So, when I see myself in a confrontational situation that requires me to draw my knife, I assume that I'd be doing so in a state of panic. I would draw that knife probably at the last minute, since I would want to avoid a bloody outcome, or maybe there's already a cougar on my back trying to bite my neck. In the case of an animal attack they don't care whether or not you have a knife. Brandishing a weapon when a person's involved MAY help de escalate a situation, but that is absolutely not the case with an animal.
In case of this defending oneself from animal attack, I would think during that moment of so much stress and fear, one would easily/unawarely loose grip and drop the knife.
Have you ever considered a ringed butt like a karambit in the design development phase to make it more undisarmable (if that is a word)?
I owned a few karambits, while I like the coolness factor, they are not functional as utility knife due to their curved blade and handle.
I imagine a DEK blade profile with a ringed handle would be a nice weapon utility knife.