Florida man mauled by black leopard had scalp hanging, ear torn after paying $150 for ‘full-contact experience’
DAVIE, FLORIDA: Dwight Turner, a man from Florida, suffered the adverse consequences of trying to play with a dangerous big cat. Turner was mauled by a black leopard after paying the owner of a private animal sanctuary $150 for a “full-contact experience” so he could rub the animal's belly and take photographs with the animal.
For this, the 50-year-old traveled to Poggi's Animal House, a makeshift backyard zoo in South Florida run by Michael Poggi. Of course, his experience was definitely not a great one. The fully-grown female leopard, which is called Dasha, attacked Turner once he entered the enclosure, injuring him badly enough that he was forced to undergo multiple surgeries. This incident reportedly took place on August 31.
As per a report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Turner's scalp was "hanging from his head and his right ear was torn in half." Turner's attorney reportedly said that his client spent a week in a hospital emergency room following the attack. Poggi, the owner of the facility that owns at least one capuchin monkey and a baby alpaca, was charged with allowing contact with an extremely dangerous animal and keeping the leopard in an unsafe condition.
The city is reportedly suing Poggi and the sanctuary, claiming that the waiver he was asked to sign does not cover the injuries he sustained since the entire experience was illegal. Authorities also said that Poggi admitted illegally charging people for contact experiences with the leopard.
According to his Facebook page, Poggi an “International speaker, coach, mentor, and author has spoken on stage with the renown Les Brown and Jack Canfield”. A former Series 24 Stock Brokerage firm owner-operator, Poggi, his Facebook claims, “merges his financial expertise with his more than 25 years of Real Estate investing expertise to show people how easy it is to become Real Estate Investors. Micheal loves to help both people and animals. With his own private animal sanctuary in Florida, Michael is an Exotic Animal Breeder of rare or endangered species and has rescued thousands of exotic animals over the past 35 years.”
The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida has since condemned Poggi for having the leopard in captivity in his home, saying the unsafe environment endangered both humans and animals. Nick Atwood of the group told the press, “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. Both people and animals are put in harm's way when the public comes into direct contact with captive wild animals.”
As per reports, Florida’s laws for owning exotic animals are among the strictest in the nation, governing every aspect of the care of wild animals that are displayed to the public. Private citizens, however, can buy a bear, tiger, or any other wild animal and keep it on his property in any state. State laws govern only animals that are displayed to the public, not personal pets, even wild pets.
Poggi’s Animal House, as per its website, is a USDA and Florida Fish and Wildlife Certified facility. “Our certifications demonstrate our cleanliness and the integrity of our operations. Our animals are treated humanely with respect and care by our crew of professional staff,” the site claims.