Woman Interning At Cat Haven Mauled To Death In Lion Attack

A recent photo of Cous Cous, a 4-year-old male African lion that attacked a female volunteer at Cat Haven in Dunlap.

A 24-year-old woman volunteering at Project Survival Cat Haven in Dunlap on Wednesday afternoon was killed in a lion attack.

Dianna Hanson, of Lynnwood, Wash., was said to have been a "volunteer intern" with Cat Haven, a private wild cat sanctuary located about 40 miles east of Fresno.

Hanson was attacked while inside of an enclosure that housed the 4-year-old male African lion named Cous Cous, according to reports from the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. Cous Cous had been at Cat Haven since it was 8-months old.

When sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene around 12:30 p.m. two workers were on site. Hanson was inside of the lion's enclosure and the second worker made several attempts to direct the lion away from the injured woman and into another enclosure. But the lion would not allow anyone to provide medical assistance to the woman. So, deputies shot and killed the lion.{}

"This is very rare. This is a situation where someone got too close to the lion," said Tony Spada, a lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Spada said that the Cat Haven is regulated just as circuses and zoos and that it has been in compliance with state laws.

"Every year we have an annual permitting agreement. We come in. We inspect it with our wildlife officers. And if they do not pass the inspection, they do not operate at this time," Spada said. "They have an active permit that was okay 'd by our department."

Cat Haven has been open since 1993 and has been home to rare, large cat species such as tigers, cheetahs, lions and leopards. Cat Haven is also open to visitors who want to learn about the more than 40 felines and conservation efforts.

Dale Anderson, the man who opened Cat Haven, was visibly upset about the lion attack but offered a few words.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to our friend and her family at this trying time," Anderson said, fighting back tears.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office will head the investigation into the lion attack.