The woman’s family said they don’t believe the wife and new mother broke any rules, and she had expressed concerns about working alone just days before the attack.
Carol Baskin, CEO of Florida-based Big Cat Rescue, which compiles data on big cat attacks and deaths throughout the nation, said locking animals into a smaller cage may not be enough.
At Big Cat Rescue, all cleaning and feeding is done from outside the cages using long poles with hooks.
“I think the vast majority of sanctuaries are not strict enough and have a tendency to perpetuate the notion that these animals can be handled safety if you’re trained properly,” Baskin said.
The fatal mistakes, experts say, usually happen due to human nature.
“There is a certain psychology at work when you work with these animals day in, day out,” said Weir of the American Sanctuary Association. “You begin to feel comfortable around them. But they’re still wild animals, you don’t know what can set them off, and the results can be tragic.”
The best way to stop the attacks, experts say, is to reduce the need for sanctuaries by the curtailing the exotic pet trade.
In recent years, new state laws and a ban on the trade in big cats across state lines as pets reduced the number of mauling and deaths, the data show. A few states instituted restrictions on ownership, breeding and sale of exotic pets — some banning the practice outright, while others requiring permits or liability insurance to keep such pets.
Experts say proposed national legislation that would prohibit the private possession and breeding of big cats could further reduce the need for sanctuaries and the number of attacks on humans.
“If we were able to stop the flow of cubs,” Baskin said, “we would be able to stop this kind of tragedy.”