Project Survival's Cat Haven celebrates a new arrival

DUNLAP, California

Titan is the newest addition to Project Survival's Cat Haven -- and the 450 pound lion is already living up to his name. "Given a new male lion is exciting because we go back to what people want to see and it gives us the opportunity to talk about conservation and what we're doing to save animals," said Dale Anderson, executive director of Project Survival.

While the fierce feline does show affection towards his new owner, he's not getting any love from his female companion. The big cats are being kept apart until they warm up to one another.

But visitors are still able to get up close to these fascinating creatures. The three-year-old Titan is expected to grow in size. "He's not as big as 'CousCous' was but he is a friendly lion," said Anderson.

Titan is filling the void after 'CousCous' sudden departure. The African lion was put down by Fresno County Sheriff's deputies earlier this year when he fatally attacked Dianna Hanson, 24, an intern at Cat Haven. "Dianna is far more tragic than the loss of 'Cous' but still it's a loss never the less and having a new lion come in gives us a new start," said Anderson.

And Dianna's memory lives on. Last month, staff named a 4-month-old white tiger after the intern. "Dianna would want us to move on. She would want us to continue to do what we're doing," said Anderson.

Now, the Cat Haven has its claws up against a piece of legislation. House Bill 1998 would prohibit private possession of big cats over public safety concerns. "Essentially, it shuts us down over a period of time. It may not be tomorrow but it might be later if we can't get animals in," said Anderson. The organization has a petition on its website calling the bill 'deceptive.'

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California introduced the bill in May. In a written statement, she said, "State laws addressing the private ownership and breeding of big cats vary greatly, with some states banning the practice outright, while others impose few and partial restrictions." She added the so-called "patchwork of regulations" is confusing and jeopardizes the safety of the public and the animals.

The bill is now making its way through a House subcommittee.

Still, staff at the Cat Haven say they aren't losing focus on their mission to teach others about the rare animals.

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