Lion kills young intern at exotic animal park in California

A woman was attacked and fatally injured by a lion after getting into a cage with the animal at Cat Haven sanctuary in Dunlap, Calif.

DUNLAP, Calif. — The father of a young intern who was mauled to death by a lion at an exotic animal park in California said his daughter knew she would not be allowed to enter the enclosure where she was found severely injured, with the big cat nearby.

Authorities had to shoot and kill the lion to reach the 24-year-old, who died at the scene.

Paul Hanson, a Seattle-area attorney, identified the victim as his daughter Dianna Hanson.

He said the internship was "a dream job for her" and she even gave him a tour of Cat Haven and showed him the lion that authorities said killed her.

Hanson said his daughter had worked with big cats before and "was absolutely fearless."

"She was at ease with those big cats," he said. "They liked her."

Intern killed by Calif. lion 'wasn't the slightest bit afraid' of lions

Intern killed by Calif. lion 'wasn't the slightest bit afraid' of lions
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Authorities want to know why she was in the cage and what provoked the male African lion to attack her.

Cat Haven founder and executive director Dale Anderson was crying as he read a one-sentence statement about the fatal mauling at the private zoo he has operated since 1993.

"We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our staff, animals and guests," he said.

The lion, a 4-year-old male named Cous Cous, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was a cub, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates the animal park.

The facility is normally closed on Wednesdays, and only one other worker was there, sheriff's Sgt. Greg Collins said.

Authorities are not pursuing a criminal investigation because all leads indicate Hanson's death was the result of an accident, sheriff's Lt. Robert Miller said Thursday.

Sheriff's deputies found the woman severely injured and still lying inside the enclosure with the lion nearby. Another park worker couldn't lure the lion into another pen, so deputies shot and killed it. But the woman died at the scene, Miller said.

Cat Haven has housed numerous big cats, including tigers, leopards and other exotic species. It is regulated as a zoo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Results of the last 13 USDA inspections show no violations dating back to March 2010. The most recent inspection was Feb. 4.

Officials at another big cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue in Florida, told The Associated Press last year that at least 21 people, including five children, have been killed and 246 mauled by exotic cats in the United States since 1990. Over that period, 254 cats escaped and 143 were killed.

Actress Tippi Hedren, who founded the Shambala Preserve in California for seized or abandoned exotic pets, expressed dismay over the killing of the lion.

"It wasn't the lion's fault. It's the human's fault always," Hedren said.

Associated Press writers Kathy McCarthy in Seattle, Garance Burke in San Francisco and Sue Manning in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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