Hawaii woman suffered tiger attack at Oklahoma zoo - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Zoo where former Hawaii woman suffered tiger attack had past problems

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Courtesy: KFOR in Oklahoma Courtesy: KFOR in Oklahoma
Kelci Saffrey Kelci Saffrey
WYNNEWOOD, OK (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A woman from Hawaii is recovering from being attacked by a tiger at an animal park in Oklahoma that The Humane Society of the United States calls a "substandard roadside zoo."

Kelci Saffrey, 27, is a Kaiser High School graduate from Oahu who's been working at G.W. Exotic Animal Park about an hour outside Oklahoma City for much of the last year. 

Her boss said she broke protocol Saturday when she reached her hand into a cage with a tiger to try to get to a lock to a smaller cage. 

That's when the tiger bit her hand and swatted her arm with its claws.

"She is able to move all of her fingers," said Joe Schreibvogel, the owner of the tigers and the zoo's entertainment director. "They did have to remove a very small tip of her ring finger where the tiger's small teeth got a hold of her ring finger.  Other than that, it's remarkable that she's as happy and go lucky as she is.  Very strong woman."

He said she will be in the Oklahoma University Medical Center for the next 10 to 15 days and hopes to return to work soon.  

But The Humane Society of the United States says the facility is plagued with unstable leadership that's dangerous for the animals, staff and visitors. 

The organization released video shot in 2011 at that same Oklahoma zoo by an undercover Humane Society investigator who said in the four months he was there, five tigers died. 

The Humane Society said as many as 200 big cats live at the zoo, so the park may have more dangerous exotic animals than any other roadside zoo in the nation. On Monday, Schreibvogel claimed there are about 150 large cats at the zoo. 

During a news conference Monday, Schreibvogel referred to what he claimed are "strict protocols" against staff entering cages with the big cats at the zoo and he said he is the only person who's allowed to pet them. 

But the undercover investigator from the Humane Society said the facility functions as a petting zoo, where members of the public are able to pet tiger and bear cubs and other potentially dangerous animals for a fee. 

"Both employees and visitors to the park were injured on multiple occasions by the tigers," said the undercover investigator, whose name is not revealed in the HSUS video. 

During the four months the investigator was there, he claimed three children were bitten by tigers. One incident was caught on video when a 20-week old tiger knocked down and bit a little boy, who was pulled away from the scene crying. 

The federal government requires that humans don't interact with large cats that are older than 12 weeks of age, the Humane Society said. 

The undercover investigator said staff members were instructed to whip and hit the tigers hard on the nose, examples of which were included in the USPS video. 

The Humane Society filed several complaints with the federal government about its findings in 2011. 

Schreibvogel claimed there have never been any serious injuries or animal escapes at the facility. 

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, called the zoo "an operation with unstable leadership waiting to go belly up."  Pacelle said Schreibvogel filed for bankruptcy on behalf of his personal estate and the park.

Inga Gibson, the Hawaii director of the organization said, "wild animal exhibits such as G.W Interactive Zoological Park are both cruel to the animals and dangerous to public safety and should be strictly prohibited (in Hawaii and across the nation)."

 

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