Here in California, and indeed all across the country, workers in every
trade have a certain expectation of safety in the workplace. This holds
true for everything from
industrial accidents at construction sites to slip-and-fall accidents by hairdressers; employers
are responsible for maintaining a safe workplace and for enforcing effective
This also holds true for more exotic professions. An animal handler was
killed this month in an Oregon animal sanctuary, leading some observers
to question whether the work-related death was the result of inadequate
worker safety at the sanctuary.
The incident occurred last Saturday at WildCat Haven, an animal sanctuary
for big cats. The sanctuary's head keeper, a 36-year-old wife and
new mother, was found dead in a cougar enclosure. She had apparently been
bitten around the head and neck by a cougar after she entered the enclosure
to clean it. She was found that evening by the sanctuary's owner,
who notified authorities.
Police say they are not considering criminal charges in the case, noting
that it appeared to be a "cut-and-dried event."
Criminal charges are often discounted in workplace accidents; civil claims
for wrongful death, however, are often possible.
In this case, the victim's mother said the woman had expressed concern
about her safety at work. She noted that the woman was all alone at the
sanctuary, with no one else available to render assistance.
The Occupation Safety and Health Administration is now investigating the
animal sanctuary; they will be checking to see whether safety protocols
were sufficient to protect worker safety. They will also be interviewing
workers to get a better idea of the common working conditions and expectations
at the sanctuary.
Source: FOX News Los Angeles, "Employee Killed by Cougar Had Felt Unsafe" Hunter Lowry, Nov. 11, 2013