USDA Inspector has close call with tiger
Inspector’s arm freed from animal’s mouth at Summit County farm
By Bob Downing and Gina Mace
Beacon Journal writers
COPLEY TWP. – A federal veterinarian was attacked by a white tiger during an inspection earlier this month at a Summit County exotic animal farm.
The tiger grabbed the right arm of U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian Norma Harlan while she was outside of its cage during an Oct. 16 inspection at the L&L Exotic Animal Farm.
Copley Police Chief Michael Mier said Harlan later reported that she was standing three feet outside the cage when the female tiger reached out with its paw and pulled her toward the cage.
The animal then managed to get Harlan’s arm into its mouth, Mier said.
Harlan’s co-worker, Randy Coleman, and animal farm owner-operator Lorenza Pearson were able to free her.
The 14-year-old tiger then reached out with its paw a second time, but Coleman and Pearson were able to keep Harlan from again being pulled toward the cage, Mier said.
Harlan was treated at Akron General Medical Center.
She suffered scratches, bruising and torn clothing in the 11:15 a.m. attack, but the tiger’s teeth did not puncture her skin, Harlan said in a report filed two days later with the Summit County Health Department.
After being released from the hospital, Harlan returned to the Copley Township animal farm and completed her follow-up inspection on three cats.
She previously had inspected the farm on Oct. 12 and was concerned about two tigers and one lion cub, Mier said.
Darby Holladay, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, declined to provide any details on the Oct. 16 attack.
Holladay said Harlan and Coleman would not be made available for an interview.
Efforts to reach Pearson and his attorney, William Whitaker, were unsuccessful.
Tom Welding, director of environmental health for the Summit County Health Department, said that the white tiger had its shots and so, too, had Harlan.
The tiger will be monitored for 30 days after the attack, Welding said.
In 1983, Pearson’s 2-year-old son was killed by a Bengal tiger. In 1997, his 2-year-old grandson was attacked by another animal.
A decision on federal charges pending against Pearson could come in November or December.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited Pearson for 900 violations of its animal-care rules during the past 10 years. The case is being handled by a Department of Agriculture administrative law judge.
The case involved three days of testimony last summer in Akron in which government witnesses described Pearson’s farm as largely unsanitary, lacking in federal safety measures and nutritional standards, and extremely lax in veterinary record-keeping regulations.
Pearson, who must have a federal license to exhibit exotic animals, could be fined up to $2,500 for each violation and could lose his license.
Harlan, who is based in Pennsylvania, testified last summer that she began her inspections of Pearson’s farm about 10 to 12 years ago and had been there at least a dozen times.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Gina Mace can be reached at 330-996-3700.
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