Staffer Severely Injured At Carole Baskin's Big Cat Rescue

Carole Baskin was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this year after her feud with Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, was made famous on the Netflix docuseries Tiger King. The alleged big cat "rescuer" made news again when an employee working at her Big Cat Rescue animal sanctuary in Florida was attacked by a tiger while feeding it on Thursday, December 3, 2020. According to The Guardian, Candy Couser was in the process of feeding a tiger named Kimba when it attacked her while she was trying to open a gate. "Kimba grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder," said Baskin.

Couser had apparently reached her arm into the tiger's pen to open a gate that had clicked shut, which Baskin said goes against what she had been trained to do. "It is against our protocols for anyone to stick any part of their body into a cage with a cat in it." She added that it was not Kimba's fault, that he was "just acting normal due to the presence of food and the opportunity." After the attack, staff and volunteers at Big Cat Rescue worked to stop the bleeding while the paramedics were on their way. Couser was rushed to a hospital to receive medical treatment for the serious injuries she sustained in the attack.

Who is Candy Couser, the woman injured at Carole Baskin's Big Cat Rescue?

In a statement posted to Facebook, Big Cat Rescue said that Couser has been a volunteer at the sanctuary for five years, and for three of those she has been a "Green Level Keeper," which means she is qualified to work with lions, tigers, and other big cats. Although she had years of experience, she apparently made a mistake that was almost fatal. Kimba had been removed from the section of the pen in which he is usually fed, and Couser had radioed to a coordinator to find out why. Then when she went to open a gate that was clipped shut, Kimba attacked. Carole Baskin said that the gate being clipped shut "is our universal signal NOT to open a gate without a coordinator coming to assist, but Candy said she just wasn't thinking when she reached in to unclip it."

Candy was still conscious after the attack, and she insisted that no harm come to the tiger that had almost ripped her arm off, calling it a mistake. Her husband was notified that she had been taken to the hospital. Grief counseling will be available for Couser once she recovers. Baskin reminded her staff of the importance of being vigilant and following protocols. She said that such tragedies "can happen in the blink of an eye and that we cannot relax our guard for a second around these dangerous cats."

The injured Big Cat Rescue staffer highlights the need for more government oversight

The attack came on the very day that the U.S. House of Representatives was to vote on a bill known as the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a piece of legislation that Baskin supports which aims to ban the holding of big cat cubs and keeping them in improper places, such as backyards. She said the attackĀ confirms "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."

Although her operation was depicted on Tiger King as being no better than the animal parks from which she rescues the big cats, an April 2020 report by Insider revealed that conditions are actually much better at Big Cat Rescue than the series would have viewers believe. It said that the series "has valid criticisms of Big Cat Rescue, in particular its decision to rely exclusively on volunteers for animal care, but it gives the misleading impression that Baskin's animals are kept in tiny, unkempt, inhumane enclosures."

For his part, Joe Exotic proved he can be cruel to humans, as well as animals. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison after it was revealed that he had hired a hitman to murder Baskin, who was critical of his animal park.