Kelci "Saff" Saffery had his arm amputated in 2013 after suffering an injury while working for Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage

By Claudia Harmata
June 29, 2020 03:00 PM
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Tiger King's Kelci "Saff" Saffery has partnered with Georgia-based law firm Bader Scott to raise awareness about the impact of personal injury at work. In a new commercial, he opens up about his own traumatic experience losing his arm while working for Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage.

In the commercial, Saffery described what was "a typical Saturday morning" when he came in to work and began "cleaning and feeding" the big cats just like he would every morning.

However, that day in 2013 took a turn for the worse when he was attacked by one of the tigers after sticking his hand into the cage instead using one of the proper tools.

"The tiger showed me what it was made of," Saffery recalled.

The injuries he sustained required extensive therapy and years worth of reconstructive surgery, with no real confirmation that his hand would regain its full function and capability.

"Hearing all of that ... and knowing my situation, I decided to amputate," Saffery explained in the commercial. "I had to relearn to live with just one hand, compared to the two I was used to for almost 30 years."

"It was rough for me, for a little bit. I had to learn everything all over again, small things that you don't consider, like tying your shoes, buttoning your pants, putting on a T-shirt, getting ready in the morning became an obstacle," he said.

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Not only did everyday tasks become more difficult to complete, but Saffery's injury also affected his employment prospects.

"My job options are definitely more narrow; there's a lot of jobs that I just physically cannot do," he said.

Saff from Tiger King
Bader Scott

While Saffery was able to return to his job at the park after recovering from his surgery, he noted that "a lot of American's don't have that privilege," and touched on the importance of seeking worker's compensation if needed.

"I would encourage and I would hope that people aren't sitting around wondering, 'What should my next move be?' It should always be to consider the next move that is best for yourself," he said. "Your injuries are permanent, they are life-long, and your job is not."

According to Bader Scott, if an American loses a limb at work due to negligence or at the fault of another, they are entitled to compensation.

In fact, Americans can claim up to $859,000 in for losing an arm in Nevada. Meanwhile, losing an arm in Illinois could see a maximum payout of $439,858, followed by Kentucky at $402,277.

"Accidental injury can bring unforeseen expenses with medical care, expenses and significant damage causing unexpected life disruption. Life may never be the same again, from working ability to simple day-to-day activities," Seth Bader founder Bader Scott said in a statement to PEOPLE.

"As Tiger King was viewed by millions of people it makes Saff one of the most widely recognized incidents of personal injury at work in recent times," he added. "So when we decided we wanted to run a commercial to educate people on this subject, we knew that Saff was the perfect person to work with."

Saffery's experience being mauled by a tiger was featured in the second episode of  Tiger King. The popular Netflix docuseries followed Maldonado-Passage, a former country musician, zookeeper, gun enthusiast and big-cat keeper who owned the exotic animal park where Saffery worked.

The docuseries also shed light on Maldonado-Passage's rivalry with big cat conservationist Carole Baskin. He is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence after he was found guilty in 2019 of paying Allen Glover $3,000 to kill Baskin, and for killing tigers to make room for more big cats at his exotic animal park.

He was also found guilty on multiple charges of violating both the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and the Endangered Species Act.

Maldonado-Passage filed a lawsuit in March against various government agencies, as well as a former business partner Jeff Lowe, seeking $94 million in damages.