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Woman sticks hand in lion cage, foot in mouth after saying she will sue zoo

A Michigan woman who stuck her hand into a lion cage – losing the end of one of her fingers in the process – wants the zoo to take the lion’s share of the blame for her stupidity. The “she said, zoo said” story is going viral, and almost all opinions are falling squarely on the side of the zoo.

Woman sticks hand in lion cage, foot in mouth after saying she will sue zoo
Roaring Lion / WIkimedia Commons

On August 1, we brought you this story first:

Woman sticks hand in lion cage: Fingerless woman sues zoo for her own stupidity

Renae Ferguson and her daughter were visiting the Sunrise Side Nature Trail and Exotic Park by East Tawas last week when the duo decided they needed to get up close and personal with an untamed animal. Ferguson reached into a chain link fence, and a lion promptly ate the end of her finger. Now, she’s seeking legal action because she claims she was not “properly protected.”

Ferguson alleges that a zookeeper allowed her to go into an area restricted from the public.

“I asked if I could pet it and she said yeah,” Ferguson claims. “And I put my hand down there to pet it and it bit my finger off.”

Ferguson’s daughter, Tina Dobson, was shocked at what happened to her mom’s hand. “Oh my gosh what is happening?” Dobson said were her thoughts at the time. “It was in super slow motion.” Speaking of her mom’s shortened middle finger, Dobson added: “It was very jagged; there was a lot of bone sticking out.”

Ferguson further claims that after the incident occurred, the owner of the zoo approached them and asked her to lie about the entire incident. “They just told me not to tell. They told me to lie,” she said. “They need to be at a safer distance. They shouldn’t have let me get close like that.”

On behalf of Examiner, I contacted the zoo, and a spokesperson refused to comment on the incident, instead referring me to an email released by the owner last week:

“The lady went into the security area and was told by the guide to get back and the lady stated she wanted to touch the lion and continued, against the guide's warning, to put her finger inside the fence and the lion nipped the end of her finger.”

Despite claiming she intends to sue the zoo, Ferguson also has a message to others who may be thinking about dangling their digits near a lion’s gaping mouth: “They are beautiful but don’t do it,” she says.

Zoo officials have since denied Ferguson’s story, saying that she was never allowed to sneak into an area cordoned off, and that a zoo employee even told her and her daughter to get out.

WNEM TV5 news out of Saginaw sent a reporter to get the zoo’s side of the story, but no one responded and phone calls were not returned.

Commenters on the related Examiner article linked above were none too kind to Ferguson and her inane actions:

Christina Marie Smith writes that the incident is “just like the woman here in Pittsburgh who held her two-year-old on over a fence. He slipped into a wild dog cage and died, and she sued the zoo. They settled, which infuriates me, because it was her own actions that caused the incident. Zoo shouldn't pay a dime. Same will happen here. They won't want a drawn out lawsuit so will settle and she gets a hefty payday for her own incompetence. People suck.”

She should be arrested for feeding the animals and fined "an arm and a leg!" – Buggs56, who also wrote:

At what point does our country stop rewarding stupidity? At what point to we realize you cannot protect everyone from themselves? Why is it we have to have warning like “Do not iron cloths while wearing them!” It is bad enough that we need signs that say “Do Not Pet the Lions” but do we need to put electric fences around the viewing area to keep stupid humans safe from themselves?

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