100 MILE HOUSE, B.C. (CP) - A 32-year-old woman was mauled to death by a captive tiger at an exotic animal farm in the B.C. Interior while her fiance's two children witnessed the terrifying attack.
The woman even spoke with her fiance and owner of the farm, Kim Carlton, by cell phone as she lay dying, the woman's employer said in an interview.
"Before she passed away Kim did say that he did have a chance to talk to Tanya," said Scott Nelson, who employed Tanya Dumstrey-Soos as a receptionist and saleswoman at the 100 Mile House Advisor newspaper.
"He said the two were able to say they loved each other and he was obviously horrified."
Nelson, who is also the mayor of Williams Lake, B.C., said Dumstrey-Soos and Carlton had recently become engaged to be married.
It was thought the cat began clawing at the woman's dress as she stood outside its cage.
At least two children saw her being mauled and Nelson believed they were Carlton's kids - Dakota, 12, and Kodiak, 15.
"We were obviously horrified, more horrified that the young kids saw it, that they were there and obviously our hearts are with them."
Regional coroner Bruce Chamberlayne said Dumstrey-Soos was taken about 40 kilometres to hospital in 100 Mile House after the attack but couldn't be revived.
The farm is called Siberian Magic. Carlton puts on exotic and magic shows as well as selling services such as photos with the big cats.
RCMP said all the animals remained secured on the premises, about 40 kilometres east of 100 Mile House. Among the animals at the farm are three tigers, a lion and a lemur.
Nelson described it as a bizarre, freak accident. He said he spoke to Carlton about what happened.
"He told me Gangus was the cat. He didn't think the tiger had bit her. It's that she had a dress on and she was standing there and he was playing with the dress and grabbed her legs.
"She was standing outside the cage and talking to Gangus, the cat swatted at the legs."
He said Gangus was the only one of the three tigers that wasn't declawed.
Siberian Magic's website invites people to visit the Bridge Lake, B.C., facility to experience "the wonderful worlds of magic and exotic animals."
"Visit our animals up close and personal. Capture the memories and have your photo taken with our amazing Siberian tiger, Kisa, or our African lion, Sarmoti, as well as many other wonderful animals."
The site claims the company educates people about exotic animals in a "safe and enjoyable way."
Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the SPCA, described the facility housing the animals as a "public safety catastrophe."
"The tigers are being kept in 12-by-12-foot chain-link enclosures with a mere padlock on the enclosure. The animal owner had admitted to walking the tigers, his kids feed them.
"This could all have been avoided with provincial legislation that bans the keeping of exotics by private citizens."
She said Carlton has been investigated by the SPCA since November 2005 when he moved his tigers to the 100 Mile House area.
After notifying regional authorities about their concerns, the SPCA tried for months to seize the animals but there wasn't any room at any facility to take the exotic animals, Moriarty said.
"We contacted the Calgary Zoo to see if they had space and the sad fact is we came up with absolutely no way to seize and move the tigers so we were stuck with simply making orders and recommendations," Moriarty said.
She said the SPCA provided an order to Carlton setting out the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards for keeping the animals
"The use of exotic animals in entertainment is simply playing with fire," Moriarty said.
"We'd be hopeful that this will at least now focus the provincial government on the dire need for this kind of legislation."
Erin Kincaid, event manager for the Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler, B.C., said the restaurant had considered having one of the tigers at an annual masquerade event in November 2005.
But there was such an outcry from the community and animal-rights groups that the restaurant quickly decided to not have a tiger at its circus-themed show that year.
"We were just unfamiliar with the fact that there were so many people that felt so strongly against it," Kincaid said.
Kincaid said she felt sick when told about a tiger mauling a woman to death.
"More than anything my heart goes out to the tiger. I really hope that the tiger doesn't end up having to pay for this because this is not the tiger's fault at all. I truly believe that it's how they keep them."