From his hospital bed, man dismisses tiger attack as 'not a big deal'
He suffered puncture wounds in Tuesday attack
By Carolyn Starks and Jeff Long Chicago Tribune staff reporters
August 8, 2008
Despite the nightmarish memory of a tiger biting him repeatedly, an animal trainer downplayed a mauling at a McHenry County circus farm on Tuesday that left him hospitalized with deep puncture wounds.
"It's not that bad," Larry Dean said Thursday from his hospital bed. "If you do it for a very long time, it will happen every now and then. It's really not a big deal. How many people get bitten by dogs all the time?"
Dean said he was practicing a circus act at the Hawthorn Corporation farm near Richmond when the tiger suddenly became aggressive Tuesday and grabbed him with its mouth. He has a puncture wound on his knee, a bite on his arm and several scratches, he said.
"He had numerous scratch marks and bite marks," said Richmond Township Fire Chief Rick Gallas. "I would say that was a mauling—quite a bit above the waist. The guy walked up to us, but he was pretty bloody."
Gallas said Dean told paramedics it was the second time a tiger had attacked him at the farm, but Dean declined to comment when asked about that on Thursday.
Hawthorn owner John Cuneo said Dean should not have been near the tigers when he was attacked about 9:45 a.m.
"Somehow, he got close to one of the tigers," said Cuneo, who spoke to Dean on Thursday morning but said he was still unclear about the details of the mauling.
Gallas said workers told paramedics they had to beat the tiger with baseball bats to get it to release Dean, but Dean disputed that account.
"They didn't get him off me," Dean said. "Somebody overreacted and called an ambulance. I was on my way out to my truck" to drive to the hospital.
Dean said he is having difficulty walking because of the knee injury.
"It is a bad bite," he said. "It was big teeth."
Dean declined to elaborate on specifically where the attack occurred or what act he was practicing.
He said he expects to be released from Centegra Hospital in McHenry on Friday after doctors make sure he doesn't have an infection.
Hawthorn owns about 50 tigers, according to Cuneo, but he said only about 30 of the animals are at the farm adding that the rest are currently performing at circuses around the country and the world.
In 2003 the Department of Agriculture accused Hawthorn of failing to care for its elephants properly, a charge Cuneo denied. But in 2004 he agreed to give away his elephants in exchange for permission to keep his circus tigers.
A visitor to the Hawthorn farm was mauled by a tiger in 2005, according to a lawsuit filed in McHenry County Circuit Court. An Iowa man claims in the suit that he was invited into an arena at the facility where 14 white tigers were being trained. One attacked him, causing severe leg injuries.
Cuneo has said the man hit the tiger, spurring the attack.
That case is still pending.