By Kate Mather Los Angeles Times
Inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture found no violations at a Fresno, Calif.-area big cat sanctuary where an intern was killed last month, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.
Agency records show that officials conducted a “focus inspection” at Project Survival’s Cat Haven on March 6, the same day 24-year-old Dianna Hanson, or Brier, was killed by a 4-year-old male lion named Cous Cous.
USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said inspectors looked at the specific enclosure where Hanson was killed, training policies for workers and protocol for transferring the animals during cleaning.
“They were in compliance,” Espinosa told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
The last 10 federal inspections at the park found no violations and no penalties or enforcement actions had ever been issued, a USDA spokesman told the Times after the attack.
Various agencies, including California Fish and Wildlife and the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, launched inquiries into the park after the attack.
Those two are ongoing, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Hanson and another volunteer were alone on the roughly 100-acre Dunlap park when the attack occurred about 12:30 p.m. on March 6, officials said.
Friends of the workers said the routine was to feed the cats about noon, typically by putting food in a small enclosure, getting out and then letting the animals inside from a larger enclosure.
During the attack, the other volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, to no avail. Sheriff’s deputies arrived and fatally shot the animal.
By the time rescuers reached Hanson, she was mortally wounded.
A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and “some suffocation,” Fresno County Coroner David Hadden told the Times.
The neck injury appeared to come from a swipe from the lion’s paw. The body had “numerous claw marks and bite damage” elsewhere, probably inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.
Dale Anderson, the park’s founder and director, told the Chronicle he believed Hanson accidentally left the door of a small feeding den open, allowing the lion to move into a larger enclosure she was cleaning.
Hanson was “a good keeper, a solid person and was good at what she did,” he told the newspaper. “She just made a mistake.”