Owner charged in S. Florida cougar attack

Posted on Thu, Jul. 26, 2007

BY DAVID OVALLE
dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Corinne Oltz, a former Playboy video vixen who runs an exotic wildlife company, was charged Thursday in the November cougar attack on a 4-year-old girl at a Coral Gables birthday party.

Prosecutors charged Oltz with first-degree misdemeanor culpable negligence and a second-degree misdemeanor charge of keeping wildlife in unsafe conditions.

Oltz, 38, runs Kendall’s Wild Animal World at 10495 SW 60th St. She has a history of citations for animal attacks, and the state is considering permanently revoking her licenses to work with animals.

On Nov. 18, Oltz was hired to show animals at a birthday party for the child of Francisco Unanue, president of Goya Foods.

The girl, now 5, sneaked up behind the 62-pound cougar named Georgia, which lashed out and gripped the child’s face in her mouth. The girl suffered severe cuts to her eyelid, left cheek and ear. Doctors sewed back part of her severed ear.

She now has permanent scars and suffers psychological problems, said Dan Dolan, her family’s attorney.

“This is recognition by the state attorney’s office that her company is a public threat and her conduct is criminal,” Dolan said Thursday.

Because the charges are misdemeanors, Oltz was not jailed and instead will be mailed a court date. The case is being prosecuted by Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Sasha Bardelas.

Reached by phone, Oltz accused the media of misconstruing the story.

“I choose not to comment,” she said before hanging up.

Oltz’s charges add another chapter to a saga that has infuriated South Florida’s animal trainers. The attack also cast scrutiny on “edutainment” companies that showcase exotic animals at schools and birthday parties.

Oltz’s company has long been criticized for unsafe practices.

In 1999, she was cited in a similar attack, also in Coral Gables. She received a conviction for a wildlife cage violation.

In 2001, a Wild Animal World leopard attacked a child at a company picnic in Broward County. Oltz received probation for wildlife possession violations.

“She’s put a black eye on people who really do a good job. She’s been, quite frankly, careless,” Miami Metrozoo trainer Ron Magill, who testified against Oltz as an expert witness, said Thursday.

At the time, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allowed her to keep showing certain cats.

Oltz is a former Hooters waitress who once posed as a police officer in the Playboy video Girls at Work. She joined the animal company of her then-boyfriend, Grant Kemmerer, and eventually took it over after he left.

On Nov. 18, she was hired to perform at Unanue’s posh Coral Gables home. However, she failed to use a barrier to protect the children, the wildlife commission said.

After a previous feline attack, a judge had ordered Oltz to use barriers — usually chain-link fences arranged in a semicircle.

Georgia the cougar was euthanized and tested negative for rabies.

Oltz’s license, which allows her to exhibit animals such as cougars and serval cats, was suspended, although she can still exhibit raccoons, snakes and lemurs. A judge will decide in the fall whether she can keep her licenses.

“She’s supposed to be a professional,” said wildlife commission Lt. Pat Reynolds, who investigated the case. “She’s been in the business for 10 years or so and she has seen tragedies. She should have taken precautions and yet she did not.”

http://www.miamiherald.com/416/story/183431.html

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