extremely stressful, and those a**holes who taunted Tatiana to the breaking point got what they deserved.

    I might suggest showing this to any thinking child who wants to know why zoos are not the happy fun animal time people like to believe they are. We should be putting our efforts into preserving the habitats in which these animals live naturally instead of placing a bell jar over the last remaining "specimens".  

  10. # Blogger Shannon

    Jeremy wished that the tiger would of eaten the brats... and he is hoping they go to jail for what they did... I hope they have to work for an animal group and get some common sence knocked into their heads... stupid heads lol...  

  11. # Anonymous sher

    Totally agree. As a attorney, I know that the zoo should have built the enclosure higher, but I do think the boys did something to instigate the attack. A well-fed zoo animal (which they are)doesn't suddenly jump out of it's enclosure and attack people. Something happened. There have been incidents like this at other zoos, where teenagers climbed into cages and were killed. I hope zoos will install security cameras to keep track of what customers are doing.  

  12. # Anonymous Laura McIntyre

    While i have no strong feelings about zoos either way i completly agree with you about the attack. No the boys did not deserve what happened but neither did the tiger  

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