In October 2014 in Dublin District Court, Dublin Zoo was given the benefit of the Probation Acts after they made a full apology, gave a €5,000 contribution to charity, and entered a guilty plea to a charge of breaching section 19.4 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
The Court heard that a risk assessment carried out in 2006 had stated that the public should only be allowed to get close to harmless animals such as stick insects.
In August 2013 however, as a favour, a zoo keeper had allowed a family friend with four young children to have a "close encounter" within the Tapir enclosure. A two year old girl suffered serious injuries to her stomach and arm when a normally docile 225kg Brazilian Tapir reacted aggressively to the child screeching and picked her up in her mouth. The child's mother also suffered injuries in trying to release and rescue her daughter.
Section 19.4 requires that an employer shall take steps to implement any improvements considered necessary in relation to the safety health and welfare of employees and to ensure that any such improvement is implemented in respect of all activities and levels of the place of work.
Dublin Zoo said that it was a failure in communication which led to this risk assessment not being implemented. Management was unaware that these "close encounters" were occurring. Steps were taken by Dublin Zoo after the incident to update safety protocols and procedures. They included the cessation of any visitor contact with animals, installing a secondary perimeter fence around the Tapir enclosure and making it a protected contact habitat for staff.
This article contains a general summary of developments and is not a complete or definitive statement of the law. Specific legal advice should be obtained where appropriate.