The Dallas Zoo became the talk of the town over the weekend after two apparently deliberate cuts were made in animal enclosures, one of which allowed a clouded leopard to leave its habitat.
Now that all the animals have been accounted for and the zoo has said it is tightening security measures, the question remains who will be held responsible for the damage and how.
Dallas police launched two investigations:
The first is a cut in the fence of a clouded leopard habitat that zoo officials discovered on Friday after they saw one of the roughly 25-pound cats missing. On that day, Nova, who had become a social media star, was found safe and sound at the zoo. A spokesman for the Dallas Zoo said on Tuesday that Nova has returned to her normal life with her sister, Luna.
The second was for a cut in the fence of the langur habitat, discovered shortly after. None of the little monkeys escaped or got hurt.
Police said they did not know if the incidents were related and said on Tuesday there were no updates to the investigation. The department did not respond to Dallas Morning News open request for publication of incident reports.
If arrests do occur, the suspect or suspects will most likely be charged with criminal mischief or two.
What is criminal hooliganism?
Criminal harm covers a wide range of property damage.
Texas law describes the offense as when someone intentionally and without the owner’s consent damages or destroys property, tampers with the property causing “monetary damage or substantial inconvenience to the owner or third party”, or makes marks, such as drawings, on the property.
The severity of the charge ranges from a Class C misdemeanor to a first degree felony, depending on the value of the damages.
Possible jail time starts with a class B misdemeanor with damages estimated at $100 to $750. A conviction on this charge can result in a prison sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000.
When the damages are between $2,500 and $30,000, the charge is a felony in state prison and carries a penalty of 180 days to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. And in the most serious cases, damages in excess of $300,000 are a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison or life imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
The cost of the damaged fence at the zoo was not immediately determined.
Other charges are possible, such as trespassing.