Carole Baskin is speaking out after a volunteer at her Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida suffered serious injuries after being attacked by a tiger. Candy Couser, a five-year volunteer at the facility featured on Netflix's Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, was rushed to an area hospital Thursday morning after Kimba the tiger nearly bit her arm off during a feeding. After Hillsborough County Fire Rescue received a trauma alert call about 8:30 a.m. from the sanctuary regarding the incident, Baskin and her husband, Howard Baskin, released a statement on their Big Cat Rescue blog, explaining that the tiger involved was not at fault, but was rather "just acting normal" in the presence of food.
In the statement, Baskin said that Couser, a Green Level Keeper for three years, approached Kimba's enclosure for feeding time when she noticed that "he was locked in a section that was away from where he was usually fed." After radioing the coordinator to find out why, Couser proceeded to open "a guillotine tunnel door at one end of the tunnel" and saw that the second door was clipped shut. Baskin explained that while "this is our universal signal NOT to open a gate without the coordinator coming to assist," Couser said that she "just wasn't thinking when she reached in to unclip it." Baskin noted that "it is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it."
After Kimba "grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder," he released Couser when another volunteer heard the commotion and ran over to assist. An on-site nurse "held off the artery" in an effort to stop the bleeding, and another person "used his belt as a tourniquet as others called for an ambulance." Baskin said that Couser's husband was called immediately.
"[Kimba] was just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity," Baskin said. "The fact that, despite our intense safety protocols and excellent record of safety, an injury like this can occur just 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 where wonderful people like Candy Couser have committed themselves to providing care for those discarded by the pay to play industry."
Couser, according to the Big Cat Rescue's statement, was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital by ambulance. Couser was said to be conscious when paramedics arrived. Her arm was "in ice packs to try and save it." Her condition remains unclear. Kimba is being placed in quarantine for the next 30 days as a precaution. The statement said that Couser "insisted that she did not want Kimba Tiger to come to any harm for this mistake."