Officials begin tiger-attack proceedings

The City begins a round of public hearings today on a deadly Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo that killed one 17-year-old and injured two brothers with the possibility that The City, as owner of the facilities and animals, could make major changes.

Three major figures in the investigation are expected to field questions from The City’s Recreation and Park Commission: Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo,

Animal Care and Control Director Carl Friedman and Recreation and Park Department head Yomi Agunbiade are all expected to give presentations.

The Recreation and Park Department is essentially the landlord of the zoo, according to spokeswoman Rose Dennis. She said the commission has the power to take action over an issue with the zoo’s facilities and animals.

The San Francisco Zoological Society, a nonprofit organization, automatically renews its lease every five years. The lease isn’t up for renewal until 2013.

Today’s hearing comes as the City Attorney’s Office prepares for a battle over evidence that could be used in a future lawsuit. The City will attempt to get a court order today to analyze the cell phone records of the two brothers mauled in the tiger attack. The city attorney also wants to look at the car belonging to one of the brothers, which reportedly contains an empty bottle of vodka.

Carlos Sousa Jr., who was killed by the Siberian tiger on Dec. 25, was a friend of Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal. The lawyer for the two brothers has repeatedly faulted the zoo for its response and inadequate facilities and denied claims that his clients taunted the animal. The San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday that Paul Dhaliwal called the mother of Carlos Sousa Jr., the third victim who did not survive the attack, and told her how sorry he was.

“We never tried to taunt the animal,” he reportedly told the mother. “We were talking, laughing, walking, nothing else.”

Police were called to the scene during the attack. Four officers killed Tatiana, the tiger, when it became clear she would resume her attack on one of the brothers, who was beside her. At a Police Commission meeting Wednesday, Chief Heather Fong said the four officers who shot the tiger — Scott Biggs, Kevin O’Leary, Daniel Kroos and Chris Oshita — would be commended for their bravery.

bbegin@examiner.com

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