A young boy in Ohio had a very close call over the weekend when he fell into the cheetah exhibit at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo. What's worse, several eye witnesses claim that the 2-year-old boy's mother was dangling the toddler into the exhibit when he fell. 

The cheetah enclosure at the Cleveland Zoo is surrounded by a 10-foot wall, but there's a pavilion with an opening where spectators can see the animals. According to witnesses, the boy's mother was holding him as well as another child over the enclosure when the toddler fell. The boy's father quickly jumped into the enclosure to save him, and nearby spectators pulled them both to safety.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've given my kids a boost on my hip or even my shoulders so that they could get a better look at the animals at the zoo, and I know that accidents happen. There's no way this mother intended to drop her son into the cheetah pit, but whatever her reasoning for dangling her kid over the railing, this particular mom showed a serious lapse in judgment.

I mean, seriously — dangling your toddler over the railing of any 10-foot wall is pretty bad, but dangling him over a wall separating your baby from a carnivorous wild animal? Not too smart.

Fortunately, other than a minor leg injury, her son is no worse for it.

A similar incident at a Pittsburgh zoo did not have such a happy ending. A 2-year-old boy was fatally mauled after he lunged out of his mother's grasp into the wild African dogs exhibit about 10 feet below.

Both incidents serve as a clear reminder to parents to pay close attention to those safety warnings — at zoos, in parks, in stores and everywhere else. The warnings are there for a reason and not just because someone in the office wanted to be a Debbie Downer and ruin your trip. 

Zoo officials noted that the cheetahs made no attempt to go near the boy or his parents. After the incident, the exhibit was closed for the reminder of the day, probably to allow the cheetahs to recover from the trauma. As of this morning, child endangerment charges have been filed against the boy's mother for reckless behavior that could have had a tragic ending for both her son and the cheetahs.

Related on MNN: