Four summers ago, Americans found themselves cast as screaming extras in a bad remake of "Jaws" as widespread reports of shark attacks dominated the news. It subsided when scientists patiently made the point that the incidence of attacks was about the same as in any other year, and on Sept. 11 of that year, terror from the deep fell out of the news for good.
For the record, there have been Florida shark attacks recently, but a more disturbing dangerous animal concern -- and one that can actually be prevented -- is happening right here in Minnesota.
Russell Lala, 10, of Royalton was severely mauled by a lion when viewing exotic animals kept by Little Falls auto shop owner Chuck Mock. The boy was first tackled by a tiger whose cage Mock had opened. As Mock fended off the cat, a lion attacked Lala. The boy's family said he suffered brain and spinal cord injuries from the mauling and would be a quadriplegic the rest of his life. Both animals -- among 11 big cats and a bear owned by Mock -- were put down after the attack.
The incident follows the April mauling of an animal helper assisting in the care of nine big cats in rural southeastern Minnesota.
If these incidents pale in comparison with two near back-to-back shark attacks, the difference is that the big cats involved were all supposed to be pets or under the control of their owners.
Those who own exotic pets offer all sorts of altruistic rationales for wanting to make a home for the animals, but in reality, there are few good reasons. Wild animals are wild, and remain so, even in captivity. A Minnesota farm -- let alone an auto shop -- is hardly the natural habitat for a tiger.
-- Duluth News Tribune
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