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Fresno Co Cat Haven plans to reopen

Left: Cat Haven lion Cous Cous | Right: Lion attack victim Dianna Hanson (Corin Hoggard | Facebook Photo)
March 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Cat Haven in Dunlap is planning to re-open to the public following an accident earlier this week that fatally injured one of its interns- Dianna Hanson.

It's been a tough week for officials here at the cat haven, after being closed for several days, the sanctuary will return to normal operations this Sunday, after getting permission from the USDA.

"We hope that the community members who are truly interested in supporting us, in this mission will join us in our reopening efforts," Dale Anderson said.

Anderson spoke to reporters Friday evening about the difficult decision to reopen the facility after one of it's lions went on the attack.

Investigators with the Fresno County Sheriff's Office are analyzing what led Cous Cous to kill 24-year-old intern Dianna Hanson.

Cat Haven says she was doing everything right.

"We want to make something very clear, that Dianna was not on her cell phone. And she was following protocol," Hanson said.

But while the investigation continues, officials with the park say the best option is to reopen.

"Due to Dianna's passion for big cats, we believe she would want us to continue our mission to educate people about the importance worldwide about the preservation of these animals," Anderson said.

Anderson says before deciding to open he got the okay from the USDA and Dianna's parents.

On Friday Dianna's family released a statement encouraging people who want to honor her life to do so by supporting the conservation groups that were part of her life including Cat Haven.

The statement read "we know in our hearts she has no regrets and would even be upset to hear that lion Cous Cous was shot. She would also want continued support of cat haven's mission."

On its website the sanctuary has set up a donation drive in honor of the 24-year-old. Funds will go toward cheetah conservation efforts in Kenya.

Anderson says he wants to reopen to bring some normalcy back to the remaining 29 cats on the property.

The cat haven will reopen on Sunday from 10 am to 3 in the afternoon. And officials say they plan to do something to pay tribute to Dianna's memory.

Investigators are analyzing what led to the tragedy at a cat haven, while the sanctuary makes plans to move on.

Investigators from the Fresno County Sheriff's Office and California Department of Fish and Game are still trying to work out why a lion turned on her Wednesday.

"Naturally, we were really interested and we are really seeing some deep penetrating wounds and also the width, the distribution of the teeth is very important," Dr. Venu Gopal of the Fresno County Coroner's Office said.

Gopal usually conducts autopsies on humans at the Fresno County Coroner's Office.

On Thursday, he watched the necropsy on the lion Cous Cous as state veterinarians looked for clues.

One theory is that the lion may have been suffering from an illness.

"They've also taken the brain to rule out rabies and other infectious disease or any disease process going on in the animal," Gopal said.

Cat Haven founder Dale Anderson says his team now needs to turn attention to the remaining 29 cats and their health.

The first step to maintaining their well-being, he believes, is to reopen the sanctuary.

PASSING OF DIANNA HANSON: Family Statement

As a family we cannot begin to express how moved and touched we have been by the outpouring of support and condolences. We are truly going to miss our beloved Dianna and life for us will never be the same. Dianna was an amazing young woman whose passion for life and her work will forever be remembered in our hearts and all of those who remember her. Anyone who encountered Dianna will no doubt remember their experience with her; her enthusiasm for life; and the passion she had for her life's work. Dianna was one of the few people who can say they lived their dream and their work was meaningful. All too often our childhood dreams give way to settling for something comfortable, but leave us with that lingering feeling, "If only I had..." Dianna however, is one of the few that at the young and vibrant age of 24 can say she lived without any doubt or questions about the direction and path of her life. She was a woman who shared her life's passion with everyone around her.

In her passing we are humbled. There are so many people interested in hearing the story of our Di. We know in our hearts she has no regrets and would even be upset to hear that lion Cous Cous' was shot. She would also want continued support of Cat Haven's mission for the preservation and conservation of wild cats in their natural habitat. Dianna would not want us to be angry at the animals but rather remember the beauty and power these animals possess. She had a great respect for the power of these cats and was well aware of the risks. Yet, despite the risk involved Dianna steadfastly belied in the work she was doing and the importance of raising awareness of the threats facing these animals. Dianna truly believed that educating the public about these magnificent cats would help conserve the few remaining natural habitats they have.

We truly hope people will be moved by Dianna's brief but impactful life. If you wish to honor Dianna's memory please support some of her favorite organizations that have been a major part of her life: Project Survival's Cat Haven; Snow Leopard Trust; Soysambu Conservancy; AKRE Tiger Sanctuary; Tembo Trading Company; and Seattle PAWS animal shelter.

Thank you for your gracious support and condolences,

The Family of Dianna Hanson

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