Pasco sanctuary founder defends facility after lion escape - WFLA News Channel 8

Pasco sanctuary founder defends facility after lion escape

Posted: Updated:
Savannah's owner says the 7-year-old lion has never acted aggressively toward her or other staff members. Savannah's owner says the 7-year-old lion has never acted aggressively toward her or other staff members.
Savannah's owner says the 7-year-old lion has never acted aggressively toward her or other staff members. Savannah's owner says the 7-year-old lion has never acted aggressively toward her or other staff members.
Savannah's owner says the 7-year-old lion has never acted aggressively toward her or other staff members. Savannah's owner says the 7-year-old lion has never acted aggressively toward her or other staff members.
PASCO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

For 12 years, the Survival Outreach Sanctuary in rural Pasco County has been educating children about animals and the environment. The sanctuary is home to more than a dozen animals including 11 exotic cats, pigs and goats.

The sanctuary made news last week, not for its education, but because a lion escaped from its habitat.

The sanctuary's founder, Judy Watson, calls that disappointing. "I mean I've been out here working with the Jane Goodall foundation, the roots and shoots kids for twelve years," she said.

"They come here in the sixth grade when they're 11-years-old and they stay for three years, then we start with brand new sixth graders after three years. "

On Friday, Watson and a volunteer were cleaning cages. When they made it to the lion named Savannah's cage, she was gone. Watson immediately notified authorities and the neighbors.

"I had a volunteer with me and I just, my concern were the goats, get the goats," said Watson. "The goats were just running around free, so we grabbed the goats and put them away and then I went and got my keys and got in my car so that we would have safety."

Watson says Savannah tunneled under the protective fencing and that's how she was able to get out. She says the lion has never acted aggressive towards her or any of the volunteers at the sanctuary.

"She was just on a stroll and ended up coming over here to our male tiger Raja, and really settling down right next to him and rolling over and in the sun and that's where she stayed the whole time," she said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers responded to the incident. They said that because the lion never left the sanctuary grounds, the public was never in danger.

"The animal was behind a ten-foot fence in a wooded area just relaxing laying down," said Beryl Martin with FWC. "Very calm.. didn't pose a danger to any of our officers at the time or any of the general public at all."

As a result of Friday's mishap, volunteers at the sanctuary are digging footings around the cages. Those footings will be filled with concrete to prevent any future problems.

The U.S.D.A. regulates facilities like that one. It's currently conducting it's yearly inspection of the Survival Outreach Sanctuary. The results of that inspection have not yet been made public.


  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 1:21 PM EDT2014-04-23 17:21:16 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
  • Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Pricey processing issue at Tampa hair academy resolved

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:35 AM EDT2014-04-23 13:35:13 GMT
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
    Loretta Maloy says she always expected to pay for the courses she took those several weeks, but thought $10,000 in loans just wasn’t right.
  • New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 8:58 AM EDT2014-04-23 12:58:50 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
     When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
    When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Pedestrian hit, killed on I-75 in Hillsborough

    Pedestrian hit, killed on I-75 in Hillsborough

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 1:32 PM EDT2014-04-23 17:32:52 GMT
    Investigators say Fred Butler, 66, of Providence, RI, was walking in a southbound lane of I-75.Investigators say Fred Butler, 66, of Providence, RI, was walking in a southbound lane of I-75.
    A man who was walking on Interstate 75 in Hillsborough County was hit and killed by a car Tuesday night.
    A man who was walking on Interstate 75 in Hillsborough County was hit and killed by a car Tuesday night.
  • Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Outpouring of support for New Port Richey soldier dealing with squatters

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 1:21 PM EDT2014-04-23 17:21:16 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community. Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to the soldier.
  • Tampa-based Odyssey Marine set to embark on new search for treasure

    Tampa-based Odyssey Marine set to embark on new search for treasure

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 12:55 PM EDT2014-04-23 16:55:56 GMT
    The Odyssey crew inspects the silver bars as they are recovered from the SS Gairsoppa site and  unloaded on deck of the Seabed Worker. In July 2013 from the site, which yielded 1,574 (60 tons) silver  ingots. Odyssey photoThe Odyssey crew inspects the silver bars as they are recovered from the SS Gairsoppa site and unloaded on deck of the Seabed Worker. In July 2013 from the site, which yielded 1,574 (60 tons) silver ingots. Odyssey photo
    Tampa based Odyssey Marine Exploration has an exclusive contract to recover the remaining valuable cargo from the SS Central America shipwreck off the coast of South Carolina which is thought to have been carrying one of the largest cargos of gold ever lost at sea.
    Tampa based Odyssey Marine Exploration has an exclusive contract to recover the remaining valuable cargo from the SS Central America shipwreck off the coast of South Carolina which is thought to have been carrying one of the largest cargos of gold ever lost at sea.
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.