JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Curt LoGiudice knows all his cats at the Catty Shack Ranch in north Jacksonville by name.
He cares for them all like pets though he knows the rescued animals can be unpredictable.
"I respect the animals," LoGiudice said. "But they're wild and they're always going to be wild no matter how much time I spend with them."
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He heard about the lion attack at a similar facility in California, where police say a 24-year-old intern was mauled to death.
He also heard that she had only been on the job a couple months.
"It should have never happened," he said.
Though he has dozens of volunteers help out around the ranch, he said he's the only one allowed to enter the dens.
He said he understands the risks involved with handling wild animals, like the panthers, tigers and lions he has on display.
"It's important to understand they are dangerous animals," he said. "They play and interact by smacking and chewing on each other and they can handle that. You and I can not."
At the Catty Shack, there are several layers of protection for the public.
Inner pens are surrounded by outer cages, and LoGiudice says he's the only one that goes in there.
He appears fearless as he pets and plays with one of his male lions.
And while he keeps things light and fun with the animals, he said he can be very strict with volunteers when needed.
He said he's dismissed folks in the past who don't abide by his strict protocol.
He said he's had safety guidelines that have worked successfully since he began working with cats in 1982.
First Coast News