Fatal lion attack nets 3 ‘serious’ violations for center | TribLIVE.com

Fatal lion attack nets 3 ‘serious’ violations for center

Associated Press
FILE - This May 4, 2019 file photo shows the entrance to The Conservators Center in Burlington, N.C. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued three citations to the Conservator’s Center, an animal sanctuary in Burlington, North Carolina where a 22-year old intern was fatally mauled by a lion in December 2018. In an investigation relating to the intern’s death, OSHA determined that other employees were exposed to hazards at the center and has issued a total penalty of $3,000 to the center.( AP Photo/Amanda Morris, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina labor officials have cited an animal sanctuary for safety violations after a lion fatally mauled a 22-year old intern last December.

The state Occupational Safety and Health Division issued a citation Thursday for three “serious” violations to the Conservator’s Center in Caswell County.

Because Alexandra Black was an unpaid intern, the division could not issue a direct citation for her death, according to an emailed statement from the state labor department. Officials issued a citation after determining that other employees were exposed to hazards.

The citation said that all violations must be corrected immediately. The center also must pay penalties of $3,000.

In an investigation following Black’s death , the division found that the center had “ineffective procedures which resulted in a lion escaping,” and constituted a violation of the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Act.

To protect employees, the citation said the center should change its procedures to match guidelines from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and/or the North Carolina Zoo. These standards include using two keepers to move lions and not depending solely on mechanical safety measures to verify that all doors are correctly locked.

The division also cited the center for not regularly inspecting and repairing the animal enclosure and said the center must maintain a preventive maintenance program to ensure that the animal enclosures function properly.

It’s unclear how a 14-year-old male lion named Matthai escaped and pulled Black back into his enclosure last December, where he dragged her around by the neck.

The medical examiner’s report said it’s possible a 28-inch wide lions’ play ball blocked the gate. The center has denied that, but offered no alternative explanation.

The third violation from the center was an “inadequate emergency response plan.” The citation states the center “would be better equipped to quickly address an escape by a dangerous animal if it kept lethal weapons on site.” The citation also said the center should have a ‘shoot to kill’ policy if employees are at risk, and staff should undergo regular drills on what to do in the event of an escape.

After Black was attacked, firefighters first tried to spray the lion with water from firehoses, and then center staff failed numerous attempts to tranquilize the lion, according to a Caswell County sheriff’s report.

In a letter urging lawmakers to enforce stricter regulations on animal facilities, the intern’s aunt, Virginia Black wrote, “It seems clear that if the center had a real plan for how it would react in such a situation, it had rarely or never been practiced.”

She said the center’s priority was protecting the lion and wonders whether her niece could have been saved.

When reached by phone, the center’s executive director Mindy Stinner declined to comment and referred the Associated Press to the center’s lawyer. The lawyer did not immediately respond to email or multiple phone calls.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.