Wildcat Haven agrees to pay OSHA fine
Wildcat Haven Sanctuary, a big cat rescue in rural Sherwood, has withdrawn its appeal and agreed to pay penalties after one of its cougars killed a keeper last year.
In March, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division the states OSHA levied a $5,600 fine on the sanctuary for violating safety procedures and unsafe design features in the cougars enclosure that led to the death of Renee Radziwon-Chapman.
Radziwon-Chapman, 36, was the head keeper at the rural Sherwood facility, which takes in abused or neglected tigers, cougars and other wild cats.
Sometime in the mid-afternoon of Nov. 9, 2013, Radziwon-Chapman entered a cougar enclosure to do maintenance or cleaning. The enclosure was home to three mountain lions. She was found dead in a cougar enclosure that evening by Wildcat Havens president, Michael Tuller.
Radziwon-Chapman was found lying on her back in one of the cougar enclosures about 10 feet from the exit. There was a great deal of blood, and an autopsy would later reveal Radziwon-Chapman died from bite wounds to her head and neck.
According to OSHA investigators, the sanctuary did not use adequate safeguards to prevent employees from entering dangerous cat enclosues without first locking the cats in special holding areas. It also violated its own policy about allowing keepers to work in the enclosures alone.
The sanctuary appealed the decision in May, but later withdrew that appeal.
In a settlement filed on Friday, Michael and Cheryl Tuller who started the sanctuary in 2001 and serve as president and executive director agreed to pay the fine.
After OSHA's initial investigation, Wildcat Haven released a statement saying it would ensure that the tragedy was never repeated.
As an employer, we are ultimately responsible to protect the life, safety and health of our staff and volunteers," the sanctuary wrote. "Because of the hazards of providing sanctuary to wild animals that are both compelling and unpredictable, our greatest priority is to develop and ensure compliance with fail-proof safety procedures. We also intend to work toward developing national sanctuary safety standards for the continued well-being of those dedicated to helping captive wild cats that can never be released.