By Nicole Schoen
People have always had a fascination with animals, some even to the point of taming, riding or keeping them as pets. But
when the interest becomes unhealthy to the point of keeping wild predators like lions and tigers in cages in a basement, then it becomes a problem. Many leopards, bobcats, lynx and other big cats have found refuge at Big Cat Rescue located at 12802 Easy St. in Tampa from similar inhumane lifestyles. The 501(c)(3) non-profit organization was founded in 1992 and the 55-acre sanctuary currently houses 14 different species of over 100 formerly abused, neglected and unwanted big cats.
In July, the rescue added a new two-and-a-half acre expansion called the Vacation Rotation enclosure that provides area for four-legged guests to roam around for approximately two weeks and enjoy the smells, hiding places and an unobstructed view of the sky, possibly for the first time in many of these big cat’s lives.
“All cats are normally solitary, only coming together in the wild to breed. If a cat at the sanctuary is rescued by itself, in almost all cases it remains by itself and will visit the Vacation Rotation by themselves,” said Director of Donor Appreciation at Big Cat Rescue, Jeff Kremer. “If a cat at the sanctuary is rescued from a situation where it is living with another cat, generally the cats are kept together upon arrival at the sanctuary. In this situation, as is the case with the three tigers we rescued from Texas a couple of years ago in which they were living together (Arthur, Amanda and Andre) they will spend their time in the Vacation Rotation continuing to enjoy each other’s company.”
So far, five of the elder tigers at the sanctuary have been able to enjoy the new enclosure with other vacations in the works. The area is almost complete with the only major component needed being a series of four-foot-wide corrugated metal panels that will run around the top of the entire 14 foot structure. Once installed, it will allow other species of cats who like to climb the ability to enjoy a vacation as well without the possibility of them getting out. The rescue is still in need of a donor or sponsor for this part of the expansion.
“The ultimate satisfaction I derive from volunteering and working at the sanctuary is two-fold,” said Kremer who has been with Big Cat Rescue for eight years. “Being able to advocate and provide a safe and forever home for the magnificent creatures that we’re able to rescue, oftentimes from desperate and deplorable conditions, and helping the sanctuary seek passage of more effective laws and regulations that advocate for the welfare of such magnificent creatures, which ultimately will prevent the need for rescuing such sentient-beings in the first place.”
Big Cat Rescue is the largest accredited sanctuary in the world dedicated entirely to abused and abandoned cats.
“I just thought it was a really cool cause and it’s pretty noble. To know they went through all this extent just out of the kindness of their hearts it was just inspiring so I figured why not,” said volunteer, Adam Trasport.
While not everyone can volunteer or donate, the most important thing they can do is support legislation that protects the cats from inhumane conditions. The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, also known as H.R. 1998, is a bill currently pushing to prohibit the private possession and breeding of exotic cats. To help make this bill a law, Big Cat Rescue is encouraging people to write or call the U.S. Department of Agriculture to express their support of the bill. If the right laws were in place to protect the cats in the first place, there wouldn’t be a need for a sanctuary for rescued animals.
For more information, visit bigcatrescue.org or call 920-4130.