Alpine animal rescuer reacts to Fresno Co. lion attack

ALPINE, Calif. – A San Diego-area animal rescuer said attacks can be prevented simply by not coming in contact with the animals.

A 26-year-old volunteer intern was mauled to death Wednesday afternoon at the Project Survival Cat Haven in Dunlap. Fresno County authorities said she was inside the cage with the four-year-old lion named Cous Cous.

The circumstances surrounding the attack remain under investigation.

Cous Cousapr242009 016“The female volunteer intern entered the lion’s enclosure where she was attacked and fatally injured,” said Dale Anderson, founder of Project Survival Cat Haven. “The lion was shot and killed per our safety protocols.”

The situation is difficult for Bobbi Brink, who founded the Lions, Tigers and Bears Animal Rescue in Alpine 10 years ago.

“If something happens to us, then we’ve totally defeated our purpose,” said Brink. “Because nine times out of 10 they’re going to kill the animal.”

At Brink’s facility there are two secure fences surrounding all of the animals. There are strict regulations about who can enter inside the perimeter fence, but no is allowed to enter a cage when an animal is inside.

“We don’t go in the enclosures with the animals,” said Brink. “We practice what we call protective contact. There’s always a piece of fence or cage between us and the animals.”

Brink said attacks are “very rare” when safety measures like hers are followed. She said at facilities where keepers come in contact with the animals it’s impossible to predict what will happen.

“This is dangerous when you do it right,” said Brink. “Let alone when you’re going inside the enclosure.”

Brink said there’s also a bigger issue surrounding exotic animals in the United States.

“We need the public to know,” said Brink. “The exotic animal trade is second to drugs and weapons in our country.”

Brink said more regulation is needed throughout the country.

“There’s thousands of animals that are in improper housing,” said Brink. “Right now, we’re working on a federal bill that stops private ownership and stops the breeding of these animals, because there are so many of them. We can’t find them all homes.”

3 comments

  • Charlie

    People like this guy are dangerous. He gives people the idea there is some fool proof way to handle these cats. AZA has some of the strictest no contact rules. How many have been injured or killed at AZA facilities? Its an assumed risk. If he doesn't want to take it he should get out of the business. Could you imagine a reporter losing their life to report a story and all the other reporters coming out like catty schoolgirls to talk about what he/she did wrong? The girl has a family who is devastated. The entire facility is devastated and none of it is "Mr Brink'" Business! Mr Brink should not own big cats if he thinks "protective" contact is 100% effective in preventing loss of life and limb.He should not be judging Cat Haven, he should be offering condolences and support. This can happen at ANY facility because you can not predict what all staff will do "all the time." Those who are responsible understand the potential consequences. People have bled out from loss of limb with "thru the cage contact." Mr Brink can not accept the assumed risk of working around big cats, then he should not work around them and certainly should not be in a position to "teach" other's how to handle them safely!

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