A Sherwood, Ore., wildlife sanctuary where a cougar mauled an employee in November violated its safety protocols by frequently allowing its keepers to work alone, Oregon OSHA alleges.
Renee Radziwon Chapman, who was attempting to clean one of the cages at the sanctuary when a cougar attacked her on Nov. 9, 2013, had worked alone on the day of her death and on the previous day, Oregon OSHA contends. WildCat Haven’s policy mandates that two qualified staff members be present during any contact with cougars.
"Sadly, as is so often the case, this workplace tragedy may have been prevented if the employer had followed and enforced its own guidelines when employees entered the cougar enclosures," Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood said.
Oregon OSHA issued $5,600 in fines for two serious violations: one for failing to enforce the sanctuary’s two-person rule, and another for having cage latches that did not fully secure dangerous cougars.
The second violation identified an inadequate latch design on the cougar cages, according to Oregon OSHA. If the locks were not fully closed, they could inadvertently pop open. In order to fully secure the latch, keepers were required to enter the cage and attach a carabineer onto the latch’s lock fitting, according to the agency.
“The enclosure itself was also poorly designed with no separate entry door,” Oregon OSHA said. “As a result, cougars in two separate chambers needed to be secured in order to safely enter.”
WildCat Haven Inc. has 30 days to appeal the citation.