March 8, 2013

Coroner: Killer lion had escaped from cage

The coroner says a gate was partially open and the lion lifted it with his paw to get out.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Dianna Hanson

click image to enlarge

This 2012 photo provided by KFSN-TV shows a male African lion named Cous Cous at Cat Haven, a private wild animal park in Dunlap, Calif.

The Associated Press

Additional Photos Below

Whether Hanson was performing a function that placed her in danger is being investigated by Cal-OSHA, which also is trying to determine if employees were properly instructed about potential danger, as required.

"There should have been procedures that very clearly stated what the employees were required to do in order to not get killed," said agency spokesman Peter Melton, who added that documentation about the warning had not yet been provided by Cat Haven.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act, is also looking to understand why the lion turned on the intern.

"We're looking at whether the animal was acting in a manner leading up to that situation that maybe the staff should have been aware of," spokesman Dave Sacks said. "Was it being fed properly? Was it under undue stress?"

USDA inspectors conduct multiple unannounced inspections of Cat Haven every year and never had found a violation, Sacks said. Federal regulations pertain only to animal treatment and do not "cover every single instance of what a facility can and cannot do," he said.

A necropsy on the lion is being performed at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in Tulare.

Cat Haven breeds and keeps lions, tigers, jaguars, lynx and other exotic cats and takes them out for public appearances. A recent television report showed a reporter petting one of the animals.

It does not hold voluntary accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, said Senior Vice President Steve Feldman, or by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Both set standards for members.

"There are very clear standards for care," said Adam Roberts of Born Free USA, part of the federation. "Standards should not allow close contact with humans."

By all accounts, Hanson loved contact with cats. In one photo on her Facebook page, a leopard is lying next to her leg.

Late last year, she traveled to a preserve where she had volunteered in Bellingham, Wash., and posted a photo of herself standing in a tiger enclosure holding a stick as she was preparing to scratch the animal's back.

"I was bending over to scratch her back with my hand," she wrote under the photo. "You only touch them with your hands ... one doesn't poke a tiger with a stick."

On the same post, she expressed excitement about going to Cat Haven to start an internship. "So be prepared for more kitty pictures with new cats!" she wrote.

Hanson's family was taking some solace in that she died doing what she loved.

"She was living her dream and pursuing her life's work to the fullest," her brother, Paul R. Hanson, told the AP. "Upon completion of college she set off to pursue her life's work of bringing awareness of the plight of these magnificent animals through education and outreach."

In a letter posted to family and friends, the woman who had graduated in 2011 from Western Washington University with a bachelor's degree in ecology, evolution and biology talked about falling in love with exotic cats. After meeting a Washington couple with four tigers, she was hooked.

"For the last two and a half years I have been learning how to care for these animals and come next February, my father has given me a plane ticket" to Kenya, she enthusiastically wrote, adding later: "As my mother can tell you, I have had the goals of working with big cats since she adopted a tiger in my name when I was 7. I'm getting there."

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Dale Anderson, founder of Project Survival Cat Haven near Dunlap, Calif, walks Thursday with Pele, a female lion, at the same fenced habitat area where a day earlier Cat Haven sanctuary worker Dianna Hanson, 24, died from an attack by Cous Cous, a male lion twice the size of Pele, according to Anderson.

AP / Eric Paul Zamora, The Fresno Bee

  


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)