Vol. 1, Issue 29, December 2, 2003
Lawsuit Bids to Exterminate Polar Bears Because They're "Too Interesting"
A lawsuit has been filed alleging that the polar bear species ursus maritimus constitutes an attractive nuisance by its very existence. The suit was filed by the family of another victim who climbed into to the polar bear exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
"We frankly think it is unconscionable of this organization to blatantly display animals which are so obviously compelling and interesting to look at," said Myrna Hodgkins in a press conference on Friday. "Honestly, how do they expect people to behave when tempted so outrageously?"
The bears are kept in an enclosed habitat including a 266,000 gallon pool. On Thursday, Jack Hodgkins, 22, picked a security lock; climbed an 8-foot concrete barrier; scaled an electrified 12-foot fence; and crossed a 15-foot artificial ravine to enter the enclosure, where Rico, a 10-foot male polar bear, bit his hand off.
"There was no reason for the bear to do that," said an outraged Jack at the conference. "I just wanted a picture. If the darn things are so dangerous, they ought to have said something." He dismissed the large red-lettered signs alerting visitors to the fact that polar bears are enormous, dangerous carnivores as "beside the point."
This is not the first time a visitor has gone to great lengths to reach a dangerous animal and then sued the zoo when achieving their goal. It is, however, the first time that an entire species has been blamed for enticing such "victims."
"I regret to say that all polar bears are attractive nuisances," said attorney Wendell Gibson, representing the Hodgkins family. "For the safety of bear-loving people everywhere, I think exterminating them is the only option."
The "attractive nuisance" premise, a unique feature of the American jurisprudence system, holds that owners of objects or locations which could entice trespassers must take adequate precautions in shielding the attraction from those who might be tempted by it. Trespassers are consequently absolved from at least some of the blame when they break into such attractions, and often sue the owners when they are caught.
Zoo exhibits have frequently been targets of attractive nuisance suits, but this is the first time an entire species has been held to blame.
"This is an utterly appalling manifestation of what is wrong with the American legal system," said Albert Steiner of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. "Americans will go to significant lengths to avoid accepting responsibility for their actions. Personally, I'm sorry the polar bear didn't eat him."
The Hodgkins family has founded an organization, People Interested in Terrible Animals (PITA), to fund their lawsuit.
"I sure hope we succeed in getting rid of all the polar bears quickly," said Jack. "I already feel compelled to get another picture with Rico."