DOHA: A criminal court yesterday sentenced a woman animal trainer of a circus company to three months in jail in a case filed after a six-year-old Qatari boy was attacked and hurt by a baby leopard last November.
The circus show at Hyatt Plaza was cancelled following the incident, which happened when the boy was being photographed with the leopard after the show, according to earlier reports.
The court also slapped a fine of QR200,000 on the company (Royal Circus) and QR2,000 on the circus manager.
They were convicted for not taking enough precautions to ensure the safety of visitors, thus causing serious injuries to the boy. He suffered injuries in the neck and chest and had to undergo surgery at Hamad General Hospital.
The boy’s mother told the court that she had taken him to the circus organised by the popular commercial centre. As they entered the circus tent, her son asked to be photographed with the leopard behind a one-meter high steel fence.
When the mother tried to take the picture, the trainer stopped her and demanded money for photographing the boy with the leopard, she said. After taking the money, the trainer took the mother and her son inside the fence, close to the leopard, which was lying on a platform, a little above the ground.
The trainer left for a while to collect change to return the balance amount. When she came back, she allowed them to take the picture with their mobile phone. As the boy came closer to the leopard and the mother took a suitable position to take the picture, the boy was attacked.
The leopard bit the boy in the neck, resting its clutches on his back. As the boy started bleeding, his mother fought with the animal to set him free from its claws but in vain. Onlookers rushed to rescue the boy and the mother fell unconscious. The boy was taken away for first aid. A witness narrated a similar story before the court during the hearing. A medical report also confirmed that the victim was bitten by the leopard and was injured.
Qatar Tourism Authority, which issued the licence for the circus show, said in a letter that the circus management violated rules by allowing visitors to be photographed with the leopard since this was not mentioned in the document submitted to the authority. Based on this statement, the court held the company responsible for the accident caused by safety lapses.