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Woman is nipped on hand by tiger

She was not seriously hurt by the cub, which was on display with two adults at a car lot.

Published February 24, 2005

An Oldsmar woman was bitten on the hand by an infant tiger two weeks ago during an exhibit at a car dealership on Tampa Road, authorities said.

Sandra Hopps-Caraballo received two punctures to her right hand from a baby Bengal tiger, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Two adult tigers and two infant tigers were on display at the Tampa Bay Auto Mall on Feb. 12. The adult tigers weighed about 450 and 550 pounds. The cubs were small enough that the animals' caregivers could cradle them in their arms.

The two infant tigers were positioned so people could have their photographs taken with them, said Lt. Steve DeLacure, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The commission licenses and regulates pet ownership and other uses associated with exotic animals in the state.

DeLacure said Hopps-Caraballo was having her picture taken with the cub when it bit her.

Hopps-Caraballo could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Owner Ron Wordon, a Palm Harbor resident, said the animals were there for customers' entertainment and to educate local children.

Wordon has been selling high-end used cars at the Tampa Road auto lot for about 18 months.

"The whole exhibit was a great idea in terms of educating the kids," Wordon said. "Everybody seemed to enjoy it."

Wordon said a representative from advertising agency Bottomline Events, in conjunction with Zoo Dynamics, which provides animals to zoos and exhibits, offered to bring the tigers in for free as a one-time weekend promotional event at the dealership. Wordon agreed to host the tigers on his property for three days.

During that time, they were under the care of Marcus Cook, the wildlife exhibitor for Zoo Dynamics.

After the bite, sheriff's deputy was sent to the lot, followed by officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Cook was charged with unsafe handling of captive wildlife, resulting in an injury to a person. He was instructed to remove the baby tiger from public contact during his exhibition in Florida.

Zoo Dynamics could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

DeLacure said Hopps-Caraballo refused rabies treatment. To treat for rabies, the baby tiger would have to be euthanized so a brain tissue sample could be collected for testing.

"It was not serious at all, it was two small puncture wounds to the right hand made with the canines," DeLacure said. "She did not even go to a hospital."

DeLacure said the last tiger bite to occur in the area was in the late 1990s when a tiger attacked a handler during a private photo shoot at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Bayfront Center.

[Last modified February 24, 2005, 00:54:17]

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