Capital punishment for Maymont’s bears
Anyone who's been to Maymont, the bucolic park, mansion, and petting zoo near the Fan district in Richmond, has likely craned their necks looking to spot the two resident black bears inside their enclosure. Yesterday, both bears were euthanized less than a week after one of them bit a four-year-old boy who had scaled an exterior fence and stuck his hand inside the cage.
According to a story in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maymont officials, in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, decided there was no solution other than to kill both bears becuase it could not be determined which one had bitten the boy, and they wanted to make sure neither bear had rabies. If one tests positive, the boy may be subjected to a series of six shots over 28 days to prevent onset of the always-fatal disease.
The boy did not require stitches for his bite, and, according to the Times-Dispatch, he may have had an apple or the scent of an apple on his hand. One bear has since tested negative for rabies.
The Times-Dispatch reports that one of the pair was introduced to the public in early 1995 with "Bear Family Day," an event to which children brought their favorite stuffed bears for a Victorian Teddy Bears' Picnic and Parade.
"Whether the child received treatment or not, we felt from a public-health standpoint we had to know whether either bear had rabies," Shannon Nicole Marshall, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health was quoted in the Times-Dispatch. "Our ultimate responsibility is to protect public health."
Left unexplained in the story, however, is why the Department of Health, if it really wants to protect public health, doesn't kill all the animals at Maymont...