Texas Tiger Accident at Feline Facility is Unusual Job Hazard

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Marcus Cook, operator of Zoo Dynamics states, “Such accidents are a reminder of just how much we all care for these animals and wildlife. We accept the potential risks because of our love for these creatures and to be able to share these great cats with the rest of the world in hopes of sparking empathy for all living creatures.”

Professional exotic animal handlers know their line of work carries with it risks. Proper management and containment of large felines is principal to insure worker and public safety.

When working with any large animal, whether carnivore or livestock, one must always be alert.

The United States Department of Agriculture regulates facilities that house large carnivores. Employee training and written contingency plans are required.

Licensed wildlife exhibitors display animals to raise public awareness about conservation needs and challenges in nature and instill pride in our biological heritage. These ambassadors help raise money for habitat and species protection programs.

This positive benefit of captive husbandry is overshadowed when media sensationalizes an unusual accident involving large cats to increase their reader and viewer audience. Information is often not reported accurately.

Especially harmful to conservation is the actions of Animal Rights (AR) organizations fundamentally opposed to captive husbandry. The AR deliberately distorts these incidents to generate fear of animals and highlight their fund-raising appeals. AR promotes legislation to forbid ownership of exotics.

Recently in Texas, an adolescent tiger injured an employee of Zoo Dynamics. Don Roberts was hospitalized for stitches to some of his injuries, none of which were life threatening. Mr. Roberts will recover at home and then return to work on light duty.

The tiger left its primary 12-foot tall chain link enclosure but was still behind the 18-foot tall perimeter fence. The public was never at risk.

The tiger was apparently startled by Mr. Roberts and subsequently jumped at him. Mr. Roberts freed himself with assistance from another keeper. The feline was used to being handled and therefore was returned to its enclosure without further incident.

Marcus Cook, operator of Zoo Dynamics states, “The challenge to this industry is to identify risks and adjust management practices as expeditiously as possible to attain high safety levels. We are investigating this incident and have taken measures to prevent a reoccurrence.”

Zoo Dynamics reaches over a million people annually with their conservation message.

Cook explains the need for his mobile conservation education by referencing an Atlanta zoo survey that found visitors who had an interactive experience with an animal demonstration and bio-facts type program are more likely to actively support conservation then those who simply viewed the animals in their exhibit and read graphics.

Cook was touring when the occupational accident occurred but has been in contact with Mr. Roberts. Commenting on the dedication of his employees, Cook stated, “Such accidents are a reminder of just how much we all care for these animals and wildlife. We accept the potential risks because of our love for these creatures and to be able to share these great cats with the rest of the world in hopes of sparking empathy for all living creatures.”

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