A longtime volunteer at Big Cat Rescue, the Florida animal sanctuary profiled in Netflix’s “Tiger King,” was attacked by a tiger during a morning feeding, the sanctuary confirmed to CNN.
The volunteer, who’d worked at the Carole Baskin-founded sanctuary for five years, had gone to feed the tiger Kimba on Thursday when she noticed the tiger was locked out of a section of its cage where it was usually fed. The volunteer opened the gate to let it through without asking a coordinator, Big Cat Rescue said in a statement to CNN.
She reached her arm through the cage to unclip a second door — breaking protocol, according to the sanctuary — and Kimba grabbed the volunteer’s arm and “nearly tore it off at the shoulder,” the Tampa sanctuary said.
Another volunteer heard the attack and ran over, and the tiger released its grip on the arm. Coworkers attempted to stop the bleeding and save the injured volunteer’s arm before an ambulance arrived about 20 minutes later.
Kimba will be placed in quarantine for the next 30 days, Big Cat Rescue said, but “was just acting normal due to the presence of food and opportunity.”
The sanctuary said the volunteer, still conscious after the attack, insisted she didn’t want Kimba to be punished for biting her.
CNN has reached out to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue for more information on the attack and is waiting to hear back. The department told CNN affiliate WFTS it responded to the scene and that one person was taken to the hospital with “serious injuries.”
The attack occurred the same week the House of Representatives plans to vote on the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would end the private possession of big cats in the US and the handling of young cubs. Baskin has vocally supported the bill.
The attack on a Big Cat Rescue volunteer only reinforces why the Big Cat Public Safety Act should be passed, the sanctuary said in a statement to CNN.
Big Cat Rescue is home to over 50 exotic cats like tigers, lions, bobcats and more, many of which were rescued from the pet trade.
Kimba, the tiger that attacked the volunteer, was rescued from a circus in Guatemala, according to the sanctuary.
Big Cat Rescue and its founder were profiled in the Netflix docuseries “TIger King,” though Baskin criticized her portrayal.