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A volunteer who regularly feeds the big cats was bitten and seriously injured by a tiger Thursday morning in Carole baskin The Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Florida, made famous by the Netflix series “Tiger King,” authorities said.

The Hillsborough County Fire Department received a trauma alert call around 8:30 a.m. Thursday from the sanctuary, agency spokesman Eric Seidel told The Associated Press.

Baskin, executive director of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, said in an email to the AP that volunteer Candy Couser was feeding a tiger named Kimba when she noticed the animal was not in its usual location. Baskin said Couser opened a door that had been clipped shut, but she reached out to release it.

“This is our universal signal to NOT open a door” without help, Baskin said. “It is against our protocols for someone to put any part of their body in a cage with a cat.”

“Kimba grabbed her arm and almost ripped it off her shoulder,” added Baskin.

Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue
Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue (Netflix)

Couser was taken to a hospital for treatment for serious injuries after Big Cat Rescue staff and other volunteers tried to stop the bleeding, Baskin said.

Kimba will be quarantined for the next 30 days, but Baskin said the tiger “was acting normally due to the presence of food and the opportunity.” Baskin said Couser did not want Kimba to suffer any consequences for the incident.

The sanctuary was founded by Baskin and Don Lewis in the 1990s and is a prominent animal sanctuary. Lewis disappeared in 1997.

The incident occurred on the same day that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, championed by Baskin, that would prohibit the handling of big cat cubs and their personal possession in places like backyards.

“This kind of tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye and we can’t let our guard down for a second with these dangerous cats,” Baskin said.

King tiger, which debuted in March, was a documentary series about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” an eccentric ex-Oklahoma zoo keeper who loves big cats.

Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison earlier this year for his role in a murder-for-hire plot. He was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut it down, accusing the Oklahoma Zoo of abusing the animals and selling big cat cubs.

In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Baskin’s ex-husband Lewis. The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated allegations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him his tigers. Baskin has not been charged with any crime and has issued repeated statements refuting the accusations made in the series.

– Reported with Associated Press


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