CENTER POINT, Ind. - An employee at an exotic cat refuge is in serious condition after being mauled by a tiger Friday afternoon.
The woman was cleaning the tiger's cage at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Ind., when the cat attacked, officials said.
There is a separate cage for employees to put the animals in during cleaning, but the woman forgot to close that gate, police said.
Clay County Chief Deputy Rob Gambill said the attack lasted at least six minutes.
Gambill said she suffered a fractured jaw and other injuries, but officials said they did believe she would survive.
The woman was airlifted to Wishard Memorial Hospital in critical condition. Officials with Wishard said the woman's condition improved overnight and she was listed in serious condition Saturday morning.
The employee was later identified as Marissa Dub, 21. Dub graduated from Southern Illinois University in May 2012 with a degree in animal science.
Dub's family released a statement Sunday on her condition.
"We would like to let everyone know that Marissa is resting. We appreciate the thoughts, prayers and concern for her and our family during this difficult time. We will not be making any further statements, and we would greatly appreciate the respect of our privacy," a Wishard spokeswoman said in the statement.
A witness told police the tiger had Dub's head in its mouth, officials said.
"Initially they couldn't do a lot because the individual that runs the center out there, Joe Taft, said that he was afraid if they went in and got aggressive with the cat, that would have caused the cat to even attack more brutally. So they didn't do that. He said he watched the cat and when the cat let up on the lady's head a little bit, they were able to spray it with a hose to shock the cat a little bit," Gambill said.
Officials said the tiger was a male named Raja who had been at the center for around 10 years.
Gambill said mauling is a federal matter and the USDA will take over the investigation since federal permits are required to have big cats.
There are more than 200 felines on site at the center, which is located at 2221 E. Ashboro Road in Center Point.
RTV6 visited the EFRC in March to discuss safety procedures, following the death of a California woman who was attacked by a lion.
At that time, owner Joe Taft said the center had never had an accident involving any of its animals.
"To keep these animals successfully, you have to be immersed in a culture of safety," Taft told RTV6 in March.
The safety rules at ECRF include never entering cages, working in groups and ensuring that locks are secured.
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