Death of lion lover spurs state, federal scrutiny - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Death of lion lover spurs state, federal scrutiny

Posted: Updated:
This undated photo provided by Paul Hanson shows his sister, Dianna Hanson. Dianna Hanson, a 24-year-old intern at the Cat Haven in Dunlap, Calif., was mauled to death by a lion at the exotic animal park on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Hanson) This undated photo provided by Paul Hanson shows his sister, Dianna Hanson. Dianna Hanson, a 24-year-old intern at the Cat Haven in Dunlap, Calif., was mauled to death by a lion at the exotic animal park on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Hanson)
This 2012 photo provided by KFSN-TV shows a 4-year-old male African lion named Couscous at Cat Haven, a private wild animal park in Dunlap, Calif. (AP) This 2012 photo provided by KFSN-TV shows a 4-year-old male African lion named Couscous at Cat Haven, a private wild animal park in Dunlap, Calif. (AP)

DUNLAP, Calif. (AP/CBS8) - A female intern-volunteer was killed Wednesday by a lion at a private wild animal park in Central California, the founder of the facility said.

The intern was attacked and killed when she entered the lion's enclosure, he said.

He refused to take questions from reporters, but extended thoughts and prayers to the victim's friends and relatives.

The male African lion, a 4-year-old male named Couscous, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was a cub, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates Cat Haven.

Investigators were trying to determine why the intern was inside the enclosure and what might have provoked the attack, Fresno County sheriff's Sgt. Greg Collins said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife will now perform a necropsy on the four-year-old lion, which had been hand-raised at this animal park since it was eight weeks old.

The facility, which is licensed by the California Depa

DUNLAP, Calif. (AP) — A 24-year-old intern who was described by her father as a "fearless" lover of big cats ventured into a lion enclosure at a privately owned zoo and was mauled to death, prompting investigations by several government agencies that want to know how the accident happened.

Dianna Hanson, whose Facebook page is plastered with photos of her petting tigers and other big cats, was frustrated that the exotic cat zoo in California where she had worked since January did not allow direct contact with animals, her father told The Associated Press.

"She was disappointed because she said they wouldn't let her into the cages with the lion and tiger there," Paul Hanson, a Seattle-area attorney, said about Cat Haven, the site of the deadly mauling on Wednesday.

Friends of Dianna Hanson recalled her passion for cat conservation.

"She was lovely. Energetic, athletic. She did everything she could to help our conservation efforts," said Kat Combes of the Soysambu Conservancy in Kenya, where Hanson recently had volunteered to work in the Cheetah Research Center.

For reasons still being investigated, Dianna Hanson entered the enclosure of a male African lion named Cous Cous on a day that Cat Haven, 45 miles east of Fresno, was closed to the public.

The 4-year-old lion, which had lived at the park since it was a cub, attacked Hanson and was later shot by Fresno County sheriff's deputies who were trying to reach her body.

Autopsy results revealed the reddish-haired young woman died quickly of a broken neck, possibly from a paw swipe from the 550-pound lion, and the numerous bites and scratches she sustained were inflicted after she died.

"Which means the young lady ... wasn't alive when the lion was tossing the body about," said Fresno County Coroner David Hadden. "We think the lion hit her with his paw and that's what fractured her neck."

On Wednesday, deputies found the mortally injured Hanson lying inside the enclosure, with Cous Cous nearby, said Fresno County sheriff's Lt. Bob Miller.

Another park worker had failed to lure the lion into another pen, so deputies shot and killed it to reach the wounded woman, but she died at the scene, he said.

Whether Hanson ignored orders or 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.

Dale Anderson, founder of the 100-acre facility in the Sierra Nevada foothills on the road to Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, said he also is investigating whether the facility's procedures were followed.

"We want to assure the community that we have followed all safety protocols," Anderson said. "We have been incident-free since 1998 when we opened."

He declined to comment on the facility's specific safety protocols, saying the details are part of the investigation by law enforcement.

Cat Haven breeds and keeps lions, tigers, jaguars, lynx and other exotic cats and takes them out for public appearances. It does not hold voluntary accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums or by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which 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. Frankly, facilities that don't comply with the federation's standards are ripe for potential abuse and these kinds of problems."

By all accounts, Hanson loved contact with cats. Her Facebook page holds dozens of photos of her petting many exotics.

In one photo, 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 with more kittes(sic); so be prepared for more kitty pictures with new cats!"

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," Paul R. Hanson, her brother, 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."

___

Cone reported from Sacramento. Kathy McCarthy in Seattle, Garance Burke in San Francisco, and Sue Manning in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

rtment of Fish and Wildlife, is about 45 miles east of Fresno in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It is normally closed on Wednesdays, and only one other worker was there when the mauling happened, Collins said.

He said the county received an emergency call from Cat Haven about 12:30 p.m., and a second call 20 minutes later reporting the injured person had died.

A sheriff's deputy shot and killed the lion after the attack, California Fish and Wildlife spokesman Lt. Tony Spada said.

Osegueda did not know how the park acquired the cub.

Cat Haven is a 100-acre wild animal park just west of Kings Canyon National Park. Since the property opened in 1993, it has housed numerous big cats, including tigers, leopards and other exotic species.

Couscous was one of about two dozen animals at Cat Haven, which has had a good safety record, Spada said.

Another big cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., told the AP last year that at least 21 people, including five children, have been killed and 246 mauled by exotic cats since 1990. Over that period, 254 cats escaped and 143 were killed.

Tatiana, a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo, was killed by police after jumping out of its enclosure and fatally mauling 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and injuring two other people in 2007.

Cat Haven has housed Bengal tigers, Siberian lynx, caracals, jaguars and leopards of various types as well as bobcats native to the area. Its founder Dale Anderson, described the private zoo several years ago as one of a handful of facilities across the U.S. that has all of the big cat species in one place.

The facility's website says it promotes conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitats and offers visitors tours and educational outreach.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier AP story, read below.

DUNLAP, Calif. (AP) — A male African lion killed a worker on Wednesday at a private wild animal park in Central California where the cat had been raised since it was a cub, authorities said.

The worker, also male, was attacked and fatally injured after getting into an enclosure with the lion at Cat Haven in Dunlap, Calif., Fresno County sheriff's Sgt. Greg Collins said.

Investigators were trying to determine why the man was inside the enclosure and what might have provoked the attack, Collins said.

The facility, which is licensed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, is about 45 miles east of Fresno in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It is normally closed on Wednesdays, and only one other worker was there when the mauling happened, Collins said.

He said the county received an emergency call from Cat Haven about 12:30 p.m., and a second call 20 minutes later reporting the injured person had died.

A call to Cat Haven on Wednesday went unanswered.

A sheriff's deputy shot and killed the lion after the attack, California Fish and Wildlife spokesman Lt. Tony Spada said.

The lion, a 4-year-old male named Couscous, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was 8 weeks old, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates Cat Haven.

Osegueda did not know how the park acquired the cub.

Cat Haven is a 100-acre wild animal park just west of Kings Canyon National Park. Since the property opened in 1993, it has housed numerous big cats, including tigers, leopards and other exotic species.

Couscous was one of about two dozen animals at Cat Haven, which has had a good safety record, Spada said.

Another big cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., told the AP last year that at least 21 people, including five children, have been killed and 246 mauled by exotic cats since 1990. Over that period, 254 cats escaped and 143 were killed.

Tatiana, a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo, was killed by police after jumping out of its enclosure and fatally mauling 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and injuring two other people in 2007.

Cat Haven has housed Bengal tigers, Siberian lynx, caracals, jaguars and leopards of various types as well as bobcats native to the area. Its founder Dale Anderson, described the private zoo several years ago as one of a handful of facilities across the U.S. that has all of the big cat species in one place.

The facility's website says it promotes conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitats and offers visitors tours and educational outreach.

___

Associated Press Writers Tracie Cone in Sacramento and Garance Burke in San Francisco contributed to this story.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 Midwest Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.