Over 100K support Harambe’s Law after gorilla shot at Cincinnati Zoo

Local lawmakers say legislation not the answer to Cincinnati Zoo tragedy.

Some of Butler County’s state lawmakers are doubtful a proposed law outlined in an online petition — created Saturday after a gorilla was shot to death to protect a child who had climbed into its habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo — would prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

Tens of thousands of people upset following the death of the 17-year-old gorilla named Harambe are demanding a law that would hold zoo visitors accountable for their actions if they result in the harm or death of an endangered animal.

Harambe was shot to death after a 3-year-old boy got into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. The 450-pound, 17-year-old western lowland silverback gorilla picked up the boy and dragged him around the enclosure for about 10 minutes, according to zoo Director Thayne Maynard.

More than 130,000 people had signed a petition on Change.org as of Tuesday evening that would create Harambe’s Law and attach “legal consequences when an endangered animal is harmed or killed due to the negligence of visitors.”

WATCH: How far did the child fall at the Cincinnati Zoo?

The petition is directed to two Cincinnati-based Democrat lawmakers — Ohio Rep. Denise Driehaus and State Sen. Cecil Thomas.

“If this law is enacted, it will not only protect the animals, but will hold individuals accountable for actions resulting in harm or death of an animal,” according to the petition started by Annie Gutierrez, of Chicago, Ill.

Thomas said he understands emotions are high after the incident, “but it’s important for everyone to realize that zoo officials were forced to make a difficult decision to save the life of a child.”

“I trust that zoo officials made the correct decision based on the facts that are now widely known,” he said. “There’s no reason to believe that current state law does not provide adequate recourse if an investigation determines that further action is warranted.”

An official from Driehaus’ Columbus office said the state representative is talking with “interested parties” about the issue but has not released any formal statements.

State Rep. Tim Derickson, R-Hanover Twp., said discussion, not legislation, is needed following the incident.

“Legislation is not likely going to fix this from happening in the future. It’s not realistic to expect it would fix this,” he said, adding he would still give the law “some conversation.”

State Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp., said he “remains skeptical” legislation would prevent such incidents from happening.

“I have seen nothing to suggest that such a law would have prevented this tragic incident,” he said.

State Rep. Margy Conditt, R-Liberty Twp., called the killing of the gorilla “a very sad situation.”

But without the quick actions of the zoo staff, we could be mourning the death of a little boy instead and that would be “a greater tragedy,” she said.

More than 383,000 people have also signed a second petition that calls for the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services and the Cincinnati Police Department to hold the parents of the 4-year-old boy responsible.

“We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life,” the petition reads.

Cincinnati police said Tuesday they are investigating the circumstances “regarding the actions of the parents/family that led up to the incident …”