Fox Attack on Baby Twins Raises Public Safety Issues

Early in June this year, Pauline Koupparis, the mother of nine-month-old twins, Lola and Isabella Koupparis, was left horrified after her daughters were attacked in their cots by a rather improbable intruder. On Saturday 5th June, at around 10pm, a fox crept into the Koupparis family home in East London via an open ground-floor door, made its way upstairs and then savagely mauled the baby girls as they slept in their cots. Speaking after the incident, which left the twins with arm and facial injuries, Mrs Koupparis claimed that she heard a “funny cry” emanating from her daughters’ bedroom. Mrs Koupparis added: “It was quite muffled but very pained”.

Upon investigating, Mrs Koupparis was shocked to discover the cause of the twins’ distress. Mrs Koupparis said: “I went into the room and I saw some blood in Isabella’s cot, I thought she had a nosebleed. I put on the light, I saw the fox, it just looked at me and it wasn’t even scared of me. I started screaming as I realised Lola was also covered in blood”. Fortunately, neither twin was fatally injured in the attack; however, both required hospital treatment and Isabella faces the prospect of further surgery on her arm as she grows older. Consultant reconstructive surgeon, Raj Ragoowansi, of the Royal London Children’s Hospital, treated Isabella’s injuries and noted: “The bite was a very strong bite because as far as the upper arm was concerned the wound was down to the bone. That takes some considerable force”.

The public’s response to the fox attack had been predictably varied, with many people urging an inner-city cull on foxes and others suggesting the Koupparis’ are ultimately to blame. On the latter point, there ought to be no question that Mr and Mrs Koupparis, who were watching television at the time of the accident, were somewhat careless in leaving a ground-floor door open. Regardless as to how warm it is, leaving a door open at night – or, for that matter, at any time – raises the possibility of an intruder entering the house. Of course, human predators are more likely to take advantage of such opportunities than foxes, so the Koupparis family perhaps ought to consider itself fortunate in the circumstances. On the former point, however, the attack has raised one or two issues of public liability.

Personal injury claims involving foxes are unheard of in the UK, which is arguably not surprising. Because foxes are normally wild animals, accident claims cannot be brought against owners because there are none. However, foxes are considered to be pests in urban areas – not to mention the countryside – and, as such, there is a question as to whether the local authority ought to do more to protect humans from the occasional fox attack.

On this point, it is argued that only where a specific and exceptional duty of care has been breached can compensation be awarded to the victim of a fox attack; unless, of course, the fox itself is owned by a person, company or other such organisation. Aside from legal liability, local authorities ought to consider social responsibility in their handling of urban fox populations. Speaking about the fox attack in question, London mayor Boris Johnson said: “It is right that boroughs should focus on their duties for pest control because as romantic and cuddly as a fox is it is also a pest”.

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