Animal sanctuary worker killed by cougar

Animal sanctuary worker killed by cougar

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 safety regulations.

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.


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