He Paid $150 to Play With Leopard. It Doesn't End Well

Sanctuary owner facing charges, lawsuit in Florida and man is injured
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2020 10:53 AM CDT
Man's Scalp Left 'Hanging' After $150 Leopard Encounter
A black leopard in a cage.   (Getty Images/Kwhisky)

A Florida man got more than he bargained for when he paid $150 to play with a leopard. Dwight Turner was mauled in the backyard of a home in Davie, near Fort Lauderdale, on Aug. 31, leaving his scalp "hanging from his head," according to investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Turner had paid $150 for a "full-contact experience" with a black leopard kept at Poggi's Animal House, which touts itself as a sanctuary for rare and endangered animals, per WPLG. Its owner, Michael Poggi, had accepted payment for Turner to play with the leopard, rub its belly, and take photos, officials said. But when Turner entered the leopard's enclosure, the animal almost immediately attacked.

"He went for the jugular, took [Turner's] head in its mouth," Turner's attorney, Steven Lander, tells WPLG. Turner's right ear was "torn in half," officials said, per CBS News. The 50-year-old victim spent a week in a hospital and has since undergone numerous surgeries. Poggi, who had a license to own the full-grown leopard, was charged with allowing contact with an extremely dangerous animal and cited for maintaining captive wildlife in an unsafe condition. He's also facing a lawsuit from Turner. "He let a man into a cage, [with] no insurance," Lander tells WPLG, noting Turner will have "serious medical problems from here on out." He says that since the entire encounter was illegal, the waiver Turner signed is void. (More mauling stories.)

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