The founder of the animal sanctuary where a volunteer was killed by a lion said Friday that he plans to reopen Sunday.
In the wake of Dianna Hanson's death, Dale Anderson said it was important for him and his staff to get back to work for the sake of the remaining big cats living at Project Survival's Cat Haven in the foothill town of Dunlap.
"During this very sad and difficult time, we have also had to turn our attention to our remaining 29 cats in our facility," he said. "It is important that we attend to their health and well-being, and we believe returning to a state of normal operations is a part of that process."
The sanctuary will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Anderson said.
In addition, Anderson said he plans to continue the sanctuary's education programs that are dedicated to the preservation of threatened and endangered wild cats.
Hanson, 24, was killed around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday after feeding two lions. One of the lions, 450-pound Cous Cous, slipped out of his cage and fatally mauled Hanson as she was cleaning the lions' outdoor, fenced enclosure. A Fresno County sheriff's deputy shot and killed the lion. Hanson died of fatal neck injuries, county Coroner Dr. David Hadden said Friday.
Federal, state and sheriff's investigations of the mauling are continuing. All three agencies were mum about their findings. Hanson's family made it clear in statements released Friday that they believe Cat Haven followed safety protocols and the death was a tragic accident.
Anderson said, "We want to assure the community that we have followed all safety protocols. We have been incident-free since 1998."
On Friday, Hadden clarified that Hanson was talking on a two-way radio, or walkie-talkie, with a co-worker before she was killed. Previously, Hadden told reporters Hanson was talking on a cellphone.
In addition, news agencies reported that the co-worker became concerned when Hanson abruptly ended her call. But Hadden said he learned Friday that when the call ended, it did not cause the co-worker to become concerned. The co-worker did not find Hanson's body until "awhile after the call ended."
Anderson, who was away from the sanctuary when the attack happened, said he is cooperating with the sheriff's investigation. He declined Friday to address the cellphone issue or discuss how the mauling has affected his educational programs at local schools.
In the wake of the mauling, the city of Fresno's recreation department suspended its Cat Haven programs for local schools. The city contracted with Cat Haven for the past four years for about 30 school site visits and 50 field trips to the sanctuary through Fresno's Environmental Science Program. All were without incident, said Manuel I. Hernandez, a city recreation specialist.
"We will re-evaluate all our components -- safety components -- and see how people feel about it," Hernandez said.
King Elementary and Carver Middle schools in Fresno were scheduled to have a Cat Haven assembly March 22, he said.
Fresno Unified spokeswoman Susan Bedi said "the Cat Haven program adhered to all safety and security requirements of our district."
The city paid Cat Haven about $6 to $7 per student for field trips and between $400 and $500 for a school site visit, Hernandez said. During school visits, Tango, a cheetah, was brought to assemblies, Hernandez said.
A cheetah is the only wild cat allowed under federal law to make public visits, Anderson said. The animal is on a double leash and the public is not allowed to touch it, he said.