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Young woman’s death by lion attack raises safety concerns


Early this month the death of a young woman at a big cat sanctuary near Fresno made national news headlines and left many searching for answers. The woman, a 24-year-old intern who had been working at the sanctuary for about two months, was cleaning out a lion enclosure when the 550-pound beast apparently opened a cage door that hadn’t been properly secured, and ended the woman’s life with a mere swipe of its paw.

Animal bites happen in California on a regular basis, but animal attacks of this magnitude happen very rarely. Now the owners of the park, the family of the young woman, law enforcement and state and federal animal regulation and safety organizations are looking into the incident to see just what went wrong.

The sanctuary, called Cat Haven, had about 30 big jungle cats on hand, including two lions and several tigers, jaguars and other exotic animals. The 100-acre park has been in operation since 1998 without incident, but that certainly doesn’t mean the owner is out of the woods just yet.

California worker safety agencies are investigating to see if the sanctuary followed proper safety procedures, and whether the employees at the park were properly trained about the inherent dangers of working with these powerful, deadly wild animals.

When a person is injured or killed by an animal for which another person is responsible, the victim may be entitled to compensation. Most animal attacks in California don’t involve exotic animals, but domestic animals can also pose a serious threat, and can attack people in their neighborhoods and homes. An experienced personal injury attorney can work with animal bite victims to evaluate their case and help them get compensation for their medical expenses and pain and suffering.

Source: 760, “Family: Death of woman in lion cage was accident,” by Gosia Wozniacka and Tracie Cone, March 8, 2013