A tiger nearly tore the arm off a volunteer at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, the animal rescue facility announced Thursday. CBS affiliate WTSP-TV reported that the nonprofit said Candy Couser, who had been volunteering with the organization for five years, was grabbed by a tiger named Kimba while reaching her arm into a cage to unclip a door during feeding time around 8:30 a.m.
"It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it," Big Cat Rescue wrote in a statement. "Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder."
Another worker heard the commotion and came running as Kimba dropped his grip. A nurse helped stop the bleeding while another person used a belt as a tourniquet.
An ambulance arrived within 15-20 minutes. And, Couser was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital with "serious injuries."
"Candy was still conscious and insisted that she did not want Kimba Tiger to come to any harm for this mistake," Big Cat Rescue wrote in a statement. "He is being placed in quarantine for the next 30 days as a precaution, but was just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity."
Big Cat Rescue was featured on Netflix's "Tiger King" this spring. Carole Baskin, an outspoken animal rights activist, operates the animal sanctuary, which has a variety of species in addition to tigers including ocelots, bobcats, leopards and cougars, among others.
The facility said grief counseling would be available for those impacted by the situation.
"All of the volunteers and staff on site today met to discuss what happened. Carole reminded everyone that this sort of tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye and that we cannot relax our guard for a second around these dangerous cats," said Big Cat Rescue. "This happened on the day our federal bill to ban cub handling and private possession comes to the House floor for a vote."
"The fact that, despite our intense safety protocols and excellent record of safety, an injury like this can occur just confirms the inherent danger in dealing with these animals and why we need the Big Cat Public Safety Act to eliminate having them untracked in backyards around the country and ending up in sanctuaries where wonderful people like Candy Couser have committed themselves to providing care for those discarded by the pay to play industry," the facility said.