Don’t They Miss Being Petted?

Don’t They Miss Being Petted?

I hear that almost every time I explain that we are a NO CONTACT facility.

Wild animals shouldn’t be kept as pets.  Most of the cats at Big Cat Rescue were once kept as pets who are usually discarded once they become adults and begin to spray and bite.  We do not allow contact between staff or volunteers or the public with the cats; even the small ones.  There are a lot of reasons:

Bobcat Little Feather

Bobcat Little Feather

1.  The cats are solitary by nature and do not seek our affection.

2.  It is dangerous to have any part of your body on the same side of the fence as the cat.

3.  It gives the false impression to those who see the photos or videos to think these cats might make good pets.

For many years we did not allow any kind of contact but as our population of cats has aged they are less able to groom themselves.  80% of our cats are over the age of 15 which is already several years older than these cats live in the wild or in most other facilities.  Some of our cats cannot groom off the winter coats in areas around their backs and necks so we are trying something new with a specially made back scratcher, available at Bed Bath & Beyond.

It looks like a car’s radio antennae and is extendable to keep the Senior Keeper’s hands out of striking distance.  It has a little hand of rounded fingers to scratch loose the mats.  As you can see the cat really likes getting rid of the loose fur.

Why do other places pet big cats?

There is only one reason that people post pictures of themselves touching big cats.  It is to show off.

They make all kinds of excuses for their egotistic behavior and say stupid things like:

  1.  The cats get depressed if we don’t pet them.
  2. It helps them deal with captivity.
  3. It makes people understand that they should be protected.
  4. It fosters a desire to protect them in the wild.
  5. They have to encourage cub petting to raise the money to feed the adult cats.

Let’s expose these lies for what they are.

The cats get depressed if we don’t pet them.

Big Cat Rescue doesn’t allow petting and our cats live longer, happier, healthier lives than any where else on the planet.

No scientist has ever concluded such a ridiculous finding after doing any sort of real study.

If the cage is so small and barren that this is the case, then what the owner needs to do is give them more space, more places to enjoy, more enrichment and things the cat actually does want.

It helps them deal with captivity.

Why is it that the very people making such claims are the ones breeding or buying more cats for life in cages?

Nothing will make captivity an acceptable alternative for living free; least of all putting the person and the cat in danger.  Yes, the cat is in danger, because if the person gets bitten the authorities can insist that the head be cut off and tested for rabies, even if the person who was bitten doesn’t want them to and even if the cat is up to date on their rabies shots.

It makes people understand that they should be protected.

This is probably the most common lie.  The backyard breeders and exotic pet owners heard it from the zoos who have been using this lame excuse for their very existence.

In fact, studies have shown that when people are seen in close proximity to endangered species the reaction by the public is that they must not be endangered, or that wouldn’t be allowed.

The underlying message is that these animals can be tamed and treated like pets, so people buy them and pay to touch them and further the abuse, rather than treating them with respect.

It fosters a desire to protect them in the wild.

Wrong!  Seeing people petting big cats makes people want to pay to pet big cats or to own them.  THAT is what the people who are promoting the petting are trying to foster; not real conservation.

They have to encourage cub petting to raise the money to feed the adult cats.

It’s hard to believe that anyone falls for this excuse because it is just so lacking in common sense.  How crazy is it to keep breeding more big mouths to feed if you can’t feed the big mouths you already bred and exploited?  That is a situation that is doomed to end in disaster and anyone who participates in it, is equally responsible for the misery and suffering that will surely ensue.

 

Cages

Cages

Big Cat Rescue Enclosures

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.

Volunteer-Marie-Cleaning-Tigers-Across-Lake

19 of our enclosures front on Tiger Lake.  Intern housing at far left and 8 cages along the bank under the arrow.

Our cats are also rotated for “vacations” in larger areas like the Vacation Rotation and FunCation.

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 Like This Lion Do NOT Belong in Cages

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

 

By Species State Requirements Our Cages
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.

 

 

More info on caging an exotic cat.

 

 

 

 

Escapes

Escapes

Animal Escape Protocol

Escaped Tiger Running In the event of a dangerous animal escape, the immediate goals are

1.) Insure public safety,

2.) Insure staff safety,

3.) Insure animal safety and

4.) Recapture the animal.

All four goals should be accomplished simultaneously.  It is of utmost importance that everyone involved in the recapture remain calm and not try to be a hero.

 

In the event of an animal escape;

1.  If an animal escapes within the walkway or the perimeter of the security fence,   secure  all perimeter gates.

2.  Leave cage door open if there are no other animals in the cage.

3.  Always use a broom or similar instrument to keep animal back.  Do not crowd the animal.

4.  If animal escapes the confines of the perimeter fence follow the animal but don’t crowd it.

 

Gun Cabinet;

1.  Locate the gun(s).

2.  When using the emergency knockdown drugs, refer to the recommended dosage on the bottle for the escaped specimen.  A dart rifle or net gun would be the first options if a cat escaped the property, but it should be noted that sedation drugs usually take 20 minutes to work, even in a calm cat who was just napping a few minutes earlier.  In a cat who has escaped, and who has adrenalin pumping through their veins, sedation is very unlikely to work, but should be tried first if at all possible.

3.  If the animal escapes the confines of the property, and is dangerous or a large carnivore, who cannot be sedated then we have to use a rifle to kill the animal.  It is the law.  We cannot allow a dangerous cat to escape into our community where a person could be injured or killed.

4.  In the event of an escape from the property, it is better to follow the animal and send someone else for the dart gun and firearm.

 

To kill or not to kill

There are two reasons to kill the animal;

1.  Human injury or loss of life is of immediate concern.  Do not wait until someone is attacked before making the decision.

2. The animal in question is a carnivore and its’ escape from the confines of the property is imminent with no opportunity to sedate.

 

The Shooter

1.  If possible, the shooter should remain in a vehicle when approaching the animal.

2.  Make certain that you have a good clean shot, know what is in front of and behind the target.

3.  Unless absolutely necessary, do not shoot the animal on the run.

4.  As a rule of thumb, use the rifle for animals smaller than a leopard.  All others use the 30-06.

5.  Shoot to kill.

 

Notification of Law Enforcement personnel;

1.  In the event of an escape from the confines of the property, in accordance withstate law, Wildlife Officials, and local police will be notified to inform them of the situation – not to request assistance.

2.  When they arrive, the police should be advised to secure the area to ensure the the safety of the general public.  Big Cat Rescue staff will handle the recapture of  the animal.

3.  In the event the staff is unable to keep site of the animal, armed law enforcement personnel may be utilized as spotters to aid in monitoring the animals location.

See Big Cat Rescue’s Disaster Plan

Document Retention

Document Retention

DOCUMENT RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION POLICY

 

In accordance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which makes it a crime to alter, cover up, falsify, or destroy any document with the intent of impeding or obstructing any official proceeding, this policy provides for the systematic review, retention and destruction of documents received or created by Big Cat Rescue in connection with the transaction of organization business. This policy covers all records and documents, regardless of physical form, contains guidelines for how long certain documents should be kept and how records should be destroyed. The policy is designed to ensure compliance with federal and state laws and regulations, to eliminate accidental or innocent destruction of records and to facilitate the sanctuary’s operations by promoting efficiency and freeing up valuable storage space.

Documents shall be retained in accordance with the attached schedule. Documents that are not listed, but are substantially similar to those listed in the schedule will be retained for the appropriate length of time.

Electronic documents will be retained as if they were paper documents. Therefore, any electronic files, including records of donations made online, that fall into one of the document types on the above schedule will be maintained for the appropriate amount of time. If a user has sufficient reason to keep an email message, the message should be printed in hard copy and kept in the appropriate file or moved to an “archive” computer file folder. Backup and recovery methods will be tested on a regular basis.

Destruction of financial and personnel-related documents will be accomplished by shredding.  Document destruction will be suspended immediately, upon any indication of an official investigation or when a lawsuit is filed or appears imminent. Destruction will be reinstated upon conclusion of the investigation.

SCHEDULE OF RETENTION PERIODS 

Type of Document Minimum Requirement
Accounts payable ledgers and schedules 7 years
Animal records Permanently
Audit reports Permanently
Bank Reconciliations 2 years
Bank statements 3 years
Copies of checks (for important payments and purchases) Permanently
Contracts, mortgages, notes and leases (expired) 7 years
Contracts (still in effect) Permanently
Correspondence (general) 2 years
Correspondence (legal and important matters) Permanently
Correspondence (with customers and vendors) 2 years
Deeds, mortgages, and bills of sale of property owned Permanently
Deeds, mortgages, and bills of sale of property disposed of 7 years
Depreciation Schedules Permanently
Duplicate deposit slips 2 years
Employment applications and records of current employees Permanently
Employment applications and records of former employees 7 years
Employment applications of applicants not hired 3 years
Expense Analyses/expense distribution schedules 7 years
Year End Financial Statements Permanently
Insurance Policies (expired) 3 years
Insurance records, current accident reports, claims, policies, etc. Permanently
Intern and Volunteer records Permanently
Internal audit reports 3 years
Inventories of products, materials, and supplies 7 years
Invoices (to customers, from vendors) 7 years
Minute books, bylaws and charter Permanently
Patents and related papers Permanently
Payroll records and summaries 7 years
Personnel files (terminated employees) 7 years
Retirement and pension records Permanently
Tax returns and worksheets Permanently
Timesheets 7 years
Trademark registrations and copyrights Permanently
Withholding tax statements 7 years

 

 

 

Cat Care

Cat Care

Big Cat Care

 

Big Cat Care Book CoverBig 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

 

How to Rescue a Big Cat

Bathing

Bobcat BabyCaging

Claws

Emergency

Burns

CPR

Dehydration

Frostbite

Heatstroke

Poisons

Plants

Snakes

Restraining and Restraint Part 2

Shock

Wounds

Kittens and Cubs

Bobcat KittenBacteria

Feeding Cubs

Formulas

Tube Feeding

Housing

Manners

Litterbox

Parasites and Fleas

Pills

Rehabilitating

Vaccinations

 

Standard Operating Procedures

 

Acquisitions

Dispositions

Collection

Hazard Communication Program

Master Plan

MSDS

Sanctuary Standards

Exotic Cat Standards

 

Keeper Training

 

Accidents

Animal Contact

Animal Health

Basic Husbandry

Cat-A-Tats or Big Cat Cages

Conservation

Emergencies

Enrichment

Escapes

Feed Cats

Hurricane Preparedness

Hygiene and Pests

Siberian Lynx HowlsJob Requirements

Quarantine

Records

Restraint

Rules & Safety

Toxins

Volunteer Management

 

Governance Policies

 

Anti Harassment

Board Governance

Bylaws and Articles

CEO Performance

Lion RoaringCEO Reports to Board

Code of Honor

Conflict of Interest

Disaster Plan

Document Retention & Destruction

IRS Determination Letter

Master Plan

Non Discrimination

Principles_Reference

Whistleblower Protection

 

Sanctuary Standards

Sanctuary Standards

Sanctuary Standards

bobcats grooming by Beth Stewart

Bobcats Grooming by Beth Stewart

Right Click HERE and then select “Save Target As” for an Excel Chart with a complete chart of Sanctuary Standards.

For Exotic Cat Care Standards go HERE.

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
    deductible.
  • 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.