PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The District Attorney’s office says it’s now looking into warnings about the safety of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s African Painted Dogs exhibit.

The legal wrangling continues over the death of 2-year-old Maddox Derkosh, who fell over a railing at the African Painted Dog exhibit last November.

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Now comes word that the zoo’s safety committee had warned about the dangers of hanging kids over that railing on at least four occasions. But nothing was done about it.

“If it’s appropriate, we would bring criminal charges, but I don’t think it’s appropriate,” said Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.

Zappala says he’s not surprised by the revelations of warnings about the dangers at that zoo exhibit. He’s heard it before.

“When we investigated this matter, there were employees who came forward and said that other people had put children in a similar position at that exhibit,” he said. “So, we were aware.”

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Even so, Zappala says, so far he’s not found evidence of a crime at the zoo.

“You’d have to show that somebody went to a person in position to make a change or to do something about this, saying, ‘This is dangerous; somebody is going to die.’ And then that person would say, ‘I’m not going to do it,’” Zappala said.

Zappala uses the same defense the zoo is using; a national accreditation agency didn’t see any safety problems at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

“You have national experts come in and they look at the condition of the exhibit, they see obviously how it’s set up and they didn’t have a problem with that, so,” said Zappala.

Zappala says it’s a very high standard to win a criminal case. But there’s a much lower standard to win a civil lawsuit. The District Attorney hints that there’s a strong civil case.

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Court Papers Say There Were Concerns About Zoo’s African Painted Dogs Exhibit (10/24/13)
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