To read the Federal Trade Commission’s charity checklist, click HERE.
How can you tell a real sanctuary from a fake?
It’s actually easier than telling a diamond from a cubic zirconium because if you look at them, under any light at all, they are easy to tell apart. The problem is that the fake ones insist on keeping you in the dark. Some legitimate sanctuaries believe that their animals should never have to see humans, other than for their daily feeding and cleaning, and are closed to the public. Pseudo sanctuaries use this same tactic to keep the public from seeing the deplorable conditions that their animals are kept in.
Fake sanctuaries often have wonderful web sites full of self serving documentation about all the wonderful ways your donations save lives. They rely heavily on direct mail campaigns and paid solicitors. New laws have enabled these mail houses to front the costs and then pay themselves, exorbitantly, from the proceeds making it that much easier for pseudo sanctuaries to solicit funds. This means that even less of your donation is actually going to the cause (assuming any of it was before).
There are a few fool proof ways to know if the sanctuary you support is a real sanctuary or a fake:
Real sanctuaries don’t breed or buy animals. If there are babies, they were probably bought or born there. People don’t get rid of them until they are too big to handle. If there is a baby, ask how it got there and ask for proof.
Real sanctuaries don’t exploit animals. They don’t take dangerous animals out in public on leashes or in cages. Many pseudo sanctuaries do and they say they are educating the public that these animals don’t make good pets, but when people see that they can be walked on leashes or taken out in public to be shown off or to make money, then they will want to buy one of their own. It is the equivalent of saying to your audience, “Do as I say, and not as I do.”
Real sanctuaries adhere to the law. They will be licensed by the state, and usually by the USDA. They will be classified by the IRS as a non profit 501 c 3 charity. They will be licensed by the state to solicit donations, and every piece of solicitation that you see, from print to web site, will have documentation of the fact that they are so licensed. Some states, such as Florida, go a step further and require that the percentage that goes to the program services of the cause be included in all solicitation materials. Big Cat Rescue spends 100% of its donations on program services (ie: taking care of the cats).
Real sanctuaries meet the highest sanctuary standards. Fake sanctuaries will say that they don’t like the politics, or it’s a waste of donor’s money, or that they don’t want someone else telling them how to take care of their animals, but none of those are valid reasons for not meeting the highest sanctuary standards. Many fake sanctuaries are licensed by their state and by USDA and will tell you that these governing bodies are the watchdogs of the industry, but neither USDA nor any state law defines a sanctuary as being a place where animals are not bred, sold or exploited. USDA’s standards only require that an animal’s cage be big enough that he can stand up and turn around in it.
The Global Federation of Sanctuaries only accredits real sanctuaries. It only costs $150.00 per year to be a member and the application is only four pages long, so it is not a huge investment of time and money. Accreditation is only granted after an on-site inspection if the facility meets the high standards of care and responsibility. The facility must continue to maintain those standards and be re-inspected regularly to insure compliance. Membership provides real sanctuaries with a method of demonstrating their excellence to the public and donors. Membership also enables small sanctuaries across the nation to unite as one voice for the animals because The Global Federation of Sanctuaries is a member for the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition which is made up of 20 huge organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Animal Protection Institute, Peta and many more.
Real sanctuaries spend your donated dollars on program services. This means they spend the money on the things that made you select them as your charity. GuideStar.com lists all non profit organizations and posts their tax returns so that you can see how the money is being spent. If you type in the key word “animal” almost 15,000 organizations are listed, but only 23 of them are accredited by The Global Federation of Sanctuaries. The industry standard allows that charities spend up to 35% of their donations on soliciting and still be considered reputable. A search of the 990s on GuideStar will show that fake sanctuaries often spend as much as 75% of their donations on raising more money. In almost all of these cases you will see that the biggest expense in the pseudo sanctuary is in providing a salary to the founder. Big Cat Rescue’s founder donated millions of dollars to start the sanctuary and refused compensation for the first 20 years of the rescue’s growth.
As in every aspect of life, the truth is out there. With the right tools you can discover it for yourself.
FTC Charity Checklist
Thinking about donating to a charity? The Federal Trade Commission advises that you consider the following precautions to ensure that your donation dollars benefit the people and organizations you want to help. They’re good practices whether you’re contacted by an organization’s employees, volunteers or professional fund-raisers, soliciting donations by phone, mail or in person.
Be wary of appeals that tug at your heart strings, especially pleas involving patriotism and current events.
Ask for the name of the charity if the telemarketer does not provide it promptly.
Ask what percentage of the donation is used to support the causes described in the
solicitation, and what percentage is used for administrative costs.
Call the charity to find out if it’s aware of the solicitation and has authorized the
use of its name.
If the telemarketer claims that the charity will support local organizations, call the local groups to verify.
Discuss the donation with a trusted family member or friend before committing the funds.
Don’t provide any credit card or bank account information until you have reviewed all
information from the charity and made the decision to donate.
Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax
Understand that contributions made to a “tax exempt” organization are not necessarily tax deductible.
Avoid cash gifts. They can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check – made payable to the beneficiary, not the solicitor.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on wise giving, visit www.ftc.gov/charityfraud or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
Section VIII – Workplace Safety RulesSection IX – On Property Safety
Be Safe Out There!
Tour Guide Procedures Class
Gate Operation, Tour Back Up & Guest Relations Class
Animal Emergency Procedures Class
Human First Aid Procedures Class
Management Commitment and Involvement Policy Statement
The management of Big Cat Rescue is committed to providing employees with a safe and healthful workplace. It is the policy of this organization that employees report unsafe conditions and do not perform work tasks if the work is considered unsafe. Employees must report all accidents, injuries, and unsafe conditions to their supervisors. No such report will result in retaliation, penalty, or other disincentive.
Employee recommendations to improve safety and health conditions will be given thorough consideration by the management team. Management will give top priority to and provide the financial resources for the correction of unsafe conditions. Violation of workplace safety rules may result in disciplinary action. This action may include verbal or written reprimands and may result in termination of employment.
The primary responsibility for the coordination, implementation, and maintenance of our Workplace Safety Program has been assigned to the following individual who, in addition to any other title held, will be our Safety Program Coordinator:
Name: Gale Ingham
Title: Operations Manager
Because we work with dangerous animals, safety is of absolutely paramount concern. But we must not let our focus on the animals allow us to fail to be aware of the safety issues that arise in any workplace, such as use of tools, equipment, ladders and safety issues inherent in the office environment. This manual is intended to cover these as well as some of the animal care safety issues that are covered in detail in our training programs.
This policy statement serves to express management’s commitment to and involvement in providing our employees a safe and healthful workplace. This Workplace Safety Program will be incorporated as the standard of practice for this organization. Compliance with the safety rules will be required of all employees as a condition of employment.
If at any time you feel that a safety issue you have raised to anyone other than myself has not been promptly or properly addressed, I want you to know that it is part of our policy and the commitment you make in signing this document that you will bring it directly to my attention.
Carole Baskin, Founder and CEO
I have received a copy of this Workplace Safety Program and in signing below I acknowledge that I:
have read it completely
have understood the contents or have had an opportunity to ask questions and if I have asked questions I have received answers that I understood
understand that compliance with these rules and others that I may be informed about from time to time is a condition of employment, and
agree to abide by the safety rules of Big Cat Rescue.
Print Name Legibly
Safety and Health Training
Safety and Health Orientation
Workplace safety and health orientation begins on the first day of initial employment or job transfer. Each employee will be given a personal copy of this Workplace Safety Program containing our workplace safety rules, policies and procedures. Supervisors will answer the employee’s questions to ensure knowledge and understanding of safety rules, policies, and job-specific procedures described in this manual.
Supervisors will instruct all employees that compliance with the safety rules described in the workplace safety manual is required.
Job Specific Training
Supervisors will initially train employees on how to perform assigned job tasks safely.
Supervisors will carefully review with each employee the specific safety rules, policies, and procedures that are applicable and that are described in the workplace safety manual.
Supervisors will give employees verbal instructions and specific directions on how to do the work safely.
Supervisors will observe employees performing the work. If necessary, the supervisor will provide a demonstration using safe work practices, or remedial instruction to correct training deficiencies before an employee is permitted to do the work without supervision.
All employees will receive safe operating instructions on seldom-used or new equipment before using the equipment.
Supervisors will review safe work practices with employees before permitting the performance of new, non-routine, or specialized procedures.
Periodic Retraining of Employees
All employees will be retrained when changes are made to the workplace safety manual.
Individual employees will be retrained after the occurrence of a work related injury caused by an unsafe act or work practice, and when a supervisor observes an employee displaying unsafe acts, practices, or behaviors.
The Safety Coordinator will conduct a monthly safety meeting with the employees covering one or more topics. In addition to the safety topic, supervisors may discuss other items such as recent accidents and injuries, results of safety inspections, and revisions of safety policies and procedures. Safety Meetings may be part of the monthly Volunteer Meeting so Volunteers obtain the benefit of them as well.
The Safety Coordinator will follow the below plan of action to ensure successful safety meetings are conducted.
Preparing for the Meeting
The Safety Coordinator in the course of his duties as Operations Manager will observe and inspect the various areas and work practices and note any unsafe acts being performed or unsafe conditions that need to be corrected.
If any unsafe acts or conditions are discovered during the inspections, the Safety Coordinator will select an unsafe act or condition to be used as a Safety Meeting topic for the benefit of all. A Safety Meeting can help identify and eliminate hazards before accidents occur.
Conduct the Meeting
The Safety Coordinator will discuss one topic per meeting unless he feels there are more than one that require attention.
Allow employees to discuss why the situation occurs if it has occurred.
Reach an agreement with employees on how to eliminate or control the situation if it has occurred.
Keep a Record of the Meeting
Documentation will be maintained of each employee safety meeting. It should contain the subject(s) discussed as well as an attendance sheet.
Safety Committee Organization
A Safety Committee has been established as a management tool to recommend improvements to our Workplace Safety Program and to identify corrective measures needed to eliminate or control recognized safety and health hazards. The Safety Committee shall be composed of all of the members of the Volunteer Committee.
The Safety Committee will be responsible for:
Assisting management in communicating procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of control measures used to protect employees from safety and health hazards in the workplace.
Assisting management in reviewing and updating workplace safety rules based on accident investigation findings, any inspection findings, and employee reports of unsafe conditions or work practices; and accepting and addressing anonymous complaints and suggestions from employees.
Assisting management in updating the Workplace Safety Program by evaluating employee injury and accident records, identifying trends and patterns, and formulating corrective measures to prevent recurrence.
Assisting management in evaluating employee accident and illness prevention programs, and promoting safety and health awareness and co-worker participation through continuous improvements to the Workplace Safety Program.
Participating in safety training and for assisting management in monitoring workplace safety education and training to ensure that it is in place, that it is effective, and that it is documented.
Safety issues will be addressed at the meetings of the Volunteer Committee and the discussions reflected in the notes of the meeting. If any employee has raised a safety concern to be addressed by the committee, the employee shall be given a response in writing. If the discussion results in any change in rules or procedures, the Workplace Safety Program shall be revised to reflect these changes and all employees given copies of the revised pages to place in their personal copies of the program.
Safety Inspections and Preventative Maintenance
Inspections provide an opportunity to survey the work place to detect potential hazards and correct them before an accident occurs. Typically, inspections are made to identify physical hazards at the work site, however, the work practices of employees will also be observed during the inspections. Supervisors and the Safety Coordinator will observe employees to determine if they are performing their jobs in accordance with safe job procedures. They will also inspect equipment and tools regularly to determine if maintenance is required to keep them in safe operating condition, and arrange for such maintenance if it is determined to be necessary.
Safety is the responsibility of each and every employee. Continuous, informal inspections should be conducted by employees, supervisors, and maintenance personnel as part of their regular job responsibilities. These are the personnel who are most familiar with work site operations and machinery. Our employees are a valuable source of information on work place hazards and we look to them for assistance in formulating practical workplace controls.
Supervisors must continually monitor their work areas. On a daily basis they will check that:
Employees are following safe work procedures
Machinery and tools are in good condition
Machine guards are in position
Material is stored properly
Aisles, walkways, and exit passageways are clear and accessible
First Aid Procedures
Emergency Phone Numbers
Safety Coordinator: 813.850.7052
Walk In Clinic: Fast Track Walk-In Clinic
Address: 11969 Sheldon Rd., Tampa, FL 33626
South of Citrus Park Drive on Westwind
Hospital Emergency Room: Town & Country Hospital
Address: 6001 Webb Road, Tampa, FL 33615
Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
Fire Department: 911
In all cases requiring emergency medical treatment, immediately call, or have a co-worker call, to request medical assistance.
Minor First Aid Treatment
If you sustain an injury or are involved in an accident requiring minor first aid treatment:
Inform your supervisor.
Administer first aid treatment to the injury or wound.
If a first aid kit is used, indicate usage on the accident investigation report.
Access to a first aid kit is not intended to be a substitute for medical attention.
Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.
Non-Emergency Medical Treatment
For non-emergency work-related injuries requiring professional medical assistance.
Inform your supervisor.
Proceed to the posted medical facility. Your supervisor will assist with transportation, if necessary.
Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.
Management will report the injury to the insurance company within 24 hours. Travelers 800-832-7839.
Emergency Medical Treatment
If you sustain a severe injury requiring emergency treatment:
Call for help and seek assistance from a co-worker.
Request assistance and transportation to the local hospital emergency room or call 911 for an ambulance as appropriate.
Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.
Management will report the injury to the insurance within 24 hours. Travelers 800-832-7839.
First Aid Training
Each employee will read the Human First Aid Procedures Class attached to this Safety Program and take the class as soon as possible.
Accident Investigation Procedures
The supervisor at the location where the accident occurred will perform an accident investigation. The safety coordinator is responsible for seeing that the accident investigation reports are being filled out completely and that the recommendations generated as a result of the investigation are being addressed. Supervisors will investigate all accidents resulting in an employee injury using the following investigation procedures.
Review the equipment, operations, and processes to gain an understanding of the accident situation.
Identify and interview each witness and any other person who might provide clues to the accident’s causes.
Investigate causal conditions and unsafe acts; make conclusions based on existing facts.
Complete the accident investigation report.
Provide recommendations for corrective actions.
Implement temporary control measures to prevent any further injuries to employees.
Indicate the need for additional or remedial safety training.
Accident investigation reports must be completed and submitted to the safety coordinator within 24 hours of the accident.
Accident Record Keeping Procedures
The safety coordinator will control and maintain all employee accident and injury records. Records are maintained for a minimum of three (3) years and include:
Accident Investigation Reports.
Worker’s Compensation First Report of Injury or Illness form.
Workplace Safety Rules
The safety rules contained on these pages have been prepared to protect you in your daily work. Employees are to follow these rules, review them often and use good common sense in carrying out assigned duties.
General Employee Work Rules
Do not place trash in walkways and passageways.
Do not kick objects out of your pathway; pick them up or push them aside and out of the way.
Do not throw matches, cigarettes or other smoking materials into trash bins.
Do not store or leave items on stairways.
Do not block or obstruct stairwells, exits or accesses to safety and emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers or fire alarms.
Ladder and Step Ladder Safety
Do not use ladders that have loose rungs, cracked or split side rails, missing rubber foot pads or are otherwise visibly damaged.
Keep ladder rungs clean of grease. Remove build up of material such as plaster, dirt or mud.
Secure the ladder in place firmly; have another employee hold it when possible.
Face the ladder when climbing up or down.
Performing Work from a Ladder
One person shall be on the ladder at a time.
Face the ladder and do not lean backwards or sideways from the ladder.
Do not stand on the top two rungs of any ladder.
Do not use a ladder that wobbles or that leans to the left or right.
Do not try to ‘walk’ a ladder by rocking it. Climb down the ladder and then move it.
Store sharp objects such as pens, pencils, letter openers, or scissors in drawers or with the points down in a container.
Carry pencils, scissors and other sharp objects with the points down.
Do not jump from ramps, platforms, ladders, or step stools.
Do not run on stairs or take more than one step at a time.
Use the handrails when ascending or descending stairs or ramps.
Obey all posted safety and danger signs.
Open one file cabinet drawer at a time.
Close drawers and doors immediately after use.
Use the handle when closing doors, drawers, and files.
Put heavy files in the bottom drawers of file cabinets.
Do not tilt the chair you are sitting in on its two back legs.
Do not stand on furniture to reach high places. Use a ladder or step stool to retrieve or store items that are located above your head.
Do not block your view by carrying large bulky items; use a dolly or hand truck or get assistance from a fellow employee.
Cut in the direction away from your body when using knives or cutters.
Use a staple remover, not your fingers, for removing staples.
Turn off and unplug machines before adjusting, lubricating, or cleaning them.
Do not use fans that have excessive vibration, frayed cords, or missing guards.
Turn the power switch of the equipment to ‘off’ when it is not being used.
General Labor Personnel
Do not leave loose tools or other items on a ledge or lying around the floor. Return tools to their storage places after use.
Keep walking surfaces of elevated working platforms, such as scaffolds and equipment, clear of tools and materials that are being used.
Do not use gasoline for cleaning purposes.
Sweep up scraps and debris from wallboard installation such as screws, mesh and tape by using a broom and dust pan.
Plan the move before lifting; remove obstructions from your chosen pathway.
Test the weight of the load before lifting by pushing the load along its resting surface.
If the load is too heavy or bulky, use lifting and carrying aids such as hand trucks, dollies, pallet jacks and carts or get assistance from a co-worker.
If assistance is required to perform a lift, coordinate and communicate your movements with those of your co-worker.
Never lift anything if your hands are greasy or wet.
Wear protective gloves approved by your supervisor when lifting objects with sharp corners or jagged edges.
Do not lift an object from the floor to a level above your waist in one motion. Set the load down on a table or bench and then adjust your grip before lifting it higher.
Job Site Safety
Do not walk under partially demolished walls or floors.
Stop working outdoors and seek shelter during lightning storms.
Do not begin working until barricades, warning signs or other protective devices have been installed to isolate the work area.
Do not throw away or toss debris outside barricaded areas.
Stay clear of all trucks, forklifts, cranes, and other heavy equipment when in operation.
Do not approach any heavy equipment until the operator has seen you and has signaled to you that it is safe to approach.
Keep shirts on to avoid dehydration and sunburn.
Assume all electrical wires as live wires.
Do not wear watches, rings, or other metallic objects which could act as conductors of electricity around electrical circuits.
Wear the dielectric gloves when working on electric current.
Electrical Powered Tools
Do not use power equipment or tools on which you have not been trained.
Do not carry plugged in equipment or tools with your finger on the switch.
Do not leave tools that are ‘on’ unattended.
Do not handle or operate electrical tools when your hands are wet or when you are standing on wet floors.
Do not operate a power hand tool or portable appliance:
That has frayed, worn, cut, improperly spliced, or damaged cord.
That has two-pronged adapter or a two-conductor extension cord.
If a prong from the three pronged power plug is missing or has been removed.
Disconnect the tool from the outlet by pulling on the plug, not the cord.
Turn the tool off before plugging or unplugging it.
Turn off the electrical tool and unplug it from the outlet before attempting repairs or service work. Tag the tool “Out of Service.”
Do not stand in water or on wet surfaces when operating power hand tools or portable electrical appliances.
Never operate electrical equipment barefooted. Wear rubber soled or insulated work boots.
Do not operate a power hand tool or portable appliance while holding a part of the metal casing or while holding the extension cord in your hand.
Hold all portable power tools by the plastic handgrips or other nonconductive areas designed for gripping purposes.
Do not use electrical tools if its housing is cracked.
Do not use electrical tools while working on a metal ladder unless the ladder has rubber feet.
Keep power cords away from the path of drills and wire soldering and cutting equipment.
Do not use cords that have splices, exposed wires or cracked or frayed ends.
Do not remove the ground prong from electrical cords.
Do not use any adapter such as a cheater plug that eliminates the ground.
Do not plug multiple electrical cords into a single outlet.
Wear safety goggles, protective gloves, a dust mask, and hearing protection when operating a power saw.
Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry.
Clean any residue from the blade or cutting head before making a new cut with the power saw.
Do not use a power saw that has cracked, broken, or loose guards or other visible damage.
Keep your hands away from the exposed blade.
Operate the saw at full cutting speed, with a sharp blade, to prevent kickbacks.
Do not alter the anti kickback device or blade guard.
Do not perform cutting operations with the power saw while standing on a wet or slippery floor.
When using the power saw, do not reach across the cutting operation.
Cut away from your body and below shoulder level when you are using a power saw.
If the saw becomes jammed, turn the power switch off before pulling out the incomplete cut.
Do not point a compressed air hose at bystanders or use it to clean your clothing.
Do not use tools that have handles with burrs or cracks.
Do not use compressors if their belt guards are missing. Replace belt guards before use.
Turn the tool off and allow it to come to a complete stop before leaving it unattended.
Disconnect the tool from the air line before making any adjustments or repairs to the tool.
Engage positive locks on hoses and attachments before use.
Shut off pressure valve and disconnect air line when not in use.
Tag damaged of defective pneumatic tools “Out of Service” to prevent usage of the tool by other employees.
Hand Tool Safety
Use tied off containers to keep tools from falling off of elevated work platforms.
Do not use a tool if its handle has splinters, burrs, cracks, splits or if the head of the tools is loose.
Do not use tools while your hands are oily, greasy or wet.
When handing a tool to another person, direct sharp points and cutting edges away from yourself and the other person.
Do not carry sharp pointed hand tools such as screwdrivers in your pocket unless the tool or your pocket is sheathed.
Do not perform ‘makeshift’ repairs to tools.
Do not throw tools from one location to another, from one employee to another, from scaffolds or other elevated platforms.
Do not carry tools in your hand when climbing. Carry tools in tool belts or hoist the tools to the work area with a hand line.
Transport hand tools only in toolboxes or tool belts. Do not carry tools in your clothing.
When you are performing electrical work, use the tools with the blue rubber sleeves covering the handle, these are insulated.
Keep control of saws by releasing downward pressure at the end of the stroke.
Keep your hands and fingers away from the saw blade while you are using the saw.
When using a hand saw, hold your panel firmly against the worktable.
Do not use a saw that has dull saw blades.
Do not carry a saw by the blade.
Oil saw blades after each use of the saw.
Wear safety glasses or safety goggles when using snips to cut materials such as lath or corner beads.
Wear your work gloves when cutting materials with snips.
Do not use straight cut snips to cut curves.
Keep the blade aligned by tightening the nuts and bolts on the snips.
Do not use snips as a hammer, screwdriver, or pry bar.
Engage the locking clip on the snips after use.
Toolboxes/ Chest/ Cabinet
Tape over or file off sharp edges on toolboxes, chests, or cabinets.
Do not stand on toolbox, chest, or cabinet to gain extra height.
Lock the wheels on large toolboxes, chest, and cabinets to prevent from rolling.
Push large toolboxes, chest and cabinets; do not pull.
Do not open more than 1 drawer of a toolbox at a time.
Close and lock all drawers and doors before moving the toolbox to a new location.
Do not use toolbox or chest as a workbench.
Do not move a toolbox, chest or cabinet if it has loose parts or parts on the top.
Knives/ Sharp Instruments
When handling knife blades and other cutting tools, direct sharp points and edges away from you.
Always cut in the direction away from your body when using knives.
Carry all sharp tools in a sheath or holster. Stores knives in knife blocks or in sheaths after using them.
Use the knife that has been sharpened; do not use knives that have dull blades.
Do not use knives as screwdrivers.
Do not pick up knives by their blades.
Carry knives with tips pointed towards the floor.
Forklift Safety Rules
Do not exceed the lift capacity of the forklift. Read the lift capacity plate on the forklift if you are unsure.
Follow the manufacturer guidelines concerning changes in the lift capacity before adding an attachment, such as wedges, to a forklift.
Lift the load an inch or two to test for stability: if the rear wheels are not in firm contact with the floor, take a lighter load or use a forklift with a higher lift capacity.
Do not raise or lower a load while you are en-route. Wait until you are in the loading area and have stopped before raising or lowering the load.
After picking up a load, adjust the forks so that the load is tilted slightly backward for added stability.
Drive with the load at a ground clearance height of 4-6 inches at the tips and 2 inches at the heels in order to clear most uneven surfaces and debris.
Drive at a walking pace and apply brakes slowly to stop when driving on slippery surfaces such as icy or wet floors.
Do not drive over objects in your pathway.
Steer wide when making turns.
Do not drive up to anyone standing or working in front of a fixed object such as a wall.
Do not drive along the edge of an unguarded elevated surface such as a loading dock or staging platform.
Obey all traffic rules and signs.
Sound horn when approaching blind corners, doorways, or aisles to alert other operators and pedestrians.
Do not exceed a safe working speed of five miles per hour. Slow down in congested areas.
Stay a minimum distance of three truck lengths from other operating mobile equipment.
Drive in reverse and use a signal person when your vision is blocked by the load.
Look in the direction that you are driving; proceed when you have a clear path.
Drive loaded forklifts forward up ramps.
Raise the forks an additional two inches to avoid hitting or scraping the ramp surface as you approach the ramp.
Drive loaded forklifts in reverse when driving down a ramp.
Drive unloaded forklifts in reverse going up a ramp and forward going down a ramp.
Do not attempt to turn around on a ramp.
Do not use ‘reverse’ to brake.
Lower the mast completely, turn off the engine and set the parking brake before leaving your forklift.
Keep the forklift clear of the dock edge while vehicles are backing up to the dock.
Do not begin loading or unloading until the supply truck has come to a complete stop, the engine has been turned off, the dock lock has been engaged and the wheels have been locked.
Attach the bridge or dock plate before driving the forklift into the truck.
Do not drive the forklift into a truck bed that has soft or loose decking or other unstable flooring.
Drive straight across the bridge plates when entering or exiting the trailer.
Use dock lights or headlights when working in a dark trailer.
When manually stocking shelves, position the materials to be shelved slightly in front of you so you do not have to twist when lifting and stacking materials.
Visually inspect for sharp objects or other hazards before putting hands, legs or other body parts into containers such as garbage cans, boxes, bags, or sinks.
Remove or bend nails and staples from crates before unpacking.
When cutting shrink-wrap with a blade, always cut away from you and your co-workers.
Do not try to kick objects out of pathways. Push or carry them out of the way.
Do not let items overhang from shelves into walkways.
Move slowly when approaching blind corners.
Remove one object at a time from shelves.
Place items on shelves so that they lie flat and do not lean against each other.
Hand Truck Operations
Tip the load slightly forward so that the tongue of the hand truck goes under the load.
Push the tongue of the hand truck all the way under the load to be moved.
Keep the center of gravity of the load as low as possible by placing heavier objects below the lighter objects.
When loading hand trucks, keep your feet clear of the wheels.
Push the load so that the weight will be carried by the axle and not the handles.
Place the load so that it will not slip, shift or fall. Use straps, if provided, to secure the load.
If your view is obstructed, use a spotter to assist in guiding the load.
For extremely bulky or pressurized items such as gas cylinders, strap or chain the items to the hand truck.
Do not walk backward with the hand truck, unless going up stairs or ramps.
When going down an incline, keep the hand truck in front of you so that it can be controlled at all times.
Move hand trucks at a walking pace.
Store hand trucks with the tongue under a pallet, shelf, or table.
Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load rated capacity. Read the capacity plate on the hand truck if you are unsure.
Pallet Jack Use
Only employer authorized personnel may operate pallet jacks.
Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load rated capacity. Read the lift capacity plate on the pallet jack if you are unsure.
Do not ride on pallet jacks.
Start and stop gradually to prevent the load from slipping.
Pull manual pallet jacks; push when going down an incline or passing close to walls or obstacles.
If your view is obstructed, use a spotter to assist in guiding the load.
Stop the pallet jack if anyone gets in your way.
Do not place your feet under the pallet jack when it is moving.
Keep your feet and other body parts clear of pallet before releasing the load.
Use long handled snips when cutting strapping bands away from a shipping container.
Wear safety glasses when cutting strapping bands, uncrating materials and driving nails.
Stand to the side of the strapping band when cutting it.
Do not use pallets or skids that are cracked or split or have other visible damage.
Stack heavy or bulky storage containers on middle and lower shelves of the storage rack.
Do not lift slippery or wet objects; use a hand truck.
Follow the safe handling instructions listed on the label of the container or listed on the corresponding Material Safety Data Sheet when handling each chemical stored in the stockroom.
Do not smoke while handling chemicals labeled flammable.
Do not store chemicals labeled flammable near sources of ignition such as space heaters and sparking tools.
Do not handle or load any containers of chemicals if their containers are cracked or leaking.
Do not leave pallet jack unattended with the load suspended.
Obey all safety and danger signs posted in the workplace.
Do not exceed the rated load capacity noted on the manufacturer’s label on the cart.
Use a spotter to help guide carts around corners and through narrow aisles.
Do not stand on a cart or use it as a work platform.
On Property Safety
At no time, under any circumstances, will any part of your person come into direct contact with any animal at Big Cat Rescue unless under direct instruction and supervision of at least two of the following: The Founder, the President, the Operations Manager or the Attending Veterinarian.
An approved radio must be carried on your person at all times while on the property. You are responsible for keeping the radio in good working order.
No running or horseplay on the property.
Smoking is permitted in designated “smoking areas” only.
Absolutely no alcohol or drugs are allowed on the property at any time. No person shall enter the premises for eight hours after having consumed any alcoholic beverage or narcotics. Any person believed to be impaired due to alcohol or drugs will be removed from the property.
Do not operate the front gate nor allow access to the property to anyone with out proper training. If you do not recognize someone on the property, as a volunteer or staff member, politely ask if you can help him or her. Explain that they must be escorted by a volunteer or staff member. Lead them to the guest sign in and alert a Coordinator, Staff or Committee Member.
No person shall enter the property without having completed a “Release & Hold Harmless Agreement”.
If you have been entrusted with the gate code or keys, do not share these with anyone.
Make sure the gate is completely shut behind you as you enter and exit the property.
Employee parking is located in between the Education Center and the cell tower.
Easy Street is a privately owned road (not by Big Cat Rescue) and the people that live on the road are not affiliated with Big Cat Rescue. It is very important that we respect these people and drive no faster than 10 mph as well as yield to outbound traffic.
Follow all rules in the Tour Guide Procedures Class and Gate Operation, Tour Back Up & Guest Relations Class attached to this Safety Program. Take these volunteer classes as soon as possible after employment.
If you also volunteer at Big Cat Rescue, it is your responsibility to take the appropriate volunteer classes related to activities you engage in as a Volunteer and follow the rules contained therein and any other rules provided to you verbally or in writing separately from those classes.
As of June 2013. See Staff for potential changes since this time.
Big Cat Rescue doesn’t believe big cats should be bred for life in cages, but for those who had the misfortune of being bred in captivity, we offer the best habitats (or cat-a-tats as we like to call them) in the world. Our cat-a-tats are large (ranging from 1200 square feet to 2.5 acres) and full of natural foliage and man made platforms and dens that were built to satisfy a curious cat’s every desire. Most of our enclosures are roofed and are built with curving walls that provide the structural strength so it can be hard, from a single vantage point, to see how large our enclosures really are. All of our tigers have pools that are kept fresh via our spring fed lake.
19 of our enclosures front on Tiger Lake. Intern housing at far left and 8 cages along the bank under the arrow.
Each enclosure consists of two or more sections that are connected by a guillotine door that is left open, unless we have to lock a cat out of an area to go in and clean. Each section will have a lockout for feeding and water, a den, and a place where the cat can perch. Each enclosure has a safety entrance that consists of a double door system and keyed padlocks on both the inner and outer doors. All guillotine doors can be operated from outside. Our newer cages have been built with double galvanized, 5 gauge, 4×4 panels that do not require painting. Our earlier cages were built of galvanized, 6 gauge, 4×4 panels that do require painting every so often. The paint we use is Rustoleum, which is a rust brown colored paint, so close examination shows the cages to be in excellent condition, despite the color.
This video shows you how the cats easily navigate their mazes of connected enclosures and tunnels.
This video shows how our open air enclosures are built. All open air enclosures have roofed sections attached in case of high winds.
Big Cat Enclosures
Big Cats Don’t Belong in Cages
No big cat belongs in a cage, but until we have better laws to protect exotic cats from being bred for lives of captivity and deprivation, we need to give them as much space and privacy as possible. In their wild their territories would measure in square miles, not square feet, so even at its best a cage is nothing more than a jail cell.
Since all exotic cats, no matter how early they are neutered or spayed, spray bucket loads of urine all day you will want to provide an outdoor cage. Because we have so many cats we have many varieties of cages depending on the cats’ needs. We will begin with our favorite cages and proceed down to our minimum cages. USDA only requires that the animal be able to stand up and turn around in the pen and that it be clean. Some states have minimum size standards but they, like the USDA’s standards, are nothing short of cruel and inhumane. In Florida, a 600 pound, twelve foot long Siberian Tiger may be kept in a 10 foot by twenty four foot pen, and too many people do. Different cats have different needs, but ALL cats need the room and inspiration to be cats.
To successfully cage a cat you should understand his natural behaviors to most closely provide what he needs and to most safely confine him. Although individuals of several species may prowl by day, exotic cats are typically nocturnal. Except for Cheetahs, Lions and Tigers, the exotic feline is an exceptional climber. Servals and Caracals can climb well, but need incentive to do so. Margay, Ocelots and Leopards spend more time lounging in the trees than on the ground. Bobcats, Jungle Cats, Geoffrey Cats and all of the Lynxes are very active and are in and out of everything, all the time.
All cats swim if necessity demands it but Jaguars, Tigers, Servals and Fishing Cats live for it. Fishing cats and Servals will dive underwater for their food and although Tigers will dive, they usually prefer to “dog paddle” or just splash around in the water. Water loving cats will not be happy without a pool.
The behaviour of an exotic cat can be likened to that of the domestic cat on speed. All of this is said to prepare you to look around your home and envision the outdoor run as seen through the half crazed eyes of the exotic of your choice. The “tamed” wild cat does not discern between a tree and a hanging plant, or between vines and curtain rods. Your bubble bath or the fish tank are just as suitable “swimming holes” as a lake or stream. Exotic Cats urinate in the water, so you won’t want to leave dishes in the sink.
If you are building an enclosure for a pet that you have raised and who now is spraying everything in sight, the best option for the cat is an outdoor one that is at least 1200 square feet in size. The fencing should be twelve feet tall and made of six gauge chain welded cattle panels and completely roofed.
In these yards should be kiddie toys including wading pools, plastic forts, igloos, balls and safe shrubbery. Obviously, none of these plastic items are to be left unattended with the great cats. Except for the shrubbery everything else must be cleaned and disinfected regularly (like daily). A pool is great fun but a lot of work. It MUST be changed daily. Even the dirt will need “cleaning” and by this I mean that you will need to walk the yard daily and pick up feces, and on occasion you may need to lock the cats in the house for a few days and dust the yard with lime. Don’t return the cats to the dusted yard until after it has been washed off of the grass and leaves and into the soil.
We used to treat the cat yards twice a month for fleas, alternating between Bio-Halt Flea Nematodes and Sevin Dust 10 percent. Since our cats have been on Advantage this has not been necessary. We don’t mow the yard very often because the cats seem to really enjoy the jungle effect. Your neighbors may not share your appreciation of a Congo styled lawn scape, and this is something to consider. Keeping your neighbors happy can be what keeps you happy and this usually requires that they not be able to see, hear or smell your cats. In most cases you will be better off if they don’t even know about your cats. Having them for the purpose of showing off to your friends will probably mean that you will be asked to move or euthanize the pet one day.
For our Tigers we have a three acre pen that leads down into a spring fed lake. The fencing is 16 feet tall, six gauge (sometimes 5 gauge), four by six inch square welded wire. This pen has two eight foot square, concrete dens, and a safety pen for hurricanes, or so we can lock them up while cleaning their acreage. The safety pen is where we feed the cats so that they are accustomed to going inside. It is 900 square feet, with a top. When we clean the pen we coax them into the safety pen and shut them inside until we are finished. The safety pen must have a door that can be operated from outside. The safety pen and the safety gate are two separate enclosures. To include part of the lake in the Tiger pen we had to hire a dock and deck company to install the posts out in the water because it was fourteen feet deep in places. We hung the fence from the posts and attached shade cloth over that so that the cats would not swim out and hang on the wire. Inside the pen are stainless steel beer kegs, bowling balls (with the holes filled in) for toys and lots of shrubbery, initially… Palmettos are virtually indestructible and the yard was covered with them, but in just a few months they were trampled beyond recognition. We thought over an acre per Tiger would more than accommodate two yearling Tigers, but the foliage proves otherwise. The trees are all still standing but it was an established forest.
Most of our cages are 12 to 16 feet tall with a roof. They are built around trees so that the cats can get up into the lower branches. Their concrete den, which is eight feet by twelve feet, by 2 feet high and is covered with concrete to look like rock and earth for insulation so that they look like hills in each cage.Our Leopards have pens that are more than 1200 square feet per cat and twelve feet high.
We were fortunate enough to fall into a once in a lifetime deal in which we were able to purchase thirty three acres of concrete platforms. These platforms stand two feet off the ground on their own legs and come in eight foot, ten foot and twelve foot widths. They are all eight feet long and can be stacked side by side. These would not be cost efficient to build, but many people pour concrete slabs on the ground with a slope to the outside and a gutter to guide waste water to a septic system.
All of the pens have at trees, shelves or logs elevated for lounging on. We suspend natural cat-walks with chain from the top of the pen, at different levels, so that the feline has much more running space and to encourage exercising by jumping from one cat-walk to another. We also hang hammocks made of natural fibers for their lounging pleasure.
Each cage has a toy called the ” Nearly Indestructible Ball” in a size relevant to the size of the cat and a variety of large bleached cow bones. A cat can easily get stir crazy in a static environment, so it is important to always be offering something different to smell, taste or touch. Cats like having their own space and enjoy marking it and letting others know that it is theirs, but they also enjoy new things. Just like human children, they enjoy playing with the box the toy came in more than with the toy itself. Cut a few holes in the box and it’s good entertainment for a day or two. Oddly enough, the biggest thrill you can give most cats is a pile of cut branches. Check your poisonous plant list first and then your yard trimmings can provide hours of fun and exercise.
The entry door to the pen should be wide enough to accommodate your carriers or catch pens and tall enough for you to walk in without stooping. We use 4 snap hooks to keep them shut and a lock. You should also attach a safety gate to your entry gate. This is a small cage that you open the gate and walk into, and then shut the gate behind you before opening the gate to the pen. It should be large enough to accommodate two people and a large carrier or a wheel barrow, without having both doors open. At any juncture where you will be handling a latch or accessing a food or water dish, we would recommend that you cover the adjoining area with a small mesh wire. It can be very hard to fumble with a latch and keep your eyes on the cat at the same time. This is more necessary in the case where a cat has his claws. Even if the existing wire is too small for the entire paw to fit through, just one hook of their razor sharp claws could take off a finger.
We do not recommend adjoining cages that share a common wall. Often cats that like each other have been known to suffer a nasty bite for sticking their extremities through the wire. We saw a gorgeous black Leopard once whose tail had been so badly mauled that it had to be amputated.
Privacy can be as important as space. If at all possible provide lush foliage as a visual screen between animals. Space the cats as far apart as is practical. They are solitary creatures, except for the Lions, and really appreciate their own territory. Even most lions that you may end up caring for were probably single pets and will not want to be kept in cages with other lions.
Our cages are truly cat-a-tats, but because they are on the ground, the cats must be wormed monthly here and probably at least quarterly in colder climates.
For open top pens we use a double row of hot wire that is powered by a solar unit that can withstand three days of total darkness, and this has proved successful in keeping lions and tigers in place.
Big Cat Enclosures at Big Cat Rescue
Below are the new cage designs Vernon Stairs implemented. They are constructed of 6 gauge, galvanized, welded wire panels, twelve feet high, with roofs and are all in excess of 900 square feet and most in excess of 1200 square feet and many in excess of 2400 square feet. They all have safety entrances and are designed to shut off one half of the cage at a time so that the volunteers can safely clean one side with the cat locked out and then shift the cat to the other side to clean the remainder.
They all incorporate feed boxes with built in water dishes in which the cats can be shut to medicate, vaccinate or the whole unit can be removed as a transport cage to go to the vet or to evacuate in a hurricane. The water dishes are elevated to keep the cats from relieving themselves in the drinking water (as they will do).
Each cage has a sprinkler system and an underground, plastic den. The den is easy to clean and insulated against the elements. Each cage is heavily landscaped and has logs, trees, toys and perches to give the cat’s a feeling of safety.
This is one of our leopard cages and it is over 2400 square feet of floor space and is over twenty feet high as it encircles this tree. (Notice the silhouette of the black leopard, Jumanji in the center branches) This cage is typical of our leopard and cougar cages and includes all of the features outlined above. You can see the wire in the distant back ground and the white door to his feeding area. This photo was taken from safely outside the cage, but due to the four by four openings the shot can look as though you were inside.
The cage at right is the Snow Leopard cage when it was being built and includes a freezer box den that is air-conditioned and cleverly disguised as snowy rock covered ledges. The cats can lay in the cool of their dens and look out at passerby’s. The curvature of the wire makes posts and support beam unnecessary once the cage is completed and enables the viewer to focus on the animal and not on the cage.
Across the top you can see the wire supports used to bridge the 20 feet spanning the roofs. Note the full size ladder in the background to get a feel for the size of the cage. The rock work is concrete over metal lathe. In some cages the rock work has waterfalls, dripping down into fish filled ponds.
Many of our Cat-A-Tats include ponds and waterfalls. All of our many tigers have pools, ponds and waterfalls as did the Fishing Cats.
With a donation of $10,000.00, earmarked for cage construction, you can have a sign placed on the cage telling the world that you helped build the Cat-A-Tat. This is great advertising for your business or corporation and greatly helps these magnificent cats.
Here is where we get the only hog ring pliers that work: http://www.reddenmarine.com/pacific-mako-9000-wf-555-0-hog-ring-pliers.html
Lions and Tigers
240 square feet
1200- 136,000 sf
Leopards, Jaguars, Cougars
200 square feet
1200-6000 square feet
Lesser cats (Lynx, etc.)
72 square feet
1200-2400 square feet
Small cats (hybrid cats, etc.)
36 square feet
1000 -2000 square feet
USDA only requires that the cage be large enough for the animal to stand up and turnaround in and a lot of states use the USDA standard rather than set standards of their own.
When you visit the zoo and see those magnificent million dollar enclosures, what you don’t see are all the animals in tiny, off exhibit cages. If animals must live in captivity, the least we can do is make them comfortable.
Big Cat Rescue has evolved since its inception in 1992. By 1997 we had seen enough of the abuse and abandonment caused by the pet trade that we had previously engaged in to know that there was no reason to breed exotic animals for lives in cages. As a result we increased our efforts through spaying, neutering and cage building to ensure that we would no longer be a part of the problem. As we have continued to learn about the causes of so much suffering we have become active in stopping the exotic pet trade through education and legislation. More HERE.
The following is provided for those running a sanctuary who want to learn from our experience, or for those who have already made the mistake of supporting the pet trade so that the animal in your care does not suffer even more after being ripped from his mother. With more than 30 years experience, with every sort of exotic cat, I can assure you that there is nothing you can do to raise up an exotic cat to be a house pet. It just isn’t possible. No matter how young you neuter or spay the cats, both male and female, ALWAYS spray when they become adults. The suggestions below are for those who are starting sanctuaries so that you don’t become another one of the 98% who kill their exotic animals in the first two years due to a lack of knowledge.
Buy the book, Big Cat Care – How to Start a Sanctuary by Carole Baskin in iTunes and on Amazon
The most common need for restraint is when vaccinating a big cat. Here are a few ways to deal with vaccines that can also be used for sedating a big cat.
You will find many times when it is necessary to pick up and restrain an exotic cat, and hopefully, you will have started acclimating the cat to this behavior early in life. If the cat is small and can be picked up from behind, it is better than taking on the cat face to face. With a tame cat, you can place one hand around the middle of his body, then reach your fingers up from under the chest to cross and hold the front paws. This is critical if he has claws and just cuts down on the squirming if he does not. Keep your index finger between the paws for a better grip. Lift him up close to your body with his hips behind your back and elbow. If the cat is frightened at first you can lift them up, partially by the scruff of the neck and then lift his weight by cradling his back feet, again with one finger between them for a better grip. Except in extreme emergency we never allow a cat to dangle from his scruff. (Like when breaking up a cat fight by yourself, when you have to hold two cats off of each other… make sure a copy of your Will is on file.)
If the cat is really freaked out, or not tame we throw a towel or blanket over them and then scoop up the cat, wrapping the towel or blanket underneath as we lift. Depending on the size of the teeth, you may wish to don gloves before such a maneuver. As a last resort you can use the noose snare or a makeshift one of a leash or piece of rope. Slip the loop over the head A N D O N E FRO N T LEG and then tighten the loop and lift the cat into a carrier or up onto the table. If the cat must be treated in this manner, pull the leash forward and grasp the back legs, or the base of the tail, to stretch the cat out. This is much easier said than done and can be very dangerous, because the exotic will flip and twist until they kill themselves.
If the cat is tame and you have been working with him, the less restraint used, the better. Wild cats usually get more worked up over the restraint than the actual treatment. If you act confidant and speak kindly, but authoritatively you may be able to do things such as bathing, grooming and medicating without much more than a hand resting at the scruff to let them know that you can immobilize them at any moment they get too carried away.
Tame Cat Restraint: If you have two people and the cat likes to be carried, then one person holds the cat, with the cat’s body facing his, the face of the cat looking back over his shoulder and the back feet securely cupped at waist level. The other person, can hold the scruff and give a shot, or can come around from behind the person holding the cat and give a pill. If there is danger of the cat biting the person holding, then the cat can be placed on a table, belly down, and either held down or blanketed down. If the cat is very tame, but very big, one person can sit over the cat as though they were going to ride him, and using their knees, press from either side, crossing their feet behind the cat, so that he does not back out. With their hands, they can scruff the cat with one hand and either hold the front paws, or the muzzle with the other hand. Sometimes, even with tame cats, we have found it helpful to slip a muzzle over their face. We use the fabric type that cover the eyes and have a velcro close in back. When the cat cannot see, he will often sit very still, but hold him firmly just in case.
Wild Cat Restraint: We like to use a net for most purposes. We have several nets in different sizes. When the kittens are young we play with them and the nets so that they do not run at the sight of them. We custom make our nets and use rope netting, like you would use for commercial fishing. These have holes about an inch in diameter, and we can pull the scruff out through the net to give an injection or we can pull an ear out to treat for mites or to inspect. We make our nets long enough that we can fit the whole cat in and then double the net back over the hoop, so that the cat cannot escape. At the bottom, there is a drawstring and when we are through, we pull the bow and the cat can run out forward. They don’t back out well. If you will be dealing with the cat’s head, we leave the drawstring loose enough that the cat can get his head through, but not the rest of his body, while being tangled in the net. Anything a cat can get his head through, the rest of his body will follow without much trouble. I have seen a cat flatten down and slither under a closed interior door.
If you do not have a net and the cat is really getting crazy, you can tape their legs together and you can tape their muzzles closed with surgical tape or gauze. Use the kind that sticks to itself and not the fur if possible. Wild cats have incredible strength and you will need to insure that they do not thrash about in such a manner as to hurt themselves worse.
Transporting an injured cat can be very dangerous. No matter how tame the cat may be, they can lose all sense of perspective when they are in pain. You should not struggle unnecessarily with an injured cat because you are using what little strength he may have and cause him to regress into further shock and collapse. If you suspect a spinal injury, the cat should be lifted up in a blanket so that he is not turned or twisted. A carrier with a soft blanket, or hay, is the best transporter. If the cat is very agitated, you can throw a blanket over him and drop a cat carrier over him. Using a hard piece of cardboard, you can slide it up under him and scoop him into the carrier. Shut the door as you pull out the cardboard and leave the blanket for him to hide in.
1 blowgun, 1 pole syringe, 1 dart pistol, 2 dart rifles, 1 12 gauge shotgun, 1 30/30 rifle and net gun. Several staff members are trained and well practiced in the use of these. Kept in locked cabinets in locked rooms of locked buildings.
Transport Cages and Vehicles:
2 rolling circus wagons, ‘2012 Toyota Tundra with A/C topper, ’98 Dodge Ram extended van with two large cages made to fit inside. ’05 Dodge Ram pick up truck 3/4 ton with Reese hitch, custom enclosed trailer that will haul two rolling circus wagons and other smaller cages in climate controlled space, assorted yard trucks, pallet jack, Kobelco tractor (lifts 3,000 lbs) with bucket attachment, dozens of carriers, wire transports and every cat’s cage is equipped with a lock out.
For a site plan of the facility to see buildings, access points, gates and cage layout visit these links:
We conduct random drills to test our staff and volunteers in the event of personal injuries, such as heat stroke, escapes, maulings, fire and hurricanes. Although we cannot simulate a fire or hurricane we have often staged the other disasters so that most of the participants did not know it was a drill. We have been very pleased with the results.
For What Kind of Emergencies Are We Prepared?
Scientist tell us that global warming will continue to disrupt our weather patterns and that we can expect far more powerful hurricanes for many years to come. We have prepared in every way possible and are providing this page as a portal for those who are concerned about us and for those who are trying to find ways to protect their own sanctuaries.
Some disasters cannot be prevented, but others can. Read more about what we are doing to ensure the safety of our cats and the surrounding communities at Big Cat Rescue below.
The lockouts can no longer be removed as easily as back then.
How do you prepare a 55 acre sanctuary housing 100+ big cats for a Hurricane? Since 2004’s episode including 4 major hurricanes in 6 weeks we get asked that question a lot.
The answer isn’t something that can be said in a sound byte though, because it takes months of planning, preparing and training to make sure that when the winds quit howling, the cats don’t start howling from the wrong side of the fence.
It starts with the caging. Our cages are built from galvanized wire panels that are twice what the state standards require for strength. Vern builds them in rounded, peanut styled formations that utilize the strength of the curvature without the necessity of posts. Because there is nothing to catch the wind, which is the major factor in a hurricane, there is nothing to blow away. Almost all of our Cat-A-Tats (our word for cages) have roofs made of the same material so the animal is safely contained on the top, sides and bottom. The only major damage we have had to cages was in the non roofed enclosures.
Anticipating that, we had moved cats living in those enclosures into roofed cages to ride out the storms. As soon as the winds reach 30 MPH all cats in open air enclosures are shut into their smaller, roofed areas until the winds subside.
The non roofed areas all are equipped with two or three strands of hot wire that is solar powered, because in a hurricane, the first thing to go is the power. The solar units we use are very expensive but are reported to last 5 days in the dark. Fortunately we have never had to test that claim; losing only 3 days of power at any given time.
All of our cats have dens to escape the rain. Some of the small cats have igloo type dog houses that are shaped like tree stumps and barrels with one end half cut out up in the trees. Most of the cats have some form of concrete den that is built to accommodate their size. A cougar, for instance, has an underground area (which is actually elevated above the grade to prevent water from pooling inside) that is 8 feet by 12 feet by 2.5 feet high. Over that is a mountain of dirt, plants and grass that provides a cool area in the summer and warmth against the chilling winds in the winter. There isn’t a tree big enough to smash one of these 4 inch thick, rebar reinforced, concrete dens that are buried inside our man made hills.
Most of the other places in Florida housing exotic animals reported losing most of their trees during Charly, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne but we only lost a couple of dead pine trees. As we looked around, and thought about why, we concluded that the same thing that kept our cats from blowing away, kept our trees from toppling as well. Most of them are “caged”. We build our Cat-A-Tats around trees and Vern very cleverly encloses the top into the center of the boughs so that the cats have lots of opportunities to climb and to do the things they would in the wild, like sleep in the trees all day and wait for night. Because all of our best trees are part of enclosures this way, they were anchored to the ground by 1200 square foot cages. The wind just couldn’t get a good enough grip to pull them up from the soggy earth.
Hurricane preparedness has a lot to do with our people.
The chain of command is clear. There is always at least one staff member on property who has taken responsibility for the sanctuary that day. That person in usually the Operations manager, but if it is their day off, someone is always scheduled to be the person in charge in their absence. There are coordinators who have had years of training who then manage all of the 100 or so volunteers. All of the staff have smart phones and all of the volunteers and staff carry 2 way radios.
Long before the first cloud blows in off the bay they have been rehearsing for the worst possible situation. Thanks to the Volunteer Committee, regular drills are performed, documented and analyzed to see where we have come up short and what we can do to make sure that we are ready in the case of a real emergency such as a loose cat, an injured person or a fire. Our President, Jamie Veronica, is always checking the supplies in the Emergency Response Center and the Cat Hospital. These crucial supplies are always being checked, rechecked and restocked as they expire.
Classes are offered weekly to our members in such things as Animal Emergency, Human CPR and how to find the right tools and the right people in the most effective manner. Everyone knows the chain of command and who has access to dart guns, tranquilizers and the expertise to use them. All of our staff, volunteers and interns carry a two way radio with them at all times and do a radio check upon entering the property to be sure they can hear and be heard.
Our people are taught from day one that they have to lay eyes on every cat they care for and to report anything amiss with the animal and to report any threat to the cage that may compromise its ability to contain its inhabitant. Those observations are all logged digitally in a daily record and the Operations Manager, double checks the entries and the cause each day. Her actions are then logged on Big Cat Rescue’s intranet site and reviewed at the weekly staff meetings. All maintenance and preventative maintenance is done immediately.
Gale, Honey, Vern, Barbara and a dozen or more interns live on site and the perimeter fence is walked throughout the day and night daily to inspect for threats to its integrity. During inclement weather all of these processes are stepped up. Thanks to our involvement with Hillsborough County’s Emergency Operations Center we get up to the minute reports on all tropical storms and hurricanes via e-mail, complete with radar photos, tracking projections and information on what is being done across the state to prepare.
The cats are prepared for emergencies as well. Thanks to an awesome Operant Conditioning Program the cats are trained to come into “lockout” on command. Most of our cages are built in at least two sections so that the cat can be shut into one side or the other for cleaning or repair, but in the worst case scenario we are prepared to move the cat completely. The cats are also trained to come to a target if we need to move them from side to side and while we haven’t tried that outside their cage, we are prepared to with our new golf cart gear.
Despite all of the best planning, things go wrong. What if a big cat escapes his enclosure? Then what? Oddly, you can drive right up to a big cat and they don’t even think twice about it, but the minute you step out of the car, you are lunch or you are to be run from. Neither of those options is conducive to a successful recapture. There are some places on the property that you just can’t get to by car but you can access these areas by golf cart. Treats always come on golf carts and so do the Operant Conditioning people, so the cats LOVE golf carts. Vern designed a portable cage that can be dropped down over the frame of a golf cart in a matter of seconds that protects the driver and a “shooter” much like the notion of sending a person in a cage down into a tank of sharks. The golf cart can get within a couple feet of the cat in most cases and lure the cat back to a safe area by way of targeting as we do in Operant Conditioning, or the cat can be darted with a tranquilizer.
In the worst case, where escape from the property is eminent, the cat must be shot with a bullet. Our staff has been trained and practices regularly with dart guns, blow pipes, and rifles and shotguns if there is no other alternative. They have been mentally preparing for the day when they may have to shoot one of their “best friends” to keep the cat from being a danger to society, because avoiding an escape is critical to the continuance of the sanctuary for all of the good that we do for the rest of the animals.
Sheltering in Place
There is no place safer than Big Cat Rescue for the 100 or so big cats who live here. In the event of just about any kind of emergency we are prepared to “shelter in place.” Since we have 10-20 volunteers and staff living on site, there are plenty of people on hand to care for the cats. If we had to move an animal or animals we have a climate controlled trailer, with remote cameras, that is designed to carry our biggest cats in a rolling beast wagon, or crates of our smaller cats.
Most of our cats are micro chipped and if we have to sedate a cat for any reason, we always micro chip them, if they have not been already. All of our cats are in a census with their name, date of birth, date of arrival at the sanctuary, if they have been neutered or spayed, if they were declawed by their owners, and their photographs are all online. All of our documentation is both in paper and paperless forms, kept online and in back hard drives.
Other Types of Emergencies
Only one building on the property houses exotic cats and that is the West Boensch Cat Hospital. There is a working fire extinguisher in the building. The Cool Cat Cave and Intern Housing houses domestic cats and kittens who are being fostered for adoption. The office has an office cat. All of these buildings are equipped with fire and smoke detectors, an alarm system that notifies the Operations Manager, President and Founder / CEO in the event of an emergency. Working fire extinguishers are maintained in each building and there are regular inspections from the fire marshall.
Many of the cages are outfitted with PVC rain makers that can be turned on with the flip of the red levers that are at eye level. Portable generators are by the lake, with fire hoses attached, and can be employed for putting out fires. We are completely surrounded by commercial properties and homes. No wildfire is likely to make it past these highly populated areas to us. The fire department is 1.1 mile away (3 min.) http://goo.gl/maps/TFaLq
We have a propane powered generator that is capable of running our Cat Hospital and Food Prep during an extended power outage. The domestic cats that are housed in Intern housing can be shifted to other buildings that are not on the same power poles, if there is an outage in one area of the property. We have three, or more, portable generators that can be used in an emergency.
Disruption in Clean Water or Food Supply
Our water supply comes from five wells on the property. These can be powered by the many portable generators we own. We can store 17,000 pounds of frozen raw meat and our freezers are positioned next to the huge, propane generator, which was purchased primarily for insuring that we do not lose our food source during the aftermath of a hurricane.
There are three roads into the sanctuary. We have chainsaws and people who know how to use them if trees were to block the roads.
Terrorist Attack on the Sanctuary
No one is allow unescorted on the property. All guests are led by a tour guide and a tour back up. The tour guide and tour back up both carry radios and will alert their coordinator if there is any trouble from a guest. The coordinator knows to call 911 if the guest poses a threat to the animals, others or themselves. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is .7 miles away (3 minutes) Map: http://goo.gl/maps/dBpBV
The only hazardous materials we have been subjected to since 1992 was during the fruit fly outbreak when USDA sprayed Malathion on us from airplanes. A number of animals died during and immediately after the spraying and USDA was notified that their claims of the spray being non lethal to pets was a lie. More information on what we do for poisoning here: http://bigcatrescue.org/poisoning/
None of Big Cat Rescue’s employees are paid to do animal care. We have more than 100 volunteers, who put in at least 4 hours per week, who are happy to make sure the cats are always fed, cleaned, given their meds and given enrichment and operant training. Our paid staff manage these volunteers and do administrative work, so even if all of the 10+ employees were to walk out at the same time, the volunteers would make sure the animals were well cared for.
Death of Founder
Big Cat Rescue is unique in that the death of the Founder and CEO would have very little impact on the sustainability of the sanctuary. The sanctuary has policies, protocols and a set of checks and balances that ensure the long term viability of the sanctuary.
Failure of Heating / Cooling in Cat Hospital
The Cat Hospital is the only building where extremely elderly or sickly cats are brought inside during extreme weather. The cats are monitored on web cams to insure that they are comfortable and the web cams are available to hundreds of our AdvoCats who live all around the world. These people watch diligently for any sign of the cats being stressed or uncomfortable and have the ability to contact the Operations Manager by cell phone. We have generators that can be used if the electricity is out. We used Air O Force to do regular maintenance of our A/C’s and heat pumps.
All of our cats are vaccinated regularly for the typical feline diseases, but some diseases are jumping boundaries between species, such as Canine Parvo and Canine Distemper showing up in cats. In our situation, the likely carriers of these diseases would be native raccoons and foxes. We do not allow dogs on property. We set humane traps daily for vermin to remove them immediately and take precautions to stake wire under fences and trim back trees to prevent intrusion.
Thanks to the diligence of our volunteers and the daily observation logs on the intranet site, we have been able to diagnose and quarantine cats who show signs of being ill so quickly that there has not been a spread of disease. When a cat is in quarantine we use foot baths going into the areas around their cages, and designate a separate set of cleaning tools, and a designated, certified quarantine trained volunteer for their care.
Drugs and supportive therapy is administered as prescribed by our vets and we have had excellent success in nursing cats back from situations that could easily have claimed their lives.
The generators and fire hoses can pump down areas that flood, into ditches that carry the excess water off to Rocky Creek and out to Tampa Bay.
We haven’t had one yet, but our cages are built in a unique design that is anchored to the ground by the many trees inside them and the foliage that grows up the sides. There is nothing to fall on the cages that would damage them.
All of the same work that we do to prepare for hurricanes would apply to tornadoes. The difference is that a tornado can do a lot more damage, without as much warning. If a cage, or cages, were rendered unsafe, we have 2-3 times as much cage space, if we shut guillotine doors between sections. This gives us plenty of built in caging to use while repairing any tornado damage.
The rain maker PVC systems that we installed for fires can be used just for cooling the cats off, if there were some freakish weather. It’s Florida and it is often hot and humid. Our cats have plenty of natural shade, dens that are 4 inches of reinforced concreate covered in earth and ferns for cooling, access to fresh water at all times and breezes that come up off the lake. Our volunteers note on the observation log and let their coordinators know if they see any signs of heat stress.
All of the lions and tigers and some of the other cats have access to spring fed pools that are recirculated constantly. We have portable pools that could be offered to cats who do not have permanent pools, if they needed to cool off more than their environment would allow. These portable pools have always been used as a form of enrichment rather than for emergency use.
Human First Aid
If you are injured, seek professional, medical help.