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.
“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.”