DUNLAP, Calif. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cal-OSHA on Thursday joined other state and federal agencies investigating the fatal mauling of a volunteer intern at an exotic animal park in California.
State investigators who protect workplace safety said they are trying to determine whether Cat Haven near Fresno has the required written procedures that employees follow to stay safe.
The USDA enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act and hopes to learn whether the 4-year-old lion that killed 24-year-old Dianna Hanson showed any behavior prior to the attack that might have indicated potential danger.
Fresno County sheriff’s investigators and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife want to know why Hanson was in the enclosure with the animal.
The Seattle-area intern had loved lions and tigers since childhood, “was absolutely fearless” around them and hoped to work at a zoo after her six-month internship, her father said.
“She was at ease with those big cats,” Paul Hanson, an attorney, said of his daughter. “They liked her.”
Hanson told The Associated Press that he dropped his daughter off on Jan. 2 at Cat Haven, about 45 miles east of Fresno.
“It was just a dream job for her,” he said, adding that she gave him a little tour and showed him the lion Cous Cous, which authorities said killed her.
Hanson said his daughter had worked with big cats before but told him she would not be allowed to go into the lion cage.
On Wednesday, deputies found the woman severely injured and still lying inside the enclosure with the 4-year-old male African lion nearby, said Fresno County sheriff’s Lt. Bob Miller.
Another park worker couldn’t lure the lion into another pen, so deputies shot and killed it to safely reach the wounded woman, but she died at the scene, he said.
Cat Haven founder and executive director Dale Anderson cried as he read a one-sentence statement Wednesday about the fatal mauling at the private zoo he has operated since 1993.
Anderson returned to the zoo in Thursday. “I feel awful,” he said.
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