Woman recovering after tiger attack at exotic zoo

Woman recovering after tiger attack at exotic zoo

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The park director who owns the tigers at G.W. Exotic Animal Park calls it a miracle.  His employee who was attacked by one of the tigers this weekend, is recovering well at an Oklahoma City hospital.

Kelci Saffery, 27, was performing her normal duties at the park Saturday when she says she broke safety protocol and stuck her left hand in a tiger cage instead of the stick she was provided with.  The tiger grabbed it.

"The cat let go and pushed my arm back through the cage. This tiger was not aggressive towards me," she said in a statement.

Saturday was one of the first cold days of the season in Oklahoma.  That morning, Saffery was wearing gloves and a puffy jacket.  She believes the tiger thought it was a toy.

Tiger owner, Joe Schreibvogel, said the tiger's claws did most of the damage to Saffery's arm.  The tiger's small front teeth did go through the glove, damaging her ring finger.  Doctors had to remove the tip of that finger.

Neither Schreibvogel or Saffery balmed the animal for the incident.

"She said that she thought he felt some remorse of what he did," Schreibvogel said after visiting Saffery Monday.  "Today and yesterday he is moping around and I truly believe that the tiger understands what he did."

Schreibvogel said Saffery was in good spirits while recovering.  He called the recovery a miracle.

"This was probably the most horrific arm injury that I've ever seen. All I can say is OU Medical Center has some pretty remarkable doctors to completely put that arm back together," he said.

She will remain in the hospital for up to 15 days.  Doctors said she will have to undergo several surgeries in the next two years to completely repair the arm.

In her statement, Saffery said she is focused on a speedy recovery so she can get back to work.

Schriebvogel said he will not put the cat down.  He called it an isolated incident that could have been prevented.

The park said despite meeting all federal guidelines, it wants to ensure this will not happen again.  Crews are working to install smaller links on each of the park's 300 cages so that people cannot reach inside them.

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