< Previous Page
USDA inspectors conduct multiple unannounced inspections of Cat Haven every year and never had found a violation, Sacks said. Federal regulations pertain only to animal treatment and do not "cover every single instance of what a facility can and cannot do," he said.
A necropsy on the lion is being performed at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in Tulare.
Cat Haven breeds and keeps lions, tigers, jaguars, lynx and other exotic cats and takes them out for public appearances. A recent television report showed a reporter petting one of the animals.
It does not hold voluntary accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, said Senior Vice President Steve Feldman, or by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Both set standards for members.
"There are very clear standards for care," said Adam Roberts of Born Free USA, part of the federation. "Standards should not allow close contact with humans."
By all accounts, Hanson loved contact with cats. In one photo on her Facebook page, a leopard is lying next to her leg.
Late last year, she traveled to a preserve where she had volunteered in Bellingham, Wash., and posted a photo of herself standing in a tiger enclosure holding a stick as she was preparing to scratch the animal’s back.
"I was bending over to scratch her back with my hand," she wrote under the photo. "You only touch them with your hands ... one doesn’t poke a tiger with a stick."
On the same post, she expressed excitement about going to Cat Haven to start an internship. "So be prepared for more kitty pictures with new cats!" she wrote.
Hanson’s family was taking some solace in that she died doing what she loved.
"She was living her dream and pursuing her life’s work to the fullest," her brother, Paul R. Hanson, told the AP. "Upon completion of college she set off to pursue her life’s work of bringing awareness of the plight of these magnificent animals through education and outreach."
In a letter posted to family and friends, the woman who had graduated in 2011 from Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in ecology, evolution and biology talked about falling in love with exotic cats. After meeting a Washington couple with four tigers, she was hooked.
"For the last two and a half years I have been learning how to care for these animals and come next February, my father has given me a plane ticket" to Kenya, she enthusiastically wrote, adding later: "As my mother can tell you, I have had the goals of working with big cats since she adopted a tiger in my name when I was 7. I’m getting there."
Cone reported from Sacramento. Associated Press writers Kathy McCarthy in Seattle, Garance Burke in San Francisco, and Sue Manning in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.