California News

Mar 11, 2013 6:33 PM by NBC News

Cat Haven reopens after last week's fatal lion mauling

(KSEE) There's still a sense of sadness at Dunlap, California's Cat Haven animal sanctuary.

Ribbons line the enclosure where Diana Hanson died last week.

She was attacked by a lion named Cous Cous, an animal she loved and worked with.

After being closed for a few days, the gates are open again.

Still, there are a lot of questions.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims says deputies are piecing it together.

"Diana was cleaning the cage and feeding the cats," she explained.

She says moments later, Diana was attacked at the bottom of some stairs and dragged 30 yards away.

She says the door to the cage was left open, but it's not clear who left it open.

"We believe this was just an accident, an error."

A worker found Diana and called 911. Sheriff Mims says the worker was concerned when communication ended through walkie talkie.

Deputies arrived but it was too late...

"In an effort to do everything they could to save Diana they dispatched the lion."

The lion's partner is still crying. Workers stay by her side and try to comfort her.

"She is missing him, she's calling him. It's been really hard to see this."

Just a few minutes away, more sadness and tears: A moment of silence for Diana, and a written message from her mom read by Wendy Debbas.

"I'm living every mother's nightmare of losing a child. I'm pleased the cat haven is opening today and I share in their sorrow and the loss of Cous Cous."

A somber opening day, but Diana's family says this is what she would have wanted.

Diana's family started a fund raiser in memory of her for the Cat Haven. So far, it has collected more than $4,000.

If you would like to donate, you can visit



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