A wildlife sanctuary near Portland, Oregon has been cited and fined $5,600 for allegedly violating key safety protocols enforced by the state, which likely contributed to the mauling and death of a sanctuary worker in November. Oregon's Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) began an investigation of the WildCat Haven refuge after the bloodied body of employee Renee Radziwon-Chapman was discovered inside a cougar enclosure last year.
OSHA's findings indicate that Radziwon-Chapman was alone at the time she was mauled by two cougars, who were roaming freely inside their enclosure, in violation of the state's two-person safety mandate. According to cell phone messages uncovered during the investigation, Radziwon-Chapman had spoken repeatedly with the sanctuary's owner, Cheryl Tuller, about "the need for more help" in animal care.
"This organization didn't have a large number of employees and it had allowed other people to work alone with the cats in the past," Michael Wood, an Oregon OSHA administrator, told the Associated Press. "The employers clearly knew the keeper was working alone. It was a frequent occurrence, it happened with some regularity."
WildCat Haven has been issued the maximum penalty for an organization of its size and will now have the opportunity to appeal the citation. According to a statement from the sanctuary's lawyer, WildCat Haven has already worked to address the safety violations in question. Radziwon-Chapman's mother, Carol Radziwon, told The Oregonian that while she feels it's only right that WildCat Haven incur penalties for failing to comply with safety regulations, no fine -- large or small -- will change what happened to her daughter. "I'm glad they're being held accountable," Radziwon said. "But no amount of punishment, no amount of fines, no amount of anything is going to bring Renee back and fill the hole she's left in all of us."