Man Attacked By Big Cat Dies

Friday, October 31st 2008, 7:44 am
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, News On 6

WAGONER COUNTY, OK -- An animal handler who was attacked by a liger at a Broken Arrow animal sanctuary has died. Officials at Saint John hospital say Peter Getz passed away Thursday night.

Peter Getz died after getting mauled by a lion-tiger mix named Rocky that had been in his care for a year and a half. Even though Getz was an experienced big cat handler, zookeepers say interacting with the animals in any way has inherent risks.

The attack happened Wednesday afternoon during the daily feeding at Safari Sanctuary. But during Rocky's daily feeding, Getz opened the gate to the enclosure.

The sanctuary's owner says he entered the cage and that's when Rocky grabbed hold of him and bit him on the neck and back.

Getz's co-workers at the sanctuary say he was a careful, passionate animal handler who knew his stuff. The head vet knew Getz very well and he says Rocky never game him any trouble at all.

"Not at all. Rocky's a 12-year-old, easy going, laid back, and Peter knew what he was doing. A really quality professional individual, who's been in the business for quite a while," said Dr. Dan Danner.

Danner says Rocky is a thousand pound animal and all it would take is a little overexcitement during feeding time to cause life-threatening injuries.

Getz interned at the Tulsa Zoo for nine months last year, zookeepers there say he was trained to never touch a wild cat.

The USDA is investigating the attack and the fate of Rocky is still unclear. The Safari Sanctuary remains voluntarily closed.

Related story:

10/30/2008  Handler Remains In Hospital