A woman died tragically when a lion at the big cat habitat where she volunteered attacked and killed her, Fox News reported. Investigators expressed uncertainty regarding why the animal attacked the woman, and why the woman was inside the enclosure at all. State regulatory authorities were also looking into the incident, to see if the circumstances of the woman's death indicated a violation of workplace safety laws.
Early into 24-year-old Dianna Hanson's volunteer internship at Cat Haven, a big cat rescue and wildlife habitat 45 miles east of Fresno, a four-year male lion named Couscous mauled and killed the woman while she was inside an enclosed area for the facility's lions. Hanson was inside an exercise area for the cats, not the lion's cage at the time of the attack. While the lions were penned inside their cages, the Fresno County Coroner told Fox News that Couscous may have used his paw to lift open the door of his cage, then entered the exercise area and mauled the woman. When Cat Haven staff were unable to lure the lion away from the woman's body, Fresno County Sheriff's Deputies shot and killed the animal in order to attempt render aid to the intern.
Authorities believed that Couscous killed Hanson quickly by breaking her neck with his paw. The woman suffered many additional injuries as the lion tossed her body around its exercise enclosure, but the Coroner indicated that those injuries were post-mortem.
Investigators remained unsure why the intern was inside the exercise area at all. Additionally, investigators did not yet have an exact explanation as to what provoked the lion to attack the intern.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife's most recently inspection of the facility, in January 2011, indicated that Cat Haven was "in good condition." The inspection included examining the facility's gates, enclosures, water supplies, drainage, cleanliness and ventilation, along with the overall health of the cats.
Janice Mackey, a spokeswoman for the department, expressed uncertainty about whether state regulations prohibited a worker from entering an exotic animal's enclosure.
Nicole Paquette, of the Humane Society of the United States, expressed disappointment to Fox News that Cat Haven allowed Hanson inside the enclosure. "She should have never been in the enclosure with him. These are big cats that are extremely dangerous, and they placed a volunteer in the actual cage with a wild animal. That should have never happened." Further worsening the situation, the woman entered the area on a Wednesday, when the habitat is closed to the public and only one other staff member was on site.
California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration also investigated the incident. The agency sought to discover if Cat Haven violated workplace safety rules by failing to create adequate written procedures to ensure the safety of its workers, KOVR TV reported.
In any setting that involves, large wild animals, injurious and/or fatal attacks are risks, and the animals' owners owe it everyone around those animals to use the utmost of care. If you've been injured in an animal attack, contact our experienced San Francisco animal attack attorneys. The determined San Francisco animal attack attorneys at Callaway & Wolf can help you pursue your case to recover for your losses.