“When Animals Attack”— A Mort Laitner Short Story

When Animals Attack By Mort Laitner

At 4:30 p.m., on a Thursday the Health Department attorneys were notified that a five-year old girl had been mauled by an 80 pound cougar at a birthday party. The child suffered lacerations and puncture wounds on her head and lost a part of her ear. The question was would this child contract rabies? Euthanizing and examining the brain of the animal is the only way to definitively test for rabies. The owner refused to give the cat up. Upon hearing this, the legal team sprung into action preparing a Search and Seizure Warrant.

At 11:00 a.m., on Friday, the Legal team with a Health Department doctor appeared before a judge requesting the Warrant. The counsel for the wild animal show argued to save the life of the cougar. Understanding the public health exigencies, the Court granted the Warrant at 1:00 p.m. The Judge ruled in favor of protecting the little girl’s life.

The collaborative effort between representatives of five different governmental agencies (Wildlife, Fish and Game, Animal Services, State Laboratory, Sheriff’s Office and the Health Department) and the victim’s father and their attorney had to be coordinated. It was agreed that the agencies would rendez-vous at the cougar’s quarters.

At 4:30 p.m., the officers served the Warrant on the owner’s agents. The wildlife show maintains three cougars. Only two of these cougars were capable of having inflicted injuries to the small girl. Shockingly, the police officers learned that only one of the cougars was at the facility. The other cougar was performing at a show in Pompano. Health officials contacted the owner by phone and learned that it would take about two hours before the performing cougar returned, and the mauler could be correctly identified.

While we waited, in a futile attempt to obstruct justice, a female employee of the animal attraction placed an additional lock on the gate to the cougars’ cage. Upon witnessing this act of desperation, a police officer asked if she had a key to the lock, the employee smirked and said “Maybe”. At which point the officer slapped handcuffs on her wrists. After reality sunk in, the handcuffed employee was uncontrollably sobbing on the telephone trying to convince someone to bring the key for the cage.

At 6:45 p.m., the cougar’s owner arrived. The father and the owner agreed and confirmed that the performing cat was the possibly rabid offender. She vehemently argued that her big cat did not have rabies and that this was a witch hunt and a freak accident. She cried and begged for the animal’s life. The Wildlife and Game Commission employee took out his tranquilizer rifle and shot the cougar. 1 4

The sedated cougar was transported to Animal Services where it was humanely euthanized, and the cougar’s head was removed.

At 9:30 p.m., the head was brought to the State Laboratory for rabies testing. At 11:30 p.m. State Laboratory contacted the Health Department who relayed the results and the good news to the five-year old girl’s family. The family could rest easily that night knowing their child was not infected.

Lessons Learned

1. When any wild animal bites a human, contact the Epi and Legal departments immediately.

2. With all projects that involve a human life, be ready to go the extra mile to see the project through to its completion.

3. When it comes to protecting the life of a small child, justice can be swift.

4. When animals attack, we respond.

Gifts from the Heart

A five-year-old girl reclined in the hospital chair at Holtz Children’s Hospital. A monitor counted out her heartbeat. As her eyes fell on the new Barbie doll, she smiled and her face brightened. Her heart monitor registered an increase in heartbeat. This showing of wordless appreciation would not have been possible without the contributions of the Boy Scouts, FIU and the giving hearts of MDCHD employees.

This year’s holiday toy drive was a resounding success. Beginning in November 2006, MDCHD collected a record 250 toys, worth approximately $2,500, for donation to Jackson Memorial Hospital. On December 26, 2006, Christian Larriviere and JD Shingles  delivered these toys to the children at the Rehabilitation Center and the Holtz Center. This year the toy drive blossomed with additional organizations contributing. Thank you to all; you showed great heart in giving to the holiday toy drive.1



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