Sanctuary: Gate worked properly in cougar attack

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The owners of a suburban Portland wild cat sanctuary where a longtime employee was killed by a cougar this weekend said Tuesday that a gate to a smaller cage where the animals should’ve been locked up was operating properly.

WildCat Haven in Sherwood said its head keeper, 36-year-old Renee Radziwon of Portland, broke a safety protocol that calls for two qualified workers in an enclosure with animals. Radziwon was alone, cleaning the main enclosure when one of the cougars attacked her Saturday.

Two cougars were found roaming freely in the main enclosure where Radziwon was mauled to death, WildCat Haven said in a statement. Another cougar was secured in the smaller, 15-by-15 cage within the enclosure.

Autopsy results showed Radziwon died at the scene of multiple bite wounds concentrated on her head and neck.

Her death was eerily similar to that of 24-year-old Dianna Hanson, who was killed by a lion at a wild cat park in central California earlier this year. Hanson also was killed while cleaning an enclosure.

Hanson died after one of two lions escaped from a smaller cage into a main enclosure and attacked her. She, too, was working alone — though another employee at the facility was in contact with her via walkie-talkie.

In that case, authorities concluded Hanson failed to secure the latch of the smaller cage’s gate.

Authorities have directed no blame in the Oregon death but have released few details about its circumstances. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said it has concluded no crime was committed.

The sanctuary says its safety handbook specifies that a staff member can enter an enclosure to clean or make repairs only after the animals are locked out of it.

The enclosure is surrounded on all sides with a 14-foot wall of thick wire with secure ceilings and includes a smaller cage where the animals can be locked inside, along with a double-door entry.

Radziwon’s family said they don’t believe she broke any rules, and she had expressed concerns about working alone just days before the attack.

The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are still investigating.

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