Safety Program

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Table of Contents



Section I – Management Commitment and Involvement



Section II – Safety and Health Training



Section III – Safety Meetings



Section IV – Safety Committee



Section V – Safety Inspections



Section VI – First Aid Procedures



Section VII – Accident Investigations



Section VIII – Workplace Safety Rules


Section IX – On Property Safety







Tour Guide Procedures Class

Gate Operation, Tour Back Up & Guest Relations Class

Animal Emergency Procedures Class

Human First Aid Procedures Class



Section I.


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

Telephone: 813.850.7052


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.



___________________________________  ______________

Employee Signature                                        Date




Print Name Legibly

Section II.


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.



Section III.


Safety Meetings


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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.



Section IV.


Safety Committee


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.



Section V.


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.


Continuous Monitoring


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

Section VI.


First Aid Procedures

Emergency Phone Numbers

Safety Coordinator: 813.850.7052

Founder: 813-493-4564

Ambulance: 911

Walk In Clinic: Fast Track Walk-In Clinic

Phone: 813-925-1903

Address: 11969 Sheldon Rd., Tampa, FL  33626

South of Citrus Park Drive on Westwind

Hospital Emergency Room: Town & Country Hospital

Phone: 813-882-7130

Address: 6001 Webb Road, Tampa, FL 33615

Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222

Fire Department: 911

Police: 911


Please Note:

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.

Section VII.


Accident Investigation


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.




Section VIII.


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.


Office Personnel


Office Safety

  • 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.


Furniture Use

  • 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.


Handling Supplies

  • 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.


Equipment Use

  • 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.


Lifting Safety

  • 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.


Electrical Safety

  • 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.


Electrical Cords

  • 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.


Power Saws

  • 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.


Pneumatic Tools

  • 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.


Loading Docks

  • 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.


Warehouse Safety



  • 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.


Storeroom/ Stockroom

  • 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.



Section IX.


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.


Property Access:

  • 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 Food Prep and the cell tower for Keepers and between the white fence and the mobile home in the parking lot for Partners.
  • 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.


Safety Classes:

  • 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.



Sanctuary Master Plan

Sanctuary Master Plan

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You have to start with the end in mind…

…and then start taking steps, no matter how small, each and every day toward that goal.


Big Cat Rescue has enjoyed spectacular success in every aspect of the sanctuary world. From the most well trained and dedicated staff and volunteers to having several years worth of reserves set aside in case of a global market crash; this 20 year old sanctuary has been a working model for other animal rescue groups. Big Cat Rescue freely shares our resources and lessons learned by providing:


1. On site workshops and Internet webinars

2. Private consulting and group consultations for sanctuary founders, leaders, board members and volunteers

3. Shared intranet websites with all of the training tools used by Big Cat Rescue for volunteer management and administrative needs

4. Field trips to other facilities to share ideas and in some cases to help with disasters or renovations

5. All of our policies, manual, training videos and vendors


BUT, what most people have been asking for has not been found in all of the above assets. What most people seem to be asking for is a step by step guide to get them from where they are to where they want to be.

The intent is to spend a lot more time detailing this, but here is a brief overview:


1. Figure out what your end goal is and write it down.

2. Ask yourself why and be honest. If you want to alleviate animal suffering there are much better ways to do that than starting a sanctuary. If I knew then, what I know now, I would not have started a sanctuary but would have skipped right to the actions that can save the most lives in the quickest time. Changing hearts and laws are the greatest impact you can make and you can’t do it if you are having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide sanctuary for a handful of animals.

3. Assuming you already have a whole bunch of animals depending on you or you feel that running a sanctuary is what you were made for, then look at your end goal and write down steps that you would have to take to get there. I did this on my Honeymoon in 2005. My goal was to end the need for big cat sanctuaries by doing the things that would result in big cats NOT being abused and discarded in the first place. I figured it could be done in 25 years and started with the year 2030 and worked my way back to the present day, year by year, trying to realistically calculate the measures that would have to be implemented to get us there. You will have to adjust your plan every year, but you have to have a written plan if you are ever going to get to your goal.

4. If you are thinking that you want to start a sanctuary because you love working with animals, then you don’t want to run a sanctuary. Running a sanctuary is all about fundraising, political involvement, managing staff and volunteers, and being the one to make the heart wrenching decisions of deciding who can be rescued, who cannot, and how to deal with medical decisions in such a way that it is always the animal’s quality of life that is directing the decision and not your personal attachment, or that of someone in your group. I have never seen a successful sanctuary where all of those non animal issues were handled by staff while the founder got to play with animals all day.

5. Making money is always the big question that people are really asking when they ask how to start a sanctuary. No one really expects to be paid well in this industry, but anyone who has animals to feed is trying to figure out how to raise the funds necessary to do it.

a. Forget grants. Even if you turn out to be a GREAT grant writer, you are only going to raise a tiny percentage (less than 10%) via grants and even those are probably not because of your writing skills, but because the person in charge of the grant happens to love your mission.

b. Fundraisers and galas. All animal organizations do them, but they are a huge drain on your time and resources. Our biggest fundraiser of the year is The Fur Ball and it nets 80,000 to 110,000 per year, but that is out of the 1.5 million that is necessary to run Big Cat Rescue each year. It takes our staff 8 months or more to plan and all of our 100+ volunteers to pull it off. In 2010 and 2011 we decided not to even do it because we wanted to focus on ending the abuses that cause so many big cats to be bred, used, abused and discarded. 80k might sound pretty good, but it was only that much because of the name and following that we have built up that it brings in that much.

c. Rescues don’t generate lifetime care. Too many sanctuaries discover that the public loves to get involved in a rescue but the money raised is rarely enough to build the cage and get the animal to you. Then the animal can live another 20 years in the case of a wild cat, or 80 years in the case of some birds or primates. Don’t fall into the trap of rescuing animals to raise money or your whole house of cards will fold in no time flat.

d. Low hanging fruit. My husband, Howard Baskin, is a Harvard MBA and joined us in 2003 at Big Cat Rescue. The first low hanging fruit that he saw was tour revenue. Some sanctuary founders resist the idea of having guided tours but this is how you will educate the public and raise the money you need to feed the animals. Tour revenue pays all of our administrative costs and provides about 1/3 of the sanctuary’s income. The added benefit is that if you raise all of your administrative costs via earned income, such as tour revenue, your donors have the satisfaction of knowing that 100% of their other donations actually goes to the animals.

It is during the time you spend educating your tour guests about how your animals arrived, the plight they face in the wild and in captivity, and what they can do to help that you will build the relationships necessary to ensure the sanctuary’s success.

This is where all of the other assets on this site and in the google sites created using the Sanctuary Template come into play. You must have good policies in place on how you get animals. You can’t buy, breed, sell, trade, nor allow those who do to use you as a constant dumping ground if you want the public to help. The public wants to know that they are supporting a good place that isn’t adding to the problem. Usually the breeders and dealers are just trying to unload cubs that have outlived their 4 week shelf life so that they don’t have to feed them any more. In Big Cat Rescue’s Acquisition Policy we require that anyone who is looking to dump an exotic cat must contract with us to never possess or even pose with another exotic cat. Become accredited so that donor’s know you are behaving responsibly and are being monitored by an outside organization.

d. Keep costs low. Nothing ever goes to waste around here. We recycle everything. In the first eleven years of the sanctuary we never came close to breaking even. We usually were in the red from 100,000 to 365,000 which meant I had to donate that much each year from my small real estate business in order to keep the animals fed, the three staff paid and the rest of the bills paid. Going in debt has never been an option. I wouldn’t be able to sleep nights if I owed someone money. In the past when people asked me how to start a sanctuary I would usually tell them to go find a way to make a lot more money than they need so they can donate it to their passion of helping animals. No one wants to hear that. They want me to tell them how to make money working with animals so that’s what I will try to do here, but I really believe that my real estate business’ success gave us a head start that would be very hard to reproduce. I had built that business for 12 years, working 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year so it was strong enough to carry me through the first 11 years of the sanctuary work.

Salaries are the biggest expense for most sanctuaries. I’ve never taken one from the sanctuary but if you don’t have an outside business or job to support you; that’s probably going to be the first drain on resources. The first person I hired was someone to manage volunteers. One person can manage about 100 volunteers and our volunteers are required to put in minimum weekly hours in order to maintain varying levels of responsibility and privileges. See all of our training documents and processes for those details. Volunteers and interns are a LOT of work but the payoff is far more staff than your budget would allow and the fact that people who are doing this stuff for free are doing it because their hearts are in the right place.

The more volunteers you train AND retain, the more tours you can do, the more outreach programs you can do, the more PR and public awareness you can raise and ultimately that means the higher quality of care you can give the animals. For these people to be proud of your sanctuary, you have to be open, honest and acting with the utmost integrity. You have to let them know how important they are to your mission and they have to be on board with where you are ultimately going.

Big Cat Rescue evolved over the years as we learned that there are no legitimate breeding or reintroduction programs for captive held big cats. We learned that you can’t convince someone that an exotic cat isn’t a good pet if you are showing off photos of yourself petting one. We figured out that you can’t mind your own business, take care of your animals and not get involved when you find out about wild cats being bred as photo or petting props. As we learned these lessons in the early years of the sanctuary, there were a lot of volunteers and staff who did not agree. They were only here because they wanted to have a relationship with a wild animal and didn’t want to be a part of the solution. They feared that if we were successful in ending the abuses that cause wild cats to need rescue, then there would be no more opportunities for them to be up close and personal with wild cats. They would constantly try to undermine the mission of the sanctuary and we had to let them go. Some of them talk trash about us, but they can do a lot more harm inside your gates than outside. Cut them loose. You won’t miss them.

6. Let the world know. You and your volunteers need to promote and celebrate your work and thank those who make it possible. Write posts to all of your social channels, send out a monthly e-zine, we send a quarterly hard copy newsletter, send out press releases, build relationships with your local media. If it’s hot outside give the animals a cool treat and invite the press. When an animal goes to the vet, take photos and involve your supporters with real time updates from your cell phone. Make it easy for people to sponsor your animals, buy logo branded stuff that they will show others and expect to thank each and every donor over 25.00 with a note of thanks.

7. If you are doing the right things, for the right reasons and are engaging volunteers to spread your mission, the donors will come. They will hear about the good work you do in social networking, the media and from their own friends and families. To this day, the number one reason people mention when we ask how they heard about Big Cat Rescue is that they say they heard about us from a friend. If you ask our largest donors why they give they will tell you it is because they can see that they are making a difference.









Code of Honor

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Code of Honor

Big Cat Rescue Code

Big Cat Rescue Code

1.   I will focus on what works best to achieve our mission of caring for cats & ending the trade.

2.   I will speak my truth to the best of my ability & listen attentively as others speak theirs, with an end goal of finding solutions that work for all.

3.   I will support my fellow Rescuers early, often & unconditionally.

4.   I will be truthful & responsible for my actions, accepting my role with grace and performing to the best of my ability.

5.   I will deal with complete transparency & proactively work to resolve any conflicts directly with those involved. I will be sensitive to their feelings & in no way belittle or challenge them in front of others.  If no resolution is achieved I will ask that all involved parties meet together with the person(s) who can settle the matter.

6.   If it’s not my story, I won’t tell it.

7.   I will celebrate the good my fellow Rescuers do & show respect by saying please, thank you and job well done.

8.   It is my responsibility to uphold the code & address breaches of the code with my fellow Rescuers directly, privately & respectfully.

9.   I will be mindful of my tone, body language & the fact that we are all on the same path, albeit at different stages, so I will be open & gentle when asked for clarification.

10.I will trust that my fellow Rescuers share my same good intentions and will give the benefit of the doubt or seek their input in a kind and courteous way.



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Handling and Disposal of Toxic Materials

Leaded and Unleaded Gasoline: (clear colored liquid; gasoline hydrocarbon odor)

Eye contact flush with clear water for 15 minutes or until irritation subsides. If irritation persists, call a physician.
Skin contact remove any contaminated clothing and wash skin with soap and water.
Inhalations if overcome from exposure, remove from exposure and call a physician immediately. If breathing is irregular or has stopped, start resuscitation, administer oxygen if available.
Fire and explosion hazard extremely flammable, vapors can explode.
Extinguishing and fire fighting procedures foam, water spray, dry chemical, carbon dioxide and vaporizing liquid-type extinguishers may all be helpful depending on size and situation.
Empty container hazard empty containers may contain vapors which can bum or explode when heated or damaged.
Spill or lead procedures shut off and eliminate all ignition sources; keep people away; recover free product; add sand, earth or other suitable absorbent to spill area; keep from entering sewage or drainage areas; open doors and windows for ventilation if indoors.
Protection and precautions provide proper ventilation; no smoking in storage areas or when handling or filling tanks; use chemical-resistant gloves if needed; use splash goggles; keep containers closed when not in use; do not handle or store near flames or other heat sources; for use a motor fuel only; do not use as a cleaning solvent or thinner or for other non-motor fuel uses; do not siphon by mouth; minute amounts of liquid gasoline aspirated into the lungs may cause potentially fatal chemical pneumonitis.

Diesel: clear liquid, yellow color, faint petroleum hydrocarbon odor

Eye contact flush with clear water for 15 minutes or until irritation subsides; if irritation persists, call a physician.
Skin contact remove any contaminated clothing and wash skin with soap and water.
Inhalation vapor inhalation under normal conditions is usually not a problem; if overcome by vapor from hot product, remove from exposure and call a physician immediately; if breathing is irregular or has stopped, start resuscitation and administer oxygen if available.
Ingestion if ingested do not induce vomiting; call a physician immediately.
Fire and explosion hazard flash point minimum.
Extinguishing and fire-fighting procedures foam, water spray, dry chemical, carbon dioxide and vaporizing liquid type extinguishing agents may all be suitable depending on size and situation.
Empty container hazard empty containers may contain vapors which can bum or explode when heated or damaged.
Spill or leak procedures shut off and eliminate all ignition sources; keep people away; recover spilled product; add sand, earth or other suitable absorbent to spill area; keep from entering sewage or drainage areas; open doors and windows for ventilation if indoors.
Protection and precautions provide proper ventilation; no smoking in storage areas or when handling or filling tanks; use chemical resistant gloves if needed; use splash goggles if needed; keep containers closed when not in use; do not handle or store near flames or other heat source.

Antifreeze–ethylene glycol base: various colors: green, red, blue

Eye contact irrigate with water for five minutes; medical consultation if irritation persists.
Skin contact wash with soap and water.
Inhalation remove to fresh air if effects occur; consult physician if problems occur.
Ingestion toxic by ingestion; induce vomiting immediately; call a physician or transport to emergency facility.

Automatic transmission and power steering fluid: red liquid, slight odor

Eye or skin contact flush with water.

Engine oil: light to dark brown color

Eye or skin contact flush with water.
Disposal of materials used oil should be dumped into specially marked black barrel for reclamation/ recycling; thinner and other residues should be dumped into the specially marked red barrel for disposal.

Liquid bleach: clear liquid, bleach odor

Eye contact flush with clear water for 15 minutes; get prompt medical attention.
Skin contact remove any contaminated clothing and wash skin with soap and water.
Inhalation if overcome from exposure remove from exposure and call a physician immediately; if breathing is irregular or has stopped, start resuscitation and admiister oxygen if available.
Ingestion if ingested, do not induce vomiting; call physician immediately; drink large quantities of water; do not drink vinegar or other acids.
Disinfectant Neutral: green liquid
Eye contact flush with clear water for 15 minutes; get prompt medical attention.
Skin contact remove contaminated clothing and wash skin with soap and water.
Inhalation if overcome from exposure remove from exposure and call a physician immediately; if breathing is irregular or has stopped, start resuscitation and administer oxygen if available.
Ingestion if ingested, promptly drink a large quantity of egg whites or gelatin solution, or if these are not available, drink large quantities of water; call physician or hospital immediately..

Hazard Communications Program

The primary purpose of the written Hazards Communications Program is to inform you, the employee, how Big Cat Rescue plans to meet chemical identification requirements, container labeling of hazardous chemicals, providing Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and program training.


Big Cat Rescue will keep an updated list of hazardous chemicals. This list is organized by area of use and contains the chemical name, common name if applicable, usage information, classification and MSDS of each hazardous chemical. This list will be updated whenever a new chemical is introduced or at the annual review. Copies of the appropriate hazardous chemical list are available at the office.


Lioness at Big Cat Rescue

Lioness at Big Cat Rescue

The MSDS is considered the most important source document you as the employee have at your disposal for purposes of being informed of hazards concerning the various substances with which you may be in contact. The Material Safety Data Sheet is readily available and accessible for review by any employee as a source document to provide necessary information during any work shift. The MSDS lists chemical name, trade name and all known synonyms; all warnings relative to usage; and cautions against combining with other substances or mixtures. Along with the physical hazards, it also contains all known health hazards associated with its use. Spelled out in a special section you will find how to deal with emergencies where a spill or leak occurs.

If problems arise in obtaining MSDS’s from suppliers, a phone call will be made to verify if an MSDS has been sent. This call will be logged and a letter sent the same day. We will maintain a written record of all our efforts to obtain an MSDS. If these efforts fail to produce an MSDS, the area office of OSHA will be contacted for assistance (1-800-472-2959).

It is understood that an MSDS must be available before a chemical is used.


Hazardous chemicals will be identified by one of the methods described below. If more information is required a Material Safety Data Sheet is available (see Material Safety Data Sheet section). Carole Baskin will be in charge of the labeling portion of this program. As part of the chemical survey, all illegible labels will be replaced. If an illegible or unlabeled container is found please notify Carole.

Portable container: When a chemical is transferred from the original container to another, it will be appropriately labeled. The only exception is when a chemical will be used exclusively by the employee making the transfer within his/her shift. Labels applied at this facility will have the chemical identified and hazardous warnings or identification. Follow the example above.


  • Contractors who perform work at Big Cat Rescue may be exposed to and/or bring hazardous chemicals into our work environment. During a pre-construction meeting or equivalent, MSDS’s on hazardous chemicals that the contractor is to use will be obtained. Employees in that work area will be apprised of new developments and the MSDS’s reviewed. If the contractor’s work area contains hazardous chemicals, the coordinator will be given a copy of the appropriate MSDS and have our program explained to him. The contractor will sign a release form.
  • Procurements have been instructed that an MSDS must accompany shipment when ordering new chemicals.
  • Besides the training that will be given to all employees, special consideration will be given to new or transferred employees or when new chemicals are introduced. New employees: as part of the orientation program, will receive training as outlined in the training section. Whenever an employee is transferred to a position or work area that has hazardous chemicals different from those in which trained, training will be provided.
  • New hazardous chemicals: whenever the MSDS coordinator receives an updated or new MSDS for a hazardous chemical, the coordinator will determine if additional training is required. If this is the case, all affected employees will be apprised of the changed or new MSDS and review it in a classroom atmosphere.


    If a hazardous chemical spill occurs at Big Cat Rescue, please call 911.


    This format is to be used as the minimum standards for disposing of chemical containers: 1) Rubber gloves must be worn at all times when handling chemicals. 2) After a container is empty, fill it half full of water three times and empty into tank to be sprayed. 3) Puncture container at least four times to make sure it will not hold any other liquid. 4) Dispose of container into normal trash area. These rules are minimums! Always work in an open area. Mixing of chemicals will only be done by a licensed applicator.


    ESpeak up for big catsmployees will be provided information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area at the time of initial assignment, whenever a new hazardous chemical is introduced into their work area and annually thereafter. Employees of Big Cat Rescue will be advised and informed of the existence of required standards, the location of the written program, hazardous chemical list and the MSDS’s by the Supervisor. Employees exposed to hazardous chemicals in their work area will be trained on each chemical or group of common chemicals. This training will consist of classroom training using the MSDS as the primary teaching aid. Also, the labeling system used will be explained and examples shown. How to handle the chemical and detect its presence will be stressed. Personal protective equipment required by an MSDS will be explained and shown during the classroom training. Supervisors will be similarly trained with additional instruction on how to train employees.


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    Restraint is the restriction of movement of any Sanctuary animal and may vary from simply confining the animal in an enclosure, small space, box, or crate, to completely restricting its muscular activity (immobilization). Where at all possible handling should be avoided by using shifts.

    Restraint and handling may be used interchangeably but better refer to specific situations. Most mammals require restraining, holding them immobile so that they can’t injure the Keeper.

    Studies over the last two decades have led to a greater understanding of the physiological effects of restricted movement, which can be quite deleterious to the animal, and even cause death. Psychological stress, such as may be caused when a social animal is confined alone, has also been studied and constitutes an important factor in restraint and handling techniques.

    Considerable advances in the sciences have lead to greater uses of chemicals to immobilize and restrain Sanctuary animals, but the Keeper’s primary concern will be with physical and mechanical restraint.

    “A person who undertakes to restrict an animal’s activity or restrain the animal is assuming a responsibility that should not be considered lightly” (Fowler). Because every restraint incident will affect the life, activities and behaviour of an animal the following points should be considered.

    Restraint of an animal should be used only when absolutely necessary and never as part of a daily maintenance routine (except where the animal may be routinely moved through a squeeze cage, or chained, for example).

    Only use the minimum amount of force necessary to accomplish the task.

    If you are considering restraining an animal, then ask the following questions:
    (a) Why is the animal being restrained? Is it necessary?
    (b) Which method should be used? (greatest gain, least hazard).
    (c) When is the best time of day to restrain the animal?
    (d) Who is best qualified to carry out the procedure ? (Least amount of time, least amount of stress.)
    (e) What is the best location.


    Wild animals in a captive situation require special husbandry practices. Any captive wild animal is essentially living under restraint. Specific restraint situations will include:

    • Transfer from one cage to another. Treatment of disease or illness, regular vaccinations, etc. Unscheduled treatment, such as for injury.
    • Animal escape.


    When selecting a restraint technique there are four basic considerations:

    • Safety of the person(s) (Keeper) involved in the procedure. Safety of the animal. Will the restraint method do the job? (Does it suit the conditions, type of animal, available staff and equipment, etc.?)
    • Does the method allow the animal to return to the normal pre-restraint condition?


    Always use a method or technique which safeguards both the Keeper and the animal. The safety of the public should also be taken into consideration.

    When working with animals, particularly in restraint situations, the following knowledge is necessary:
    A knowledge of the behaviour and psychological make-up of the animals involved.
    An understanding of the tools of restraint – voice, manual and chemical restraint equipment.

    When to restrain?

    Often, where injuries are concerned, the Keeper does not have the choice whether to restrain or not; the animal’s physical condition requires treatment. If a choice can be made, try and pick a quiet time, when not too many visitors or none at all are present. First thing in the morning is often best (e.g. for transfer) as it allows time to deal with complications, and for the Keeper to observe the animal after the restraint procedure is over.

    Environmental considerations – Thermoregulation may be a critical factor in restraint; heat is generated by muscle activity. Try to pick a time of day (such as early morning in summer) when temperatures are moderate. Use shade or cooling mechanisms such as fans; keep a supply of cold water at hand. Avoid handling the animal if the humidity is high (70 – 90%) as cooling the animal is difficult. Use dark or light as a method of subduing the animal; diurnal animals may be more easily caught when they are at a visual disadvantage; similarly, use bright lights to inhibit movement in nocturnal species.

    Behavioural aspects – Know your animals; certain times of the year may be safer than others for handling some species. The cubs of many carnivores can be carried or lifted by grasping the loose skin at the back of the neck; this simulates the way in which the mother carries her young and the cubs will just curl up. This reaction will not be seen in adult animals. A female in estrus or with young close by, will react differently than when the young have grown and gone. A male near a conspecific in estrus may be aggressive. During autumn, male cervids are in rut, the antlers are hard and stripped of velvet, and may be used as weapons. The Keeper may be safe in the exhibit in spring or summer with these animals, but it could be fatal to mix with them in the fall.

    Hierarchies or pecking orders are established among social animals. The Keeper catching up an animal may be attacked by other group members; dominant male primates will protect their group; if an animal is removed from its social group for too long it may lose its social standing or not be accepted back at all. Mothers may not reaccept infants removed for more than a few hours, though species vary a lot in this response. Also the mammary glands of the female may become engorged; the hungry infant can overeat, or the nipples may be too tender and the dam may prevent the young from suckling.

    Condition of the animal: Restraint or handling results in stress, and recently transported animals may be poor health risks; the longer the journey, the greater the risk. Don’t handle the animal unnecessarily. Try to evaluate its health status before involving it in additional restraint.

    Territory may be important in restraint. It may be necessary to move the animal outside its territory before physically restraining it; when this isn’t possible, remember some animals are highly territorial and will defend a certain area.


    “It is incumbent upon a person who takes the responsibility of manipulating an animal’s life to be concerned for its feeling, the infliction of pain, and the psychological upsets that may occur from such manipulation” (Fowler).

    Pain is a natural phenomenon that allows an animal to remove itself from danger in response to negative influences. All animals feel pain to some extent; some are more sensitive than others.

    Before a restraint procedure is undertaken, evaluate the situation. Is restraint necessary? and will it result in the greatest good for the animal? Animals have rights and feelings and aren’t machines to be manipulated at will. Remember, Keeper safety, animal safety, sufficient restraint to do the job, and return the animal to normal afterwards.


    While there are many varied techniques for restraining sanctuary animals, the tools or equipment used are more easily defined and discussed.


    Understanding certain biological characteristics of the animal(s) involved in a restraint procedure enables the Keeper to utilize behaviour in control of the animal. Behaviour patterns can be predicted and allowed for. For example, swine grasped around the snout with a rope will pull back, whereas a carnivore is more likely to attack. Each species has its own behaviour patterns and the keeper can counteract or incorporate these into restraint practices. Voice is a tool which can be very effective; remember that emotional states are reflected in the voice. Wild animals perceive fear or lack of confidence in the Keepers’ body language – the way the hands are held, posture and general stance can all influence the success of a restraint procedure. Contact with the animal may be by voice or sight initially to avoid startling it. Most Sanctuary animals are used to certain routines such as feeding and cleaning and these can be used in the restraint situation. Many sanctuarys utilize a squeeze cage built into a passage way regularly used by the animals, often on a daily basis. With some species, the Keeper must establish himself as the alpha animal, dominant over the group, before being able to control or influence the animals.

    The Keeper should try to develop self confidence based on a realistic appraisal of his own abilities. A knowledge of anatomy and physiology of the species involved is helpful in understanding what the animal can do – i.e. – the distance and direction of kicks. An understanding of social and flight distances is essential; animals respond to violations of defense and flight distances in prescribed manners. This is more fully dealt with under Animal Behaviour. The Keeper must learn to interpret defensive displays or behaviour and be aware of offensive mechanisms. Claws, talons, feet and legs, beaks, teeth, special glands and the head and body itself are all potent weapons. Horns, antlers and teeth are especially dangerous. Knowledge of an animal’s defensive and offensive potential is necessary for the Keeper to counteract them in the restraint procedure.


    Reducing or eliminating an animal’s visual communications with its environment can be important in restraint. Darkened (or brightly lit) rooms and blindfolds are all used. Remember that some animals may see better in the dark or in dim conditions than the Keeper. Know your animals’ biology before using this method. Reduction of noise and harsh loud voice tones in the animal’s vicinity may make restraint easier. Many animals are stressed by human touch, so this can be kept to a minimum once the animal is caught, to reduce stress.


    By reducing the size of the enclosure, an animal’s confinement may be intensified. The smaller the area an animal has to move around in, the easier it may be for the Keeper to check wounds, sores, injuries etc. Closer confinement often involves special cages or crates for transferring an animal from one area to another, a night or nest box, a shipping crate or a squeeze cage. The latter is an invaluable kind of restraint tool, and may be portable or built into an area frequently used by the animal, such as a chute or passageway (for example, between indoor and outdoor cages). Squeeze cages vary for different species because animals come in different sizes and shapes and have different physiological requirements. Some cages squeeze from the sides (moveable walls), others have a moveable ceiling or roof; in others all the walls are adjustable.

    Bags are useful confinement tools and are used for some mammals and waterfowl; “jackets” can be used for swans, and there are bags for snakes and even some for restraining antelope. Burlap sacks can be used if other bags aren’t available – make sure that what you use is clean and as dust free as possible. Towels are valuable for wrapping or throwing over animals; other flat cloths (such as J-cloths for small birds and reptiles) can be used. Restraint boards consist of a sheet of wood, plastic or Plexiglas to which the animal is fastened with tape or restraining straps. Velcro fastenings can be invaluable. Ropes, cables and wire or wooden (or Plexiglas) panels can also be used to move animals in a particular direction. Plastic garbage bags or burlap placed over wire fences seem more solid to animals and lessen the danger of them running into fences. A small box with a Plexiglas floor can be used to view animals, for sexing, or to check for injuries. Cotton batting can be stuffed in an animals ears – this has been used successfully to calm giraffes.


    Ropes can be used, but pole snares are more common. These come in a number of sizes and feature quick release systems. Sometimes Keepers can use a rope or cable on a pole in such a way that once the animal is caught the pole can be removed. When using snares or ropes it is often advisable to include a front leg in the snare loop as well as the neck. Once animals are caught with the snare it should be removed and another method of restraint used, to minimize strangulation or injury from the cable or rope.

    Nets are commonly used in many different situations; both hoop nets with flexible or light rims (so they don’t damage the animal) or larger rectangular nets such as those used in catch-up of ungulates. Animals in the net may be too mobile for the Keeper to grasp; feet, brooms or sticks can be applied as bars to further restrict movement until the Keeper can get a strong, safe hold.

    Nets are made from different materials and with varying mesh size. Use finer mesh for birds and animals that can injure themselves or break feathers in nets with large mesh. Very fine mist nets can be used to catch small birds and bats.


    Physical barriers can be used to protect the Keeper from the animal, or to get close to the animal without it being alarmed. Shields of plywood or Plexiglas with handles are useful. Head screens such as fencer’s masks are a safety measure when handling hornbills, cranes or some species of primates, though the animals may be frightened by the mask. Safety glasses can be worn to protect the eyes. Blankets and small mattresses or pads can be used as barriers, so can bales of hay or straw, mesh panels, solid gates and opaque plastic sheeting.


    The Keeper’s hands are his most valuable toot and should be protected where ever necessary. Hands alone can be used to restrain an animal, if the Keeper knows where and how to grasp it, and protects himself from bites and scratches etc. The amount of force applied to restrain the animal must be appropriate to the species. The best protection for the hands is a detailed knowledge of the animal. Gloves can be very important but in some cases, to be effective protection, are so thick and cumbersome that they reduce the wearer’s tactile abilities; the animal may then suffer injuries from too much force, or may turn on the Keeper if insufficient force is applied. Leather gloves should be loose to allow the fingers to slip away from biting teeth. Remember that even chain mail gloves don’t offer total protection from bites.

    Rolled up paper, brooms and poles can be used to move animals. C02 extinguishers can also be a useful tool, though repeated use may lessen their effectiveness once an animal becomes used to them. They should be restricted to emergency use. Hoses are effective moving tools, where the threat of water is often enough to move the animal.


    Chemical restraint has become increasingly important in the last few years with the development and understanding of new drugs and new delivery systems. It is not used without much consideration. Try to schedule other procedures such as hoof trimming, dental work, bill trimming to coincide with this immobilization. Pole syringes, blow guns, blow pipes, dart pistols and rifles are all utilized at  Big Cat Rescue, along with drugs put in the food and water. It should be realized that considerable research has been carried out at Big Cat Rescue, and much information read by our staff, on the chemical restraint of sanctuary animals.  The drugs, charts and transfer equipment is all kept locked in the office.  Upper level staff has keys.

    However, the Keeper should not assume that chemical restraint is always the easiest, safest and preferred method; this simply isn’t so and each method, physical, chemical or mechanical has to be considered in light of individual circumstances.

    Especially for ruminants under chemical immobilization; it is best to keep the animal in the sternal recumbent position (sitting up) to prevent bloating or regurgitation, but this isn’t always an easy position in which to restrain the animal. whether in sternal recumbency or lying on its side, keep the animals head elevated above the body level to reduce the chance of regurgitation (stomach contents involuntarily passed up the esophagus with the danger of breathing it into the lungs).


    Slings can be used to support animals once they have been restrained. Specula (singular speculum) can be used to hold the mouth open for oral examination.

    When netting birds and small animals, never bring the net down on the animal – you can easily break a wing or a leg. Let the animal run into the net. The Keeper should enter the cage slowly, steadily, calmly. Do not corner the animal; it may panic and fly or run at you to escape. If you are going to net the animal move it towards a corner, approach to one side with the net half blocking the other side. Angle your body and the net to form a wall parallel to the wall along which you wish the animal to run; the animal perceives the corridor down which it can escape and tries to do so. The net can be brought around and the animal runs into it.


    Once the need for restraint has been decided on and the technique and tools agreed to, then preparation is the next important consideration.

    (a) Determine the time of the restraint procedure, taking into account the public’s presence (viewing hours), the time of the shipment (if the animal is going outside the Sanctuary), and the availability of staff (Keepers and veterinary staff, when necessary; if for example the animal requires treatment). Have a set procedure in mind rather than no plan at all.

    (b) Prepare your equipment. Have everything ready at hand – your crates, boxes, nets, bedding, etc. Make sure everything is in place before you start the procedure. Are all the tools and protective devices adequate and in good order? Someone’s life may depend on equipment condition.

    (c) Prepare the area or place of treatment. Move the public out if necessary and close off all possible escape routes. Put signs on doors if you have closed them to prevent escapes so that they aren’t opened by mistake. Alert staff in the area as to what you are doing.

    (d) Assign staff. Tell the Keepers what their individual jobs will be and make sure each person understands their role clearly. Communication in any restraint procedure is vitally important. If possible have only one person giving the orders, and only one person using keys to minimize the likelihood of mistakes.

    (e) Proceed quietly. Loud shouting is usually unnecessary and only upsets and frightens stock. Don’t rush — give yourself and the animals time. Make sure you have a notebook and record the animal’s sex, i.d., weight, condition, etc. Use the situation – if the animal has to be restrained then gather as much information as you can without unduly prolonging the restraint procedure. Make sure you have adequate staff.

    (f) Contingency plans. Be prepared for things going wrong. Try to be flexible in your approach to a restraint situation, and adapt to the circumstances. Be prepared to call off the attempt if the animal becomes overstressed or if it appears that it is likely to be injured if you continue. Remember that the animal’s welfare should be considered at all times. Try to have alternative plans and methods ready to use if your initial procedure fails.


    Once the animal has been restrained, it may be necessary to transport it, often some distance. Sometimes the restraint tool (e.g. a crate or a net) may be a safe method of moving the animal; other times, once it has been caught up it must be placed in a safer form of transport. Chutes or passages can be effective ways of moving animals between two close points. Remember that some hoof stock are more inclined to walk down a gradient than up. Pens with shift doors can be used to move animals, and crates are an important transfer tool. Crates should be large enough for the animal but not so large that the animal can move around and injure itself; sturdy wooden boxes with sliding ends are best. Make sure they are well ventilated. It is safer to back an animal out of a crate than to release head first, where it may run out and dash into a wall or fence. Stretchers, nets and slings can also be used to transfer animals; make sure they are well supported. Sometimes animals are best transported by hand. Use both hands and secure the animal’s legs, neck, etc. Bird’s necks and beaks must be watched, and wings can give nasty blows. Use two or more Keepers if necessary. Try to be honest in your assessment of your abilities to restrain an animal and use adequate staff. Don’t let your ego think you can do it alone when two people are needed – you could injure, stress or kill the animal as well as suffering injuries yourself.

    Once the animal is in a crate or box, secure the doors or slides with nails, screws or whatever means is appropriate for the container.

    IATA (International Air Transport Association) have issued a manual of regulations covering aspects to be considered to ensure animals are carried without harm to themselves or handling personnel. It includes acceptance and handling standards, government regulations on customs, health and hygiene control, stowage, animal behaviour and container construction and handling.


    Stress is a physiological state, resulting from noxious stimuli, or stressors, which can be external or internal in origin. It shows as an aggregate of body reactions whose purpose is the survival and protection of the animal during the adverse conditions.

    Many things can cause stress to an animal and are classified as psychological or somatic stressors.


    Psychological stress occurs from fear, anxiety, frustration and sudden and violent alarm. The disturbance to the animal may be short and intense or longer in duration and much less in intensity. The fright and terror associated with catching up, physical restraint, handling and transport is psychological stress; so too is the later upset and concern with new environments, unfamiliar surroundings and the disruption of territorial and hierarchical organization.


    Somatic stress results from injuries of all types (soft tissue injuries, bone fractures, broken horns, etc.), surcrical trauma, acute and chronic disease states, effects of drugs, hunger and malnutrition, thirst and severe temperature extremes.


    The effects of stress show in different ways, and depend on the type, magnitude and duration of the stimulus, and the general condition of the animal. Immediate reaction by the animal may involve alarm and flight as well as shock. The mobilization of the body systems to combat a life threatening situation is called the emergency “flight or fight reaction, and consists of increased adrenalin output, and creation of optimum conditions for the defense in the body. If the “flight or fight” response continues too long, the exhausted animal may go into shock. Shock isn’t easily defined, but it is a state of collapse with a circulatory deficiency resulting from a difference between the volume of blood and the capacity of the vascular system. This disparity may be caused by an increase in the volume capacity of the system (dilation of blood vessels and capillaries) or by a decrease in the volume of blood (e.g. loss through injury) or both. Delayed reaction by the animal may show stimulation of the nervous and endocrine systems, exhaustion and death.


    Recognizing stress helps the Keeper prevent losses and aids him in knowing when restraint procedures are causing damage to the animal. Trauma to the skin and body may be signs of stress – lacerations, hemorrhage, contusions and cuts should be looked for. Check the head, neck and limbs, and horns and antlers, especially if the latter are in velvet. Some animals can overheat very easily while others become rapidly chilled. Loss of the ability to regulate body temperature is a sign of stress. Signs of shock, such as weakness, apathy, reduced heart and respiratory rates and collapse of major blood vessels should be looked for. Insufficient oxygen may lead to heart or respiratory failure.

    Stress prevention can greatly increase the changes of a successful restraint procedure. Know what you are doing, be prepared, and plan your actions in advance. Talk it out with the people involved and be sure everyone understands their role.

    Some animals can collapse and die during restraint procedures. This stress may result from the animal being unaware of the procedure’s outcome – that is, its freedom being restored after handling. Animals which have never been caught up, and thus released, can die from the catch up stress, while those who have lived through the experience once or more may react to it in a calmer manner.


    The Keeper will be using physical and mechanical restraint on his/her animals when necessary, but will also be involved in the chemical restraint or immobilization process.Tranquilizing or sedating animals is only resorted to when physical or mechanical means aren’t feasible. Often the effect of different restraint procedures must be weighed before choosing a method which is best for the animal under the circumstances. Before chemical restraint is attempted, several questions should be asked.


    • What is the outside temperature? Some restraint drugs upset the animal’s temperature regulation system; the animal may suffer heat exhaustion or heat loss of a severe nature if the environmental temperature is very high or low. What state is the animal in? If it is calm and quiet then good results (from the drugs) may be expected. If it is upset or extremely agitated, the actions of the drug may be erratic or impaired. In some cases the animal may become more excited rather than sedated or calmer. How long is the animal to be kept immobilized? Some drugs will only last minutes while others last for hours. How deeply is the animal to be sedated? By careful judgment of the animal’s weight, and its state, it can be drugged lightly or heavily. Why is the animal being immobilized? (Physical examination, crating, tatooing, blood sample, surgery, etc.). Each has a different depth requirement. What is the animal’s weight? Most drugs have some latitude in the effect of the dosage, but the more accurate the weight/dosage calculation the better. How old is the animal to receive the drug? By what route? Orally, intramuscularly, intravenously, subcutaneously, etc. By hand-held syringe, pill, capsule, dart rifle, blow gun, etc. The delivery system is chosen to fit the circumstances.
    • Are drugs to be mixed to produce special effects? This may or may not be desirable, depending on what results are needed and how quickly.


    The animal is being immobilized so that it can be safely handled. Safely means both the safety of the animal and the Keeper. In some cases valium or atravet in the food or water may be all that is required to provide the needed effect. In other cases, the animal may need to be deeply sedated before it can be approached and handled.

    After immobilization and treatment the Keeper usually watches the animal to ensure that its recovery is complete. The Keeper should record all information and report it on his daily report as well as directly to the Animal Health Technicians. The time at which the animal first tries to get up, when it first stands, when it eats and drinks, etc. after immobilization are all valuable when recorded for later checks. If a particular species usually takes 1 hour to recover from knock-down, this can be used as a bench mark by which further recoveries of that species can be checked.

    Be specific in your reporting; if you are continuously watching the animal you can report what you see happening and the times, but if you check it only once each half hour, and significant events occur between checks then indicate this in your report (e.g. animal standing by 1400 hours, etc.)

    Keepers should be extremely careful when handling darts and drugs used during immobilization. Sometimes darts don’t discharge – never shake them or point them at someone; handle with care.

    Wild animals are often extremely powerful and dangerous. Never under estimate your animals’ abilities. Remember that most people who have not had previous experience with captive wild animals simply have no idea of the strength and power these animals possess. It may require several Keepers to properly restrain, in a safe manner, a single Bobcat. Many Leopards aren’t much bigger than a large German shepherd dog, but are far more powerful animals.

    A sound knowledge of your animal’s biology and behaviour is an excellent restraint tool. When you have completed a restraint procedure, try to involve everyone afterwards in a review of the procedure, and see if there are improvements you can make. Don’t use force when your brains are better. For example, placing a crate or box in with an animal several days before you intend catching and crating it allows the animals to become familiar with the crate. Placing some of the animal’s bedding or faeces in the crate is sometimes a good idea; the animal may even use it as a refuge when you begin the catch up procedure, and will make your job easier, safer and less stressful for the animal. The best way to learn how to restrain animals is to do it.

    Animals react differently to different people. Try and treat each animal as an individual. Try to have a second line of defense, such as closed hallways, doors and windows, in case you lose control of the animal. Block all potential escape routes.

    Restraint work often includes working with a team of people and your life maybe in someone’s hands. If you don’t think a person is capable, then ask for someone else – remember that it is your life. Similarly if you don’t think you can handle the situation, then say so. Make sure you understand the responsibilities involved and the dangers. In all restraint procedures there must be co-operation and trust among the people involved.

    Wear protective clothing appropriate to the situation. Even rolled down sleeves offer some protection against rubbing and abrasions. Make sure you don’t have anything hanging from your pockets; tie back long hair, remove watches and jewelry.

    Don’t assume anything; ensure that everyone knows what they will be doing, and that they have the needed tools (and keys) at hand. Preparation may save a life, yours, someone else’s, or the animal’s.