Bringing Order to Chaos: Trespassers Attacked by Privately Owned Cougar

anthony_zitnick1Whatever happened to impressing girls with a nice car or back stage tickets to a Guns and Roses concert? Anthony Zitnick allegedly wanted to impress a 16-year-old girl by unlawfully entering the private home of Alan Rigerman, who legally keeps two cougars, several snakes and an alligator. A 150-pound cougar named Chaos attacked her while Zitnick apparently froze and did little.

This one reads like a torts hypothetical. Owners are strictly liable for wild animals yet are generally not liable for trespassers. However, there are exceptions for attractive nuisances for child trespassers, though one of the elements is the inability to appreciate the danger. Sixteen is a bit old for an attractive nuisance claim when the two trespassers knowingly sought out the cougar.

Zitnick appears to have worked with Rigerman, including help with the animals.

Richard Miralles, a neighbor familiar with Rigerman’s large cats, heard the girl’s scream and jumped the fence — only to find the girl’s head in Chao’s mouth and Zitnick standing motionless in shock. Zitnick was later treated for shock. Miralles struggled with the animal and, after punching him in the head, the animal crawled into the corner in a ball.

Zitnick has been criminally charged — no surprise there. The question will be civil liability. The girl assumed the risk and was a trespasser. She could base some liability on the fact that Rigerman gave the key to someone like Zitnick and anticipated the trespass. If the animal is euthanized, Rigerman could clearly go after Zitnick — though for the moment Chaos remains at the home.

For the full story, click here.

3 thoughts on “Bringing Order to Chaos: Trespassers Attacked by Privately Owned Cougar”

  1. I saw this story on the news the other day. All I can say is is that that girl is so lucky that the neighbor man was there to help her.

    I think that these people have the right to have those animals, especially if they are well taken care of. A dog can attack the same way. We’ve all heard the horror stories of bulldogs or german shepards tearing apart someone’s face or arms.

    Those kids went in the house knowing that there were wild animals in there. The boy should have asked his neighbor to show them the animals when he was home. That girl is lucky to be alive. I’m sure she’s real impressed with him now.

    I say that those people have a pretty damn good security system. If a criminal breaks into the home, won’t they be surprised?

  2. Raff, the most dangerous animal in that house has opposable thumbs so I think the count would be three. You know what? I really admire gorillas, but if I have one in the house, I expect trouble. Lot’s of it.

    That’s why I don’t have a gorilla.

    Same goes for cougars. What an imbecile. Euthanized? Hardly a fair treatment for the animal since he, to paraphrase Chris Rock, didn’t go crazy, he went cougar. The guy who decided that having big cats in the house is a good idea? I’d buy the stupid argument and possibly the crazy argument for him. Yes, they are beautiful, graceful and powerful predators. NO, they are not good PETS. Liability aside, too bad stupidity isn’t a criminal charge. And no one is attempting to euthanize the owner. How about this for fair . . . if the cougar gets euthanized, then the owner should get a vasectomy. It’s not parity, but it would slow/stop the spread of the arrogance and stupidity that created the danger the first place.

  3. How can someone keep two cougars in their house? How can any governmental body issue permits for two wild and dangerous animals in a home? I would have guessed it was a Texas case, but when I read the story it was in Florida. It is a shame that the girl had to get injured while joining her friend on this unauthorized “visit”. This is stupid on so many levels. I would agree that they are too old for the attractive nuisance theory. I hope the authorities will take a second look at the sense in allowing two dangerous animals in a residential setting like this.

Comments are closed.