WYNNEWOOD — A woman who was attacked over the weekend by a tiger at an exotic animal park in rural Garvin County issued a statement Monday, claiming the big cat did nothing wrong and that she is to blame for nearly losing her arm.
Kelci Saffery, who was in surgery Monday at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City to repair the damage done to her arm, said she is looking forward to getting back to her old job when her recovery is complete.
At the time of the attack Saturday, Saffery was a big cat specialist at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in Wynnewood.
In a handwritten statement, Saffery took full responsibility for Saturday's attack.
“On Oct. 5, I broke protocol and stuck my hand in a cat cage instead of using the stick provided,” she wrote. “The cat let go and pushed my arm back through the cage ... this tiger was not aggressive toward me.”
Joe Schreibvogel, the former owner of the Wynnewood zoo who still houses his own cats at the facility, said that Saffery, 27, likely will be in the hospital for another 15 days before she is released.
A former medic, Schreibvogel said the damage done to Saffery's arm was significant and hard to look at.
“She'll have surgeries for the next two years, from what we've been told,” Schreibvogel said at a news conference Monday evening in Wynnewood. “It was one of the most horrific arm injuries I've ever seen.”
Saffery is expected to regain the use of her arm, Schreibvogel said. He said Saffery has worked at the zoo for about a year and that she was passionate about her work.
Schreibvogel said Saturday's attack was the first time an employee has been harmed by one of the dozens of dangerous animals who live at the zoo.
“I've been bit, but this is what I do,” he said. “But as far as a worker, that I have to be responsible for, this is the first.”
The tiger that attacked Saffery is referred to as “tiger number seven,” because the zoo does not name the cats under its care. The big cat has been isolated from the other animals for at least 10 days “on orders from our local sheriff,” Schreibvogel said.
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