Man Mauled by Black Leopard After Paying to Have Close Encounter With It

A man was savagely mauled by a leopard in an enclosure after paying to have a close encounter with the predator that included being able to "play with it, rub its belly and take pictures."

Dwight Turner, 50, was attacked by the animal during the encounter in the backyard of a home in Davie, Florida, on August 31.

The victim told Local 10 News that he had needed to undergo multiple surgeries following the incident, while a report from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cited by the outlet said Turner's scalp was "hanging from his head and his right ear was torn in half" as a result of the attack.

According to the FWC report, Turner spent $150 on the "full-contact" experience with the black leopard. But he was pounced on by the animal within minutes of stepping into the enclosure.

The owner of the enclosure was identified by Local 10 as Michael Poggi, who had a license to own the animal and describes himself as running a sanctuary for endangered animals on his Facebook page. In conversations on his page, Poggi also says he charges an hourly rate for encounters with exotic animals.

However, the owner was charged with a misdemeanor for keeping wildlife in an unsafe condition and for allowing full contact with a dangerous animal.

The practices of the small zoo were criticized by the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, which told The Sun Sentinel that such animal interactions were dangerous for both the people paying for them and the animals themselves.

"It is far too common for small zoos and quasi-sanctuaries in Florida to sell photo ops, play sessions or other 'interactions' with exotic animals," the foundation's campaigns coordinator Nick Atwood told the Sentinel.

"Both people and animals are put in harm's way when the public comes into direct contact with captive wild animals," he added.

It is not the first time a human has been attacked by a big cat in the state. In 2016, a Florida zookeeper who was known as the 'tiger whisperer' was mauled to death by one of the animals.

Stacey Konwiser, 38, died in April 2016 following an attack by a Malayan tiger at the Palm Beach zoo, where she worked as head keeper, The Guardian reported at the time.

The animal was not euthanized following the attack but died a year later due to unrelated circumstances. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report issued several months after the incident suggested the zookeeper had not followed safety protocols, the Associated Press reported.

Black leopard
An illustrative example of a black leopard. A Florida man was recently savaged by a black cat after paying to have a close encounter with the animal. iStock / Getty Images Plus