A female volunteer was seriously injured after being bitten by a tiger Thursday morning at a cat rescue facility in Tampa made famous by the Netflix documentary series “Tiger King.”
NBC affiliate WFLA-TV reports the incident took place just after 8 a.m. at Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. Officials at the sanctuary say the volunteer of five years, identified as Candy Couser, was feeding the animal named Kimba when the animal grabbed her arm.
“It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it. Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder," Baskin said in a statement.
Couser was taken to a hospital for treatment and is expected to survive, officials said. Her injury was described as "serious."
Kimba will be placed in quarantine for the next 30 days, but Baskin said the tiger was “just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity.” Baskin said Couser did not want Kimba to suffer any consequences for the incident.
“This sort of tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye and we cannot relax our guard for a second around these dangerous cats,” Baskin said.
The incident came the same day the U.S. House is to vote on a bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, championed by Baskin that would ban handling of big cat cubs and personal possession of them in places such as backyards.
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The sanctuary was founded in the 1990s by Baskin and Don Lewis. Lewis disappeared in 1997.
“Tiger King", which debuted in March, was a documentary series about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” an eccentric former Oklahoma zookeeper who loves big cats.
Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison earlier this year for his role in a murder-for-hire plot. He was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut him down, accusing the Oklahoma zoo of abusing animals and selling big cat cubs.
In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Baskin’s former husband, Lewis. The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin has not been charged with any crime and has repeatedly released statements refuting the accusations made in the series.