Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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Tiger kills animal trainer

A Bengal tiger being prepared for an advertising photography shoot killed one of his trainers and injured his owner Sunday night in a swift attack.

Las Vegas animal trainer Eric Bloom, 25, was dead at the scene after the attack about 6:15 p.m at a lodge at Prince Ranch, off Kyle Canyon Road, about a mile west of U.S. 95.

Bloom and Joshua Weinstein, the owner of the tiger, Jagger, and Wildlife Safari, a company that provides exotic animals for film and show work, were grooming the tiger in its cage when it attacked, Metro Police Detective Todd Rosenberg said.

"The tiger put its paw on the trainer's shoulder and pushed him to the ground and then bit him in the neck area," Rosenberg said. "(Weinstein) pulled the tiger's mouth open, and pulled the victim from the cage. He tried to resuscitate the victim, but he had already died from loss of blood."

The tiger was born in August 1994 and had never attacked anyone, said Weinstein, who has trained the cat since it was a cub. Jagger attacked Bloom from behind, according to Clark County Animal Control's report.

"I think this was one of those lightning bolt type of accidents," Weinstein said from the back of an ambulance where he was treated for minor injuries. "There was no growling or any indications that the situation was going to get out of hand so quickly."

Weinstein and Bloom were doing routine training with the tiger, preparing to shoot pictures with him Sunday night for a promotional advertisement, Rosenberg said.

Jagger has been performing since he was 7 weeks old and has appeared in countless motion pictures, advertisements and shows over the past six years, Weinstein said.

Animal Control quarantined the tiger in its cage while the investigation continues, Rosenberg said. Animal Control veterinarians will determine within 10 days whether the tiger has rabies and should be put down. Rabies is the only reason the county would euthanize the tiger.

Weinstein called the attack tragic, and said he hoped that it would not lead to destroying the tiger.

"This was a very unfortunate accident, but there's one thing that I want to make very clear, and that is that the victim loved this business, and loved these animals," Weinstein said. "This is a dangerous business, and we know the risks of working with these kinds of animals."

Prince Ranch is a private training ground for professional boxers. David Tua, Diego Corrales and Erik Morales have trained there.

A few hundred feet from the training complex is an area of pens and cages that the property owner allows Weinstein to use for his animals, police said.

Tua's publicist Fred Sternburg said today that rumors that Bloom and Weinstein were grooming the tiger for a photo shoot with Tua are false. However, Tua was on the premises when the attack occurred and has posed with Jagger in the past.

"(Tua) has in the past taken photos with that tiger, and there have been no incidences," Sternburg said.

According to neighbors, camels, burros, pigs and a lion are among the animals that have been kept on the property.

Wildlife Safari and its facilities are licensed and regulated by the Agriculture Department and are subject to random inspections and a 135-page code book , Weinstein said.

Boteilho said the Agriculture Department oversees animals used for entertainment purposes. The county simply ensures animal owners have the proper zoning to keep exotic pets and responds to complaints.

Boteilho couldn't recall the last fatality involving an exotic pet, but said more and more residents are keeping tigers and mountain lions on their property.

"It's more common than people think," he said.

The only Wildlife Safari citation on record at the county's Animal Control division is an October violation for caging a pot-bellied pig with no water.

Weinstein said Wildlife Safari is a small operation with only three or four trainers.

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