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24th June 2016

Zoo admits to Health & Safety breaches after Tiger mauls keeper to death

Sarah McClay, a zoo keeper working at South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Dalton-in-Furness, was mauled to death by a Sumatran tiger in May 2013.

Miss McClay suffered ‘unsurvivable’ multiple injuries in the incident and was airlifted to hospital where she was formally pronounced dead.

The tiger encountered Miss McClay by entering two open internal sliding gates within the tiger house, and then an open door that led to an adjoining corridor.

Systems were in place to keep animals and keepers apart at all times by a series of indoor and outdoor compartments connected by lockable self-closing doors.

On the day in question, it was found that a bolt on the door connecting the tiger house to the corridor was defective.

In July 2015, the zoo was charged with health & safety breaches – namely contravening the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of employees in connection with keeping big cats.

The zoo was also charged with failing to ensure that people it did not employ were not exposed to health and safety risks.

On Wednesday 8th June 2016, South Lakes Safari Zoo Ltd pleaded guilty to both charges, admitting that its risk assessment did not sufficiently address the risks arising from failing to maintain the door in question. The company stated that ‘a more proactive maintenance and inspection regime’ should have been in place to ensure the door functioned correctly.

On Friday 10th June 2016, South Lakes Safari Zoo Ltd was fined £297,500 at Preston Crown Court. The zoo must also pay £150,000 in prosecution costs over the next 10 years.

The zoo’s owner, David Gill, faced individual charges on the same allegations but was formally acquitted.

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