Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania-born animal caretaker dies in cougar attack

Pennsylvania laws provide benefits for workers who are injured on the job and families of employees who die in work accidents. Workers' compensation attorneys assist families with death benefit claims for funeral expenses and financial support.

An animal technician employed by a West Coast animal sanctuary was killed by a wild cat in her care. The 36-year-old woman was a WildCat Haven employee for eight years. According to family members, the married mother of a five-month-old baby not only knew the sanctuary's safety rules, but she helped write them.

No one saw the incident because the worker, a Pennsylvania native, was alone at the facility when the cougar attacked her. The employee's lifeless body was found by the owner in an animal enclosure occupied by two wild cats. The owner pulled the body out of the restricted area before contacting authorities.

When officers got to the scene, one of the cougars was caged. The other one was walking around the restricted area with some blood on its face. Investigators concluded that the woman died after being bitten on the neck and head by one of the cats.

The attack apparently occurred while the animal keeper was cleaning the cougar's area. It was against the sanctuary's rules for employees to enter cat enclosures alone or when animals were not confined. The case was closed when police found no evidence of a crime.

The victim's mother stated that her daughter was worried about safety at work. She condemned the owner for leaving the technician alone. Federal employment safety regulators will inspect WildCat Haven, a private wild animal shelter with over five dozen wild cats.

Eligibility for workers' compensation death benefits is based on the relationship of the applicant to the decedent. Spouses, minor children and older children in college, up to age 23, are eligible for survivor benefits. Benefits are sometimes available for parents or siblings of a deceased worker.

Source:, "Mom: Ore. worker killed by cougar voiced concerns" Gosia Wozniacka, Nov. 11, 2013

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