A tiger grabbed the arm of a volunteer at Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue sanctuary and “nearly tore it off at the shoulder” while being fed.
Candy Couser has been a volunteer at the animal refuge in Florida – made famous by the Netflix series Tiger King – for five years.
The 69-year-old was feeding a three-year-old male tiger named Kimba when she noticed he was not in his usual location, Baskin said in a statement on the sanctuary’s website.
The reality TV star said Ms Couser reached in to open a gate that had been clipped shut.
“This is our universal signal NOT to open a gate” without assistance, Baskin said.
“It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it.
“Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder.”
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The volunteer was taken to hospital for treatment after other staff rushed to her aid to stop the bleeding, Baskin said.
Later on Thursday she said Ms Couser needed surgery, adding that her arm was broken in three places and her shoulder was badly injured but that she was able to move her fingers.
Baskin said Kimba, who was brought to the sanctuary from a circus, was “being placed in quarantine for the next 30 days as a precaution, but was just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity”.
She said Ms Couser did not want Kimba to suffer any consequences for the incident and added that the tiger’s vaccinations, including for rabies, were up to date.
The incident came as the US House of Representatives voted 272-114 to approve a bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, championed by Baskin, that would ban private big cat ownership and the handling of cubs.
She cited the incident as evidence for why the law was needed, saying it “confirms the inherent danger in dealing with these animals and why we need the Big Cat Public Safety Act to eliminate having them untracked in backyards around the country and ending up in sanctuaries”.
Baskin said “this sort of tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye”, adding, “we cannot relax our guard for a second around these dangerous cats”.