Zoo worker killed by lion while cleaning enclosure

Posted on in Workplace Accidents

Following one's passions can come with many risks, including the uncertainty of whether the pursuit will be successful. Sometimes, that pursuit can also involve physical danger. However, while chasing a dream of working with animals can involve some physical risk, a work injury from an animal can still be a shocking, traumatic and potentially deadly experience.

Recently, a 24-year-old volunteer at a California zoo was killed by a lion while the volunteer was cleaning the enclosure. During the cleaning, the lion was inside its feeding cage so that the animal would be separated from the enclosure. However, investigators believe that it escaped from its cage, allowing it into the enclosure to attack the volunteer. Cal-OSHA is conducting an investigation in whether the intern was performing a task that placed her in danger, as well as whether there was proper instruction to employees about the dangers.

Generally, workers who have been injured in a workplace accident can get workers' compensation to cover their injuries. However, workers' comp statutes in many states exclude volunteers and casual workers from coverage. In a tragic situation such as this one, where a worker is killed in a workplace accident, the surviving family members may be able to bring a wrongful death action against the work place if the death was caused by the negligence of the company or entity.

The zoo at which this incident took place is a private zoo that breeds and holds exotic cats, including lions, tigers and lynx. The zoo does not have accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums or the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, both of which are voluntary. Zoo representatives stated that the zoo has been incident-fee since they opened in 1998.

Source:, "Coroner's office says lion escaped cage to attack," Tracie Cone and Gosia Wozniacka, March 6, 2013

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