The animal kept in a backyard zoo in Davie, Fla., reportedly attacked the visitor the moment he entered an enclosure, the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida reported.
The customer, identified as Dwight Turner, 50, had paid $150 for a close-up encounter with the animal, to “play with it, rub its belly and take pictures,” according to Miami’s WPLG-TV.
After the big cat finished with him, Turner’s scalp was “hanging from his head and his right ear was torn in half,” investigators said, according to FOX 30 of Jacksonville.
An official from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida blasted business operations such as the animal sanctuary where the attack reportedly occurred Aug. 31.
“It is far too common for small zoos and quasi-sanctuaries in Florida to sell photo ops, play sessions or other ‘interactions’ with exotic animals,” Nick Atwood, campaign coordinator for the group, told the Sun-Sentinel. “Both people and animals are put in harm’s way when the public comes into direct contact with captive wild animals.”
The Davie sanctuary owner, identified as Michael Poggi, was licensed to run the attraction, WPLG reported. Authorities said he was charged with allowing full contact with an extremely dangerous animal and maintaining captive wildlife in an unsafe condition, the report said.