BROKEN ARROW — A wildlife sanctuary’s policy toward access to animals during feedings wasn’t followed in the case of a handler who was attacked by a big cat, the facility’s owner said Thursday.
Lori Ensign, owner and operator of Safari’s Animal Sanctuary, said she’s trying to piece together what happened when a lion-tiger hybrid cat, called a liger, gashed Peter Getz Wednesday.
Getz, who suffered wounds to his neck, remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday night at Saint John Medical Center in Tulsa.
Ensign said the sanctuary has a strict policy against opening the animal pens during feedings.
"We try to have all the procedures in place, but for some reason, they weren’t followed this time. In all my years we’ve stressed that whatever you do you don’t open that gate,” said Ensign, who was away buying feed when the attack occurred.
Getz has volunteered at the sanctuary for about a year and a half and worked previously at the Tulsa Zoo, she said.
Other volunteers were with Getz during the feeding, Ensign said.
Government officials are investigating the incident and will decide whether liger, Rocky, will be euthanized, Ensign said. The facility is licensed and regulated through the Oklahoma Wildlife Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture and is subject to the same rules as public zoos.
She said she and others are working to set up a fund to help with Getz’s medical expenses.