Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2014

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Arizona sanctuary worker bitten by tiger

Roy Horn is not the only Roy in the region who is recovering from a tiger attack.

Sarah Roy, a 21-year-old employee of a wild animal sanctuary in northwestern Arizona is in stable condition at Kingman Hospital after sustaining a tiger bite on her leg Monday, the facility's operator said.

She has worked with big cats for six years but was bitten while working at the Keepers of the Wild animal sanctuary in Golden Valley, Ariz., in Mohave County shortly before noon Monday. She suffered four puncture wounds on the lower part of one leg.

"We had just had a meeting a half hour earlier about Roy Horn and we had talked about not being complacent and being on our toes -- and something still happened," said Jonathan Kraft, longtime owner of Keepers of the Wild, and a veteran animal trainer.

"But that is the nature of our business. These are wild animals. Sarah is well-trained and did everything proper to get away from the tiger. And she had well-trained people standing by to assist her."

Keepers of the Wild operated in Las Vegas in the 4000 block of Dewey Drive for 13 years before moving to the Golden Valley location three years ago. In that time, Kraft said there have been four animal bite incidents at his facilities.

The most serious of which was in October 1996, when Keepers trainer Charlie Stagnaro, 65, was feeding 8-year-old Bonnie, a Bengal tiger, when the tiger attacked him. Stagnaro needed surgery on his feet and legs as a result.

Sarah Roy was bitten just three days after Horn was seriously mauled by a tiger during Friday's performance of Siegfried & Roy at the Mirage. He remains in critical but stable condition today at the University Medical Center.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects and approves licenses for the exhibition of wild animals, is investigating the Siegfried & Roy incident but has not yet made a determination about the Keepers incident.

"We are aware of what happened Monday and we are looking into the incident to determine if an investigation is warranted," said Jim Rogers, spokesman for the USDA in Washington.

The Mohave County Sheriff's office got the call of a "large cat incident" at 11:45 a.m., and an ambulance was dispatched to the sanctuary, sheriff's spokeswoman Sandy Edwards said. No sheriff's deputies were dispatched.

Sarah Roy had been cleaning the tiger's metal pool in its cage when she was attacked by Tigger, a 6-year-old, 500-pound male Bengal tiger, who recently was rescued from a private Texas home along with a female tiger named Sheena.

"Tigger was upset because we had separated him from his friend and would not give her back to him until after she is spayed because we are not a breeding facility," Kraft said. "Sheena also was in season, and that may have contributed to his acting up."

Tigger was not quarantined because that's not required, Kraft said.

"The term quarantined is being thrown around rather loosely (by the news media)," Kraft said, referring to the Roy Horn mauling. "You isolate a tiger from human or animal contact. You only quarantine an animal for illness or medical tests.

"There is no need to isolate Tigger because he already is in a large cage by himself."

Kraft said incidents like what happened at his facility should hammer home the reason why people should not keep tigers as pets.

"The couple we got Tigger and Sheena were moving into an apartment and could no longer keep them,' Kraft said. "The recent incident in New York of a man keeping a tiger in his apartment shows the level of insanity this has reached.

"There are an estimated 15,000 tigers in private hands in the United States. Sure they are cute when they are small and you can walk them on a leash. But without training and trained backup people for when tigers get older it's just so dangerous."

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