A tiger paw flashed out from underneath the chain-link cage at the Siberian Magic exotic-animal farm, slashing at Tanya Dumstrey-Soos and dropping her to the ground.
For nearly an hour, her 14-year-old son and the 15-year-old son of her fiancé tried to staunch the bleeding from a severed artery in her leg while an ambulance made its way over the winding road to the remote farm in the BC interior. As she waited, she had time to talk to her fiancé, Kim Carlton - the owner of Siberian Magic - by cellphone.
The 32-year-old woman was taken to hospital in 100 Mile House, about 40 kilometres west of the farm, but could not be revived. The attack was as quick as it was deadly, with no one yet sure why one of the tigers at Siberian Magic mauled and killed Ms. Dumstrey-Soos on Thursday evening. The death of the popular and ebullient newspaper employee has stunned the tiny community of 100 Mile House, in no small part because Ms. Dumstrey-Soos was killed by the same animals on which she lavished attention.
"She loved them," said Scott Nelson, owner of the 100 Mile House Advisor paper. "She was obviously a very strong animal lover, and very close to them."
But no one should call her death a surprise, said Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "This is a tragedy that could and should have been prevented," she said, renewing her organization's call for a province-wide ban on the ownership of dangerous exotic animals.
B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Bell said he will meet with the SPCA and environment minister Barry Penner next week to determine how the province can prevent similar tragedies. "We will deal with this decisively," he said, while declining to commit to an outright province-wide ban on the ownership of exotic animals.
The SPCA investigated the Siberian Magic farm in January, concluding that the enclosures housing the three tigers posed a significant danger. "There were safety concerns in a big way," said Ms. Moriarty. The animals were housed in a relatively flimsy chain-link enclosure, with a "drug-store" padlock to keep them caged. There was no roof over the enclosure, just a tarp. And there was no flooring in the cage: SPCA photos of the enclosure show a large gap underneath the fencing large enough to allow an animal to reach outside the cage.
But Ms. Moriarty said her organization was just as disturbed by Mr. Carlton's practice of allowing humans to be photographed alongside the big cats he kept at Siberian Magic. She said she believes that all three tigers still had full sets of claws and fangs, although Canadian Press reported that Mr. Carlton said that only one of the three animals had not been declawed.
The SPCA notified police and conservation officers of its concerns in January, Ms. Moriarty said. But the lack of a province-wide law meant that law-enforcement officials were unable to take any steps. The SPCA had wanted to seize the tigers, but it could not find any facility willing to take them. In the end, the tigers remained at Siberian Magic.