A 2008 Streamwood High School graduate is recovering in an Indianapolis hospital after an attack by a tiger Friday left her in critical condition.
Marissa Dub, now of Terre Haute, Ind., improved slightly over the weekend and was listed in serious condition Sunday -- one level up from critical -- according to Natalie Moya, spokeswoman for Wishard Memorial Hospital.
Dub was cleaning a tiger cage Friday afternoon at Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Ind., where she has worked as a keeper since May 2012, the same month she graduated from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, according to her Facebook profile.
The Clay County Sheriff's Office got a call at 1:04 p.m. saying Dub was being attacked by a tiger, officials said. By 1:10 p.m., officers got confirmation that Dub was in a secure area away from the tiger. She was flown to Wishard Memorial Hospital where she remained Sunday, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.
Moya did not have details about the extent of Dub's injuries, but the sheriff's office said there was an initial attack and that Dub's head was in the tiger's mouth at one point.
Joe Taft, director of Exotic Feline Rescue Center, could not release details of the attack because of a pending investigation.
Taft said workers are never allowed direct contact with the animals. All of the cages have shift areas, where the animals are supposed to be confined when workers enter to clean the cages and feed them.
Taft said the door to the shift area had not been closed in this instance.
"This was an accident," Taft said. "Accidents happen regardless of the best policies."
The United States Department of Agriculture, which issues permits for exotic animals, will investigate the attack and decide the fate of the tiger.
The rescue center opened in 1991 as a refuge for big cats who have been abused, abandoned or are otherwise homeless. They are often brought to the center because of the work of government agencies.
Since it opened, the rescue center has welcomed an average of two cats per month, Taft said. Once they arrive, they are given a safe, comfortable place to stay for the rest of their lives. Part of the facility is open to the public on guided tours, including the cage Dub was cleaning on Friday, but more than half of the 108-acre facility is closed to visitors.
Taft said the tiger involved in Friday's attack has been with the center for a long time. He described the male tiger as not particularly large and a "social" animal, which is why he was able to be coaxed away from Dub.
"We have a few cats here that are very aggressive but that's not the general demeanor of most of the animals here," Taft said.
Before she got a full-time job at the rescue center, Dub worked as an exotic animal care intern at Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion, Ind. She interned there during the summer of 2011, according to Director Lori Gagen. In a Facebook post Friday, Dub's former co-workers offered prayers and well wishes to her as well as "the animals she loves and is dedicated to caring for."
Gagen said Dub was a very respectful, well-educated intern and remembered her being very excited to work at the sanctuary.
But Gagen highlighted the inherent danger to the job because of the risk of attack.
"I think it's fair to say for anybody who does the work we do, it is their worst nightmare," Gagen said. "It is something we think about all the time.
"Humans are frail."