Man attacked by Tiger at Naples Zoo will not face charges since no law on the books applies

Reporter: Lauren Leslie Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
naples zoo
Naples Zoo’s Malayan tiger Eko. (Credit: The Naples Zoo)

The man attacked by a tiger at the Naples Zoo will not face animal cruelty charges, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

CCSO said in a statement, “The information we are sharing with you today is not exactly what we had hoped to be able to share with you regarding the incident that occurred on December 29, 2021, at the Naples Zoo.”

They say, after a thorough investigation of the incident and after consulting experts in state and federal criminal law and the prosecution of same, “It has been concluded that there are no applicable existing laws with which to charge Mr. River Rosenquist for his irresponsible acts that ultimately caused the death of Eko the tiger.”

“Simply put, there are no laws on the books that apply to this reckless act,” they said. “We know this will be very difficult for everyone to understand. It is difficult for us to comprehend.”

MORE: FWC releases new details on Naples Zoo tiger attack

“I am frustrated and even angered that there is no existing criminal law that applies in this tragic situation that resulted in the untimely death of a rare and endangered tiger,” said Sheriff Kevin Rambosk. “I am committed to developing draft legislation for our Florida legislators to consider that will hold accountable those who endanger animals with reckless acts.”

The news came in a Facebook post, and many in Collier County weren’t too pleased. “I think he should face some kind of consequences for his actions,” said Lori Lamaritata.

Lamaritata, as are many others, is still dealing with the loss of Eko. “The consequence was that the animal paid with its life, and that was really sad that was really very heartbreaking,” Lamaritata said.

David Thomas is a professor of forensic science at FGCU. “His actions caused the tiger’s death. There’s no doubt…” Thomas said.

Although no criminal charges are pending, a legal battle could still be ahead.

“If they want to do something, they can sue him. They can always sue him,” said Thomas. Thomas means the zoo can sue Rosenquist in what might be its only option for recourse.

Sheriff Rambosk has met with the leadership of Naples Zoo, and together they are developing draft legislation for consideration by state legislators.

He said, “We understand that so many people were expecting and even demanding criminal charges be filed against Mr. Rosenquist. Our enforcement authority and our nation’s justice system operate within laws set forth by our legislative bodies. When incidents occur that no one ever imagined or could anticipate happening and are not governed or covered by law, the course of action is to work with the applicable legislative bodies that can enact such law. That is what we are doing. We know that we will receive plenty of feedback on what we could have or should have done with regard to criminal charges. If we could have, we would have.”

The Naples Zoo thanked the Collier County Sheriff’s Office in a post but made no mention of a civil lawsuit. Without the aforementioned lawsuit, the zoo could begin to feel pressure from outraged Collier County residents.

“I guess what they want it is they want some sort of vengeance, and so I think that this would be the way in order for them to get it,” Thomas said.

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