Animal Legal Defense Fund Intervenes in Cal OSHA Lawsuit after Lion Kills Worker; “Cat Haven” Settles

Posted on January 13, 2015

Lion Mauling Leads to the Protective Barrier Requirement Long Sought by Animal Groups

For immediate release:

Megan Backus, ALDF
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF

lion-cc-jim-grey-article-image-240pxDunlap, Calif. — Last week, on January 6, a legal settlement brought conclusion to the tragic and fatal mauling of a zoo employee at Cat Haven Zoo, a 100 acre facility west of Kings Canyon National Park. The national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) intervened in the legal battle between the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal OSHA) and Project Survival (which runs Cat Haven), eventually resulting in approval of Cal/OSHA’s new requirement of physical barriers between humans and large cats at the facility. That decision corresponds with an increased call from the advocacy groups like the Animal Legal Defense Fund for physical barrier requirements, including at theme parks like the controversial SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium which have also seen fatal injuries from captive animals.

On March 6, 2013, 24-year-old Dianna Hanson, a volunteer intern at Cat Haven, was in a large exercise enclosure (possibly on the telephone according to media reports) when a 550lb 4-year old lion named Cous Cous broke Dianna’s neck with a swipe of his paw. The Fresno County coroner determined that Dianna was deceased by the time the young lion began to toss Dianna’s body about his enclosure.

Cal OSHA oversees worker safety regulations for the state and issued a special order on May 10, 2013, requiring improved worker safety measures. Despite its claims of concern for worker safety, Cat Haven appealed that special order. ALDF moved to intervene in the proceeding on October 23, 2013, and Cal OSHA granted ALDF’s motion on November 15, 2013. After a year of preparing to fight over the order, Cat Haven recently agreed to add the physical barriers with “positive stops, locks or bolts” to settle the case. Cat Haven also agreed to keep a standby keeper at the worksite anytime somebody enters a large cat enclosure, provide safety training for workers, and keep a fire extinguisher near entry doors to use as a distraction during emergencies. The settlement was approved by the agency on January 6, 2015.

“The captive animal exhibition industry is already problematic for animal welfare,” said Stephen Wells, executive director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “At minimum, there should be a physical barrier between humans and dangerous animals, at all times, for the safety of both.”

Copies of the settlement are available by request.

4 thoughts on “Animal Legal Defense Fund Intervenes in Cal OSHA Lawsuit after Lion Kills Worker; “Cat Haven” Settles

  1. Artificial habitats created to put animals on display are completely unnatural for the animal. We can reverse the scenario and describe how well a human being would fare if involuntarily tossed into the wilderness to live among lions for life. There is simply nothing in common between living in a caged enclosure and being able to roam free over hundreds of miles with other large cats in their native environment. It is unreasonable to expect a wild animal to develop and maintain the etiquette, manners and behavior of another species. Sadly when animals being held in captivity against their will behave as nature intended, they are villanized for it.

  2. Kathy says:

    Not the lions fault!! They are NOT meant to be caged… Let them run loose in the wild where they belong. People can visit at their own risk.. Set these poor animals FREE!!!!!!!!!

  3. michelle says:

    Funny thing, i have 7 domestic cats and a couple of them are overly loving… Tyrant likes to grab me and hug me and one day as he was bringing me to my knees with his ckaws in my thigh i was very thankful that i had domestics and thought about what a big cat might do to me trying to express its feelings. These animals are no joke they love and hate just like anything else theres just a lot more to them, having barriers and taking every precaution is the only way to protect them from our stupidity and unfortunately because of humans those of us with a heart have had to resort to putting these beautiful creatures behind bars or in sactuaries, it is not their fault they are there. So just do what you have to not what you can to keep them safer than what theybare in the wild!

  4. mary says:

    wild animals DO NOT belong in cages. They are WILD animals and to pen them is to believe they are somewhat ‘tamed’ We humans have huge egos that spill over to trying to control an animal born with instincts we have no knowledge of. A wild animal belongs in its natural habitat. While I’m sad the young keeper lost her life what a huge mistake, she let her guard down and was killed.

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