DOB 1/1/97 – 2/3/16
Rescue of Narla the Cougar:
This is a letter from someone who knew the Loppi’s. This person below, wanted us to know that Rob was well intended and I post it here as an example of how even the best intentions usually end up bad for the exotic animal.
According to a number of emails I got after the fact, Rob’s wife was looking to euthanize the cat, but Rob’s friends, family and the media were on her case and she couldn’t do it without looking like a monster when we were standing by, ready to take her. It is only because of supporters, like you, that we can help cats like Narla in their greatest moment of need.
Narla has been pretty much blind since she arrived, but Dr. Miller came out to check on her eyes again today.
Dr. Liz Wynn has many friends in the veterinary community and calls in specialists when it is warranted.
Previous exams have shown Narla Cougar to have eye ulcerations that have been treated with eye drops.
This exam reveals that the back side of her eyes are degenerating and Dr. Miller suspects it was from her first 14 years of insufficient nutrition before coming to Big Cat Rescue.
Dr. Tammy Miller says Narla is one of her favorite patients.
When big cats are pulled from their mothers to be hand reared as pets, like Narla had been, they never get a sufficient diet on kitten or puppy milk replacer. This causes a life time of debilitation.
More from Narla’s Rescue:
Dear Big Cat Rescue:
I am very happy that you are giving Narla a new home. Since her owner, Rob Loppi’s, death last May, I can’t tell you how many people worried and wondered what would become of Narla. My reason for writing to you is not just to thank you for taking care of Narla, but because I wanted to give you some background information. I feel it is important for you to know how Narla came to Rhode Island in the first place. Since the story of Narla’s rescue broke, I have read and heard many negative comments about Rob Loppi having this animal in the first place. There have been many comments in the newspapers that are just not accurate. Since Rob is no longer with us, and can’t defend himself, I would like the real story known. He didn’t just wake up one morning and decide on a whim that it would be great to have a cougar. I was there, and would like the true story to be told.
Rob got Narla when she was a baby, not 5 months old as was inaccurately reported. She was no bigger than a puppy, still had her baby fuzz and spots and was still being bottle fed. She was obtained by a person that Rob knew casually. This friend purchased her from a breeder in Virginia, thinking that it would be cool to have a mountain lion as a pet. When he got her home, his fiancé, correctly, would not allow him to keep her, so he brought her to Rob. People were always bringing unwanted animals to Rob…cats, dogs, goats, pigs…whatever.
Initially, Rob did not want to take her, but he was afraid that if he refused she would end up in a bad situation. Rob took her in and set about trying to find her a home. Since she was an illegal exotic at that point, this was not an easy task. He contacted the Dept. of Environmental Management in RI anonymously and was informed that they would confiscate the cat and most likely she would be destroyed – unbelievable, but true. They said that it was not their policy to find homes for dangerous animals, just to protect the environment and maintain public safety. He then contacted Roger Williams Zoo and asked them to take her – they refused because a). they do not take animals from private parties, only other zoos, and b). she came from a breeder and was bottle fed. They said that other cats would not take to her and would possibly harm or kill her. After many more such calls…you get the picture. No one would help. You should also keep in mind that this time period was before the internet was a household item, so trying to get information was much more difficult.
Feeling like he had no other options, he contacted the breeder in Virginia and asked to bring her back. He drove her to Virginia and was appalled at the conditions. Virginia’s laws on exotics are (or, at that time, were) very lenient and this guy would obviously sell to anyone as long as the price was right. He just couldn’t leave her there. He knew that she would be re-sold and probably end up in a traveling carnival or roadside “zoo” with her teeth filed down, being whipped into submission, living in deplorable conditions and spending most of her life in a crate. He knew that he could do better by her, so he made the decision that he would have to keep her to make sure that she was cared for and safe. Unfortunately, this would mean having her declawed for safety. This wasn’t something he wanted to do, but he did it in an effort to try to maintain her.
He then set about getting Narla legal. Since he already knew DEM’s position, he went to the Federal level. USDA told him what he needed to do in order to get a license to keep an exotic (again, at that time, their rules were much less stringent). He built the double cage (making it bigger and stronger than the required size and pipe diameter) with natural materials and different levels and perches for climbing, set up an account with a chicken farm so he could feed her properly, contacted a veterinarian who had the qualifications to provide medical care for Narla and set about learning everything he needed to know about the care and husbandry of mountain lions. USDA inspected and found him to be a suitable owner and he was granted a license. Once he had the USDA license in hand, DEM could not confiscate and destroy her, so he was then able to begin application for a RI license. He hired an attorney and, after getting through all the paperwork and red tape, he received the license. RI DEM inspected regularly, including random and surprise visits, always finding Narla in good care and condition.
Rob NEVER tried to domesticate Narla. He was very well aware that she was a wild animal. While he did have an amazing connection with her, she was always treated as a mountain lion, not as a house cat, which has been implied in the media. Narla has been characterized as “gentle and affectionate” and she was…with Rob. This, as you know, is the case with big cats…they bond to one person and can be jealous and aggressive with others. Visitors and friends were not allowed to just hang out in the living room with her. She didn’t just wander freely around the house or yard. Even Rob’s closest friends were not allowed direct contact. This wasn’t Siegfried and Roy. She is a predator and certainly capable of attacking and killing. He knew that, and safety was always the first priority, not just our safety, but Narla’s too. People can be foolish and cruel, which is why Rob didn’t want the general public to know about her. That was another reason for the double cage, not just to keep Narla in, but to keep people out. There was only one other person, Rob’s friend Mike, who was allowed to care for Narla and did so during Rob’s illness. Mike was trained in Narla’s care and feeding and did a great job. Rob was so grateful to Mike. With all he was going through, many rounds of chemotherapy treatments, numerous infections and finally a bone marrow transplant, at least he knew Narla was in good hands.
Rob didn’t use Narla as a gimmick or sideshow attraction. Sure, people knew about her and would be curious to see her, but he never profited from her. He allowed “ordinary” people to come to see her in her cage, but never allowed media attention. He wouldn’t give interviews, allow media photos or any exploitation of her in any way. He didn’t want to glorify having a big cat in his yard. He didn’t want people to think that it is ok to try to keep a mountain lion as a pet. Rob knew that keeping her was not an ideal situation, but at that time, he felt he was doing what was best for her. When he made the decision to keep Narla, he took on a huge financial burden…food, supplements, veterinary care, etc. and he could have very easily used this beautiful animal as a way to make money, but that was never his way. He just wanted to give her the best life he could and keep her safe.
So, now you know Narla’s story. I felt that it was important for you to know that, while she may have been raised in someone’s backyard, she wasn’t just a passing fancy, she wasn’t a “pet“ in the conventional sense of the word. She was a lifelong responsibility taken on by a guy who made a hard decision based on limited options. Had she not been born to a breeder in Virginia who sells these animals to anyone with enough money to buy them, without any thought or concern for where they will live or how they will be treated, she would not have been in Rhode Island. If Rob hadn’t “rescued” her first, Big Cat Rescue may have found Narla in a horrible situation, if she had survived at all.
Thank you again for all that you do for these animals and, especially for Narla. She is always loved and surely missed.
We hear that question a lot and it always surprises us a bit, because we know that our cats live far longer than they do in the wild or even at the best zoos or sanctuaries. We just assume that everyone knows, when they see our cats’ photos and videos, that they are already twice as old as most other cats ever even live to be. Apparently not, so here’s the skinny on why some of our cats look thin.
Whenever we post a photo or video of one of our cats we try to include the name because, if we don’t, the next hundred questions will be, “Who is that?” All of our cats have their own bio page located here: https://bigcatrescue.org/catbio and most are easy to guess, as they will be the cat’s name after the URL, so Keisha would be https://bigcatrescue.org/Keisha If you go to the CatBio page, click on the hyperlinked name of each cat to go to their page, or you can play their story by clicking the play button next to their name.
At the top of each page about the cat, and usually in the recorded story, you will find the cat’s date of birth (DOB). Do the math and you will find that more than 20 of our cats are over the age of 20, which is just about unheard of. Most cats in the wild, or in most captive settings only live to be 10 or 12. When you hear about an exotic cat living to 17 or 20 it’s usually considered newsworthy, and that’s how you even heard about them. Seventeen is our average age of death and as of 2016 we have 60 cats who are over the age of 15. 48 of those are over the age of 18.
Like they say, “Old age ain’t for pussies.”
When animals, including humans, get old we lose muscle mass. Our skin sags, our bones protrude and our gait slows. We lose our teeth and our appetites. In nature the old become prey as they lose their ability to hunt and fend for themselves. In places that force cats to live together, the elderly are often killed by their cage mates and quietly disposed of, before the public shows up… if the public is allowed visitation at all.
Toothless, Little Feather gets a tuna popcicle treat to help stay hydrated
At Big Cat Rescue our cats can live alone if they prefer, and most do. That way they never have to fight for food or the right to survive. We base euthanasia on quality of life issues and the advice of our vets. We will assist the cats in having that quality of life with a number of tactics.
Several meals a day for picky eaters
After the age of 17 the cats call the shots on whats for dinner and get huge platters of assorted meats to choose from
We assist with grooming the places they can’t reach
We provide pain management and joint supplements
Blood cicles are given daily to those in final stages of kidney failure to keep them hydrated
Many of the cats have heating pads in their dens, even though it almost never drops to freezing in Tampa, FL
Sometimes they get misting fans to keep them cool if they seem bothered by the heat
We don’t kill a cat just because it is going to be a huge burden on our finances or our schedule. We wait until the cat tells us that they are done.
That is after we have eliminated all possible reasons for inappetence, such as dental issues, bowel obstructions or infections. When we know that none of those are the reason for the cat giving up their will to live, then we call in the vet to make that transition to the other side as painless and stress free as possible.
Is It Better to Be Fat or Thin?
Ask any doctor and they will tell you that you will live longer if you are lean. Ask any vet if it is better for your pet to be fat or thin and they will tell you that it’s better to err on the side of too thin than too fat. Cats are picky, finicky eaters and what they loved yesterday may bore them to tears today. While we go to the extreme for our elderly or sickly cats, we do mix it up for all of our cats to keep it interesting.
We are the only sanctuary I know that feeds their cats every day. We used to fast on Sundays, but as our population has become so old, we started feeding them every day in 2014. Old or sick cats have always been fed every day. Our primary diet is a ground carnivore diet with all of their vitamins and minerals mixed in, but they get varying amounts of it each day, because let’s face it; who wants meatloaf every day? We also feed varying amounts and cuts of chicken and beef and twice a week they get whole prey (fed dead). They like chicken necks and those are good for cleaning teeth, but are not a primary food source because of the lack of nutrition in that piece of grizzle. Sometimes they get turkey, cornish hens, lamb, and an assortment of organ meats. More about our feeding here: http://bigcatrescue.org/feed-cats/
Despite all of our best efforts, it is a real challenge to keep all 80+ cats at their perfect weight. In the summer, when it’s hot, they just won’t eat, so some get thinner than we would like. In the winter, Mother Nature tells them to bulk up for the freezing famine ahead, but it’s Florida and they are going to get fed every day, so sometimes they get too fat.
What is constant is our attention to their condition. With more than 90 volunteers and interns on the grounds every week, feeding cats and cleaning up what they leave, we get a very good picture of how our cats are doing. After cleaning every day the volunteers and interns log what food was left behind, and what the feces looked like. That sends an email immediately to the CEO, President, Operations Managers and the and anyone else in our volunteer corp who choses to subscribe to those alerts. I can tell you, in real time what a cat did or didn’t eat, what they may have caught on their own, what their poop looked like, and if they were acting weird, limping, etc. because every few seconds I am getting those reports throughout the day. It’s also compiled into each cat’s chart so we can pull up any cat and see everything that has been reported about them. Our vets have access to these records 24/7 via the cloud and their iPhones.
We are constantly discussing individual cat’s diets with our vets and trying to keep them at their healthiest weights. Each of our vets visits twice a week or more as needed. We are also constantly sharing photos and videos of the cats with them, when there is a situation we need them to assess.
Our Cats are Very Very Old
Some of our oldest cats have been Scratch Cougar who was one month shy of 30 when he died and Flavio Tiger who died at the age of 25. At this writing some of our oldest cats are Bongo Serval who is 24, Sabre Leopard who is 23 and The Great Pretender Bobcat who is also 23. To figure out what an exotic cat’s age would be, compared to yours, it is about the same formula as for the domestic cat.
To convert cat age to an equivalent human age, an accepted method is to add 15 years for the first year of life. Then add 10 years for the second year of life. After that, add 4 years for every cat year. This means that by year two, a cat has matured to about the same as a 25 year old human.
That makes Bongo 113, and Sabre and Pretender 109. When you are thinking one of our cats looks thin, please look up their bio, do the math and be as amazed as we are at how good they do look!
People keep commenting, when they see that our cats have enclosures all to themselves, that they must be lonely.
Trust me; if the cats actually wanted to share space with another cat, we would gladly do it because:
People wouldn’t keep insisting that they are lonely
It would increase our ability to rescue more cats if we could double or triple cats up in a cage
People just love those rare shots of cats being nice to each other and would share us more
Exotic Cats are Solitary by Nature
Immediately people will argue and say, “Lions live in prides!” That’s true, but those are families of lions who were born into their hierarchy, or are the result of outside males coming in, killing all of the cubs and taking over the social system. It is not because lions just love to be with lions. In fact, lions are one of the most temperamental and hot blooded of the cats and will kill over the slightest, perceived provocation. Our lioness, Nikita, hates other cats of all species (lions included) so much that she can’t even be housed where she can see another cat. If she can see one, she will spend all day trying to get at them; threatening them all the while. We have found that she is much happier and the sanctuary much more peaceful if we keep the other cats out of her sight.
Some will argue that cheetah males live in coalitions, but that is only because it is a successful hunting strategy and not because they really like sharing resources. Besides, you won’t find cheetah in sanctuaries. They fetch too high a price in the retail markets of zoos to ever end up in need of rescue.
What About All Those Photos of Cats Grooming Each Other
Photos and videos of wild cats grooming each, playing together, or napping in a pile are the ones that go viral. Just like the ones of big cats and pigs, dogs, goats, etc. People love the notion of “everyone getting along” and will share those photos and video clips over and over and over. I’ve been on the Internet since 1996 and one of the first images of a tiger that I remember seeing was the tiger, staged with piglets wearing tiger skins. It’s still around and is a horrible place in China that exploits the common human desire to be dazzled; at the expense of common sense.
We share photos and videos of our cats who like each other, but at this writing, in 2016, we have 86 exotic cats. 11 of them live in pairs and we have two sets of trios. The cats who live together at Big Cat Rescue have to have a full cage to themselves, and separate areas for feeding, because even the cats who adore each other at some times, will try to kill each other in the presence of food or treats. Before feeding time, and before handing out medications (in meat treats), enrichment or treats, we have to go through the sanctuary and separate them into their own spaces so they won’t fight. We have to make sure all scraps are finished before opening them back up or they will fight over what is left. They are just hard wired to be that way. Nature tells them they won’t survive if they share.
All of our cats who live together had been raised together since they were young. Max and Mary Ann were right on the outside limit of what we thought might be a safe age to try and pair them. It worked, but sometimes we have to call a time out because they will get so moody with each other. As long as they continue to show us that they want to be together, we will accommodate that, but when they tell us they are done with each other, then they can have their own space and never have to deal with the other again.
That’s what happened with Zeus and Keisha. They seemed to want to be together and we did everything to make that happen for them, but Keisha was just too playful, and with Zeus’ failing eyesight she was scaring him all the time and he was lashing out. They seem to like being neighbors without actually sharing a cage.
To reiterate, cats who share have additional enclosures which doubles or triples their territory. Another good reason for our enclosures being built in sections so we can quickly and safely separate cats as needed without any of them being cheated on space. More about our cages here: https://BigCatRescue.org/Cages
How Do Other Places Get Big Cats to Get Along?
When you see a bunch of wild cats living together in captivity, it is either because they are still not mature (even though them may be full size and look grown up) or they are only showing you what works and hiding what doesn’t work. We have LIVE webcams all over the place, allow public tours 6 days a week, and will always respond to our fans’ questions, if they ask politely.
When we rescued bobcats and lynx from fur farms there were 56 in 1993, 28 in 1994 and 22 in 1995 and we kept many of them in huge groups because they were youngsters. They grew up together, but what happens, even though we spay and neuter them, is that when they become adults, nature tells them to carve out their own territory and run everyone else off. When we would see a cat being picked on we would build them their own cage. That’s why we have over 100 cages here. No one should come to a sanctuary and have to fight for their survival.
Some places continue to make the adult cats live together and take the attitude that a sanctuary has been provided and the cats will just have to work out their differences. What you won’t see are the cats who were starved out by the pack, the ones with missing tails, ears, limbs or eyes. You won’t see the ones who have been mauled to death by their “family.” You will never know for sure who lives in a group because if the cats all had names, bios and some way for the public to always check in on them, the gig would be up that it doesn’t really work the way it appears to in photos and videos.
About the only method that can keep the peace at all is to over feed the cats to the point where they are so obese they haven’t the energy nor the strength to fight. That means shorter life spans for the cats too though because studies show that being overweight is the single most contributing factor to disease and death in all animals. Even that method of controlling the fighting doesn’t work and Teisha Tiger is the perfect example.
Photos of her at her previous home showed that she and her cage mates were morbidly obese. This is often from the fact that the cheapest food to feed big cats is the fat that is trimmed off meats cut for human consumption. It’s usually free and is enough to keep them alive, if not healthy. Teisha’s owner reportedly told the government agents who seized his tigers that she couldn’t walk because the other tigers “beat her up all the time.”
Teisha Tiger at Mike Stapleton’s backyard zoo
At Big Cat Rescue we try to give the cats in our care the best life possible. No cat born in a cage can ever be set free, so it is up to us to make sure the rest of their lives are as free from stress as possible. Not making them share space, when it is against their nature to do so, is just one of the ways we do that.
3 Very CUTE bobcat KITTENS are given a second chance at life after being adopted by a domestic cat !
With a gun in one hand and a sack of bobcat kittens in the other, an Alabama hunter proudly plopped the newborns down on the counter and asked the veterinary assistant to raise them up for him so he could give them to his kids as pets.
The vet tech was stunned, but quickly recomposed herself to tell the hunter she would do it for him so as to rescue the babies from such an awful fate. She immediately began scouring the Internet for an expert in rehab and release. When she called Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue it was agreed that the kittens would come to Florida, be raised for re-release back to the wild and the paperwork began.
It took three days to secure the Florida import permit and time was of the essence. The only kitten formula available to the clinic was one that often causes serious dehydration in bobcat kittens. The second more critical factor was that their eyes would be opening any day and if they were to ever live free it was imperative that they not bond to humans. They never make good pets, but the bonding that takes place during the nursing stage could make them fearless of people and that would get them into trouble as adults.
While Big Cat Rescue President and resident Rehabber, Jamie Veronica, hit the road to begin a 24 hour road trip to rescue the baby bobcats, Big Cat Rescue put out a call to all of the Tampa animal based charities and on all of their social networks that they needed a nursing mother cat who had kittens of her own. Jack Talman of FosteringIsCool.com found a mother cat but her kittens were too old and she was going into heat so there was concern that she may not have milk nor interest for new babies.
Big Cat Rescuer, Merrill Kramer, called on Rick Chaboudy, CEO of Suncoast Animal League in Palm Harbor, FL and he said he thought he had a good candidate. Her name was Bobbi because of her half tail and she had given birth to 6 kittens of her own and then adopted two more. He found foster parents for all but two of the kittens and brought Bobbi and her brood over to see what she thought of diversifying her family.
Introductions like these can be very scary because the mother cat can be overly protective of her own kittens and fatally strike out at the new comers. President, Jamie Veronica, has had a considerable amount of experience in this area though and had taken every precaution to make sure it went as well as it possibly could. Bobbi turned out to be a dream come true for three little orphaned bobcats though. She immediately pulled them in close to nurse and began to bathe them. The little bobcat babies were so startled that they hissed at her!
She ignored their resistance and just kept on loving on them. Once they figured out that this strange smelling “bobcat” mom had the real deal to offer at her breasts, they were in love too.
If only they could speak to us in a language that we understand. Then we might know the horrors they have survived and be more inclined to protect others from enduring their fate.
I’ll share with you what I do know and hope that will inspire you to help these cougars and to do all you can to end the trade in exotic cats.
Back in the 90s, farmers Al and Kathy Abell, decided to start a breeding facility called Cougar Bluff Enterprises. They set up cages in their back yard in Elizabethtown, IL and filled them with a couple of cougars (Freddy & Sassy) a lion cub named Simba, some wolves and wolf hybrids. It was their plan to breed and sell and be surrounded by the kinds of wild animals they loved. The more they saw of what breeders and dealers were doing to animals, like the former owner who had beaten Sassy with a shovel, the more they realized that there was just no good reason to be breeding and selling exotics, so they never bred the big cats.
Having raised Simba the lion from a cub, they may have been complacent about the dangers of such interactions. Simba wasn’t even full grown before killing Al Abel. On that tragic day, Feb. 12, 2004 Kathy Abel came home to find the lion on the front porch of their home, her dog dead in the yard and no sign of her husband.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene as dark was closing in and the lion was on the edge of the 277,000 ac Shawnee National Forest. Kathy could not locate darts for her dart gun and the deputies were ordered to shoot Simba the lion rather than risk him killing someone in the park. It wasn’t until after Simba, body riddled by bullets, lay dying that Kathy discovered her husband dead on the floor of Simba’s cage. It had only taken one bite to the leg to cause him to bleed to death.
Fast forward six years and on Nov. 8, 2010 Chris Poole, of Big Cat Rescue came across a Facebook post saying that Kathy Abell had killed herself and left two cougars and an array of other domestic pets and farm animals with no one for miles around to care for them. We responded right away that we would come get the two cougars, Freddy and Sassy. It took a long 9 days to get the health certificate and import permit and to wait for Kathy’s family to bury her before we would be allowed to arrive on the scene. Meanwhile, Robin Parks, Field Volunteer for the Mountain Lion Foundation had coordinated with Kathy’s sister Kimberly Rapp and a local rehabber, Bev Shofstall to insure that the cats were being fed and cared for.
Big Cat Rescuers; President, Jamie Veronica Murdock, Operations Manager, Gale Ingham and Chris Poole hit the road on Nov. 17th driving straight through the night to Cave In Rock, IL which was the nearest lodge to the cougars. While en-route, Bev the rehabber emailed asking us to hurry as she wasn’t sure Freddy, the 14 year old and very frail cougar, could make it another day. Rescuers made the trip in record time but arrived well after dark. They coordinated with Kimberly Rapp to pick up the cats at first light on the morning of the 18th.
This is where YOU come in.
These cats have witnessed things that no one should ever have to see. It is only through your help that we can make sure their last years are the best years of their lives. Your voice in letters to your lawmakers asking for a ban on the private possession of big cats, at CatLaws.com is what will stop the future breeding, trading and discarding of big cats that led to this sad situation. Your donations are what make it possible for us to commit to an emergency rescue like this.
For PayPal send to CustomerService@BigCatRescue.org
Cougar Rescue Video
Time Line of a Mountain Lion Rescue
On Nov. 8, 2010 Big Cat Rescue videographer, Chris Poole came across this post on Facebook:
Mr. Robin Parks
Special Agent, NCIS (Ret)
Field Volunteer, Mountain Lion Foundation (MLF)
San Diego, California
Images courtesy of Bev Shofstall
This is a long shot, but….Late last night I received word that an acquaintance of mine (Kathy Abell) in southern Illinois apparently killed herself sometime last Thursday (11/4/2010). In addition to a number of pets and farm animals, she left behind two elderly cougars.I have known these cats for nearly 10 years. This is the weekend and I’ve been unable to contact any key player out there, but I did notify the USDA inspector from Indiana who occasionally monitors the cats. A family member told me that someone from the Illinois Dept of Natural Resources is trying to care for the cats, but I’ve not yet confirmed this. The sheriff’s office that responded to the scene has been less than helpful as the matter of the care and disposition of the cats is not their concern. I’ll be working the phones hot & heavy tomorrow morning.The USDA inspector has already suggested the cats may have to be put down, and I fully realize there just may not be any other solution. Both cats are fragile and stress easily, and one is terrified of men as he was beaten with a shovel by a man when he was a cub. I’m hoping that I will be given at least a few days to place these cats before someone makes a decision to shoot them.Do any of you know any accredited facility in Illinois or elsewhere in the Midwest that might be able to assume custody???Do any of you know any person in that area who might be able to lend some personal expertise as to the feeding and care of the animals. I’m sure the DNR person, will do her best, but won’t have a clue. Any other ideas??For whatever good it will do, I may be headed out there in the next few days to see if I can help, even if it’s only to ensure the cats are put down humanely. I may know more about the cats than any one else.
Nov. 8: I called Robin Parks and told him we could provide permanent care for the cougars and could come pick them up.
Robin said Bev Shofstall was going out to check on the cats and that she should be the main contact person for those coming in. Bev is a private citizen, not a DNR employee, who operates the Free Again Wildlife Rehab center in Carterville, Illinois. Shofstall has a cougar at her facility and has the basic skills and knowledge to keep the lid on this matter until some better solution can be reached.
Robin described the cats as:
1. Freddy, male, maybe 160 lbs, about 14 yrs old, declawed, the usual joint and arthritis stuff but not bad for his age, easily stressed by noise and strangers, easily managed by the threat of spraying him with a garden hose at one end while offering chicken at the other. He is probably already very stressed by what has happened.
2. Sassy, male, maybe 12, maybe 120 lbs, afraid of men as a result of a son-of-a-bitch beating him with a shovel handle when he was a cub, not bad with women, no real physical probs that I know of.
Nov. 9: Robin reported, “Freddy, the older cat, is not eating so well and is obviously grieved about Kathie not being there. He tends to lose weight kinda quickly when he does this, but usually bounces back ok.” He went on to say, “Kathie’s will passed nearly everything to a son, Neil Evans, by a earlier relationship, and that son (in Indiana or MI @ obit) has passed authority to Kimberly Rapp (sister) to handle all matters regarding property and animals and whatever. I once helped transfer Freddie from one enclosure to another. He didn’t want to cooperate, but gave in when the garden hose came out. It was done without any tranq’ing. Sassy might be a bit more problematic, but my feeling is no darting will be needed with him either. Can’t recall if I mentioned it earlier but…Freddie is declawed, but I think Sassy is still packin’. Both have plenty of teeth.”
The address for the site in Hardin County where the animals are is listed as Rt 2, Elizabethtown, Illinois, near Cave-in-Rock. The site is very close to a tourist area known as “The Garden of the Gods” in Karbers Ridge, Illinois, and is also a mile from a very small camp ground area called “Camp Cadiz”.
Nov. 9: Just so you know what we are up against when we try to rescue a big cat. The exploiters would rather the cats die or go to some backyard jail cell than see us make case after case for why the private possession of these cats should be banned. Robin said 6 people he didn’t know called him with comments that characterized us as “the anti-Christ”, “pagan sacrifices”, “gold digging slut”, and said “her facilities are pig sties”, better the cats be dead than with her, she’s only a “hoarder”, she’s only trying to advance her own personal agenda at the expense of the others trying to help, and worse. He also said he knew BS when he smelled it.
Nov. 10: Robin reports: “Bev Shofstall did visit the cats yesterday. Things are as good as can be expected, but Freddy is not eating, and it’s taking a toll. He appears a bit weaker and all the stress has probably made worse whatever joint/bone/age problems he has. I have seen him go thru this before, so we shouldn’t write him off just yet, but for SURE he’ll need some TLC and handling with kid gloves. Bev brought some very fresh venison for him, but he showed no interest. She will visit the cats again tomorrow (Thursday, the day of the memorial service). Sassy, on the other hand, appears to be doing ok, still has a good appetite, and his usual cranky disposition. He just may not be a problem to transfer at all.”
Nov. 1: Kathy G. Abell, age 56, died at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, at her residence and was cremated and memorialized today.
Nov. 12, 2010 Robin let me know that Ann Marie Houser took over from Elizabeth Taylor as the USDA agent involved. He said Bev had returned to visit the cats the day before and that “I talked with Bev Shofstall a few minutes ago. She was at the site yesterday, and Freddy seems to be doing a bit better. He’s eaten some venison and other goodies and appears a bit more alive. He has issues, but it’s likely he’s mostly been reacting to the loss of his Kathie and all the strangers being around. Sassy, the other cat, seems to be doing fine.”
I told Kimberly Rapp I would need her to fax me a health certificate for the cats so I could apply for a FL import permit.
Nov. 13: A vet came out to inspect the cats for transport and Kimberly faxed it to me. I filled out the FWC permit application, attached the health certificate and faxed to the Florida Wildlife Commission. Our “friend” at the FWC, Capt. John West has retired, so I was worried about how long the permit would take as they claim to be running two weeks behind on them.
Nov. 15: I called the FWC to see if they got my fax over the weekend and they had, but complained that Precious was on vacation and that Capt. Linda Harrison was overloaded with permit applications. I explained the dire situation again, as I had in the application, and asked that they give Freddy and Sassy priority. I then contacted Capt. Harrison and asked her to sort through the pile to find our application.
I asked Kimberly Rapp if she wanted us to pay for Great Dane carriers locally that she could put in the cages for the cats to get used to, but she said there was no way to get them through the gates.
Nov. 16: The FWC issued our import permit. I let Kimberly Rapp and Robin Parks know that we were awaiting Kimberly’s directive on when we should arrive. We sat on pins and needle all day waiting for a response. Finally around 9pm Kimberly called and asked if we could be there the day after. She and Bev had gone to the cats and because the weather had been in the 20s and 30s. All the cats had for shelter was a dog-loo on a hard floor so she had wanted to put a rug in for Freddy, but he wouldn’t have it, so she removed it. They had been working in the freezing rain and she had contacted us as soon as she got in.
I called Jamie and let her know that Kimberly was taking Thursday off to be there and wanted our crew to be there before noon. That meant our crew would have to leave first thing Wed. the morning of the 17th. Jamie contacted Chris and Gale and let them know to pack their bags and bring their lunch.
Nov. 17: By 7am the Big Cat Rescuers were on their way to Cave In Rock, IL. They took turns driving and sleeping and by 6pm they were in Nashville and getting sandwiches to eat on the road. One tire didn’t look too good, but everything else was going fine and they hoped to be at the lodge by midnight.
Bev emailed me during the day asking when we would be coming. It seems that neither Kimberly, nor Robin told her we were already on the way. She said that she thought Freddy was much closer to death than previously thought. She was worried that he wouldn’t make it another night.
During the course of the day I learned that Kathy Abell was not the first person to die at this facility. Robin confided, “I first met Kathie and her husband Al sometime in the late 90?s when her place (a very small place, barely even a mom & pop operation) was called Cougar Bluff Enterprises. They had a wolf or two, some hybrids or two, a cougar or two, and (a bit later I think) one huge Barbary lion (just huge, every bit as big as a Siberian). I liked the cats, know how things were in Hardin County, and offered to work at their place doing anything they needed anytime I was back there (my parents live about 30 miles from there and I came back 2x/year). In all the years I knew them, no one before or since, has ever offered to volunteer for them.
Now…no doubt about it, at the time I first met them, their plan was to breed the wolves (not so much the cats, as I recall) and sell them. They pretty much saw this as a business.
However, also about the time I met them, they started going through a change of philosophy. Over a couple of years, they quickly learned how many neglected animals there are out there in that world, how badly they often get treated, and how so much of this terrible situation was fueled by the breeders. So….they dropped their plans and converted to the “non breeder” point of view. They never bred any animal.
Almost without exception, the cats they got were “throw away’s” or badly neglected animals that came from breeders or other mom & pop places. Sassy was one of those, and had been badly abused by it’s owner. The Barbary was also one of these. It’s a long story, but some butthead somewhere got hold of the lion with he was very young, kept it in the garage for about 3 weeks until the cat got big enough to eat people, and then they basically told Al & Kathie they would kill the lion if they didn’t take it from them. So, they did….and got just waaaay over their heads.
It was that lion, somewhere around 2003 (it was 2004) that ended up killing Al. It’s a long story and there’s some fine points that are still not known, but Al apparently went into the cage ALONE to do some cleaning, and apparently didn’t secure the outer perimeter lock. The cat maybe knocked thru a inner perimeter lock, bit Al just one on the leg, then strolled out of the compound. Again, long story, but Al bled out before anybody got there several hours later. Hardin County cops came and killed the lion, who by that time was waiting at the porch for Kathie to get home. Sad.
So….that’s kinda the story here. This thing did indeed start out as a “breeding” story, but they did totally convert their thinking many years before the sad recent events. In some respects, it’s a redemption story.”
These were the two news articles that ran about the death of Al Abell in 2004
Man killed by pet African lion
Associated Press 02/13/2004
ELIZABETHTOWN, Ill. (AP) — A Hardin County man who kept exotic animals was apparently attacked and killed Thursday by a pet African lion, authorities said.
Al Abell was apparently changing the bedding of the lion’s pen when he was attacked, Sheriff Carl Cox told The Paducah Sun.
According to Cox, Abell’s wife returned to the couple’s home near Elizabethtown in southeastern Illinois shortly before 6 p.m., saw the lion out of its pen and called the sheriff’s office. Deputies killed the lion and then discovered Abell lying nearby, according to the newspaper.
Abell was taken to Hardin County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:37 p.m., Coroner Roger Little said. An autopsy was scheduled for Friday, he said.
Cox said he visited the property about three years ago with state officials to make sure the Abells had the proper permits for the tigers, wolves and other exotic animals the couple kept on the property. He said he believed the lion that attacked Abell was a cub at the time of that visit.
Jeffrey Bonner, the president of the St. Louis Zoo, said Abell’s death illustrates just how dangerous wild animals can be.
“Even after centuries of breeding, you still can’t eradicate behavior that’s natural for them,” he said. “Lions hunt for their meat and kill it; it’s what they do. To think that an owner of any big cat, even after several years, can really domesticate them is, of course, naive.”
Error with lion led to farmer’s death
By James Janega, Tribune staff reporter.
The two had raised Simba since he was a cub, and Al Abell must have felt comfortable around the almost full-grown male lion, Kathie Abell said.
Among the things the government oversees with animal exhibitors is how powerful animals like lions and other big cats are enclosed.
Big cats are expected to have two pens: A larger one with shelter in which to live and a smaller “shift pen” into which the animal can be moved while the larger enclosure is cleaned. The gate between the two must have a lock, and anyone who works around the animals must be trained in how to safely move the animals from one pen to the other. Typically, experts say, the maneuver is done by at least two people.
But on Feb. 12, 2004, Al Abell was alone when he moved the lion from its enclosure and into the shifting pen, and “did not lock [the] shift pen while cleaning shelter and surrounding area,” the animal care inspection report noted later.
“He never cleaned any large-field enclosure by himself till this tragic event occurred,” the report said.
Police reports, as well as interviews with Kathie Abell and southern Illinois law enforcement officials shortly after Al Abell died revealed the tense twilight standoff that day between nervous police officers and an agitated lion on the edge of Shawnee National Forest’s 277,000 acres.
It took a half-hour for police officers to fly up the gravel road to the farm after Kathie Abell’s call.
In that time, a frantic Kathie Abell had found a tranquilizer gun, but not the darts.
When Hardin County sheriff’s deputies arrived, she knew her dog had been killed, but couldn’t find her husband.
The Abells’ menagerie of wildcats, lorded over by a limping 8-year-old cougar named Freddy, paced and cowered in their pens. The wolves and several huskies cried from cages at the tree line below.
Standing in the Abells’ fenced yard with his back to Freddy’s cage, Hardin County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Reed aimed an AK-47 at Simba.
Deputy Chad Vinyard and Cave In Rock Police Officers Mike and Terry Dutton ran up behind him, Vinyard on a radio to the county’s chief deputy, Bill Stark, asking for ideas.
Stark was speeding in a car with Sheriff Carl Cox, who said he and Stark peered into the failing February light at the dense forest rushing past their car and made a decision.
“We didn’t want the animal loose,” Cox said.
Stark told them that if they had a clear shot, to take it. “Just make it a kill shot,” he told them over the radio.
The police officers turned to Abell. Fifteen years of raising big cats came to a single tearful nod. Vinyard counted to three.
At the first volley, Simba jumped 10 feet, two wounds in his head. Slinking toward a shed, the lion was hit again by Dutton and Reed. Officers came to within a few paces as the lion finally collapsed, and two more shots rang out. Simba stopped breathing.
Vinyard’s voice crackled over the radio.
“The lion’s down,” he said.
That was when Kathie Abell found her husband, noted Reed and Dutton. “We heard Kathie Abell screaming approximately 50 yards away,” Dutton wrote.
Paramedics tried CPR, then evacuated Al Abell by air without ever hearing a sound from his lungs. His skin was cold, dry and pale. The coroner determined he had died in minutes, his life pouring out the bite wound in his left thigh.
Kathie Abell gave the lion’s carcass to zoology students at Southern Illinois University, where the heaping, frozen body was thawed and dissected two months later.
HARDIN CO., IL — Authorities say an Illinois man who kept exotic animals was attacked and killed Thursday by a pet African lion.
Sheriff Carl Cox says Al Abell was apparently changing the bedding of thelion’s pen when he was attacked. Cox says Abell’s wife returned to the couple’s home near Elizabethtown in southeastern Illinois, shortly before 6 p-m. She saw the lion out of its pen and called the sheriff’s office.
Deputies killed the lion and then discovered Abell lying nearby. Coroner Roger Little says he was taken to Hardin County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:37 p.m.
An autopsy is scheduled for today. Jeffrey Bonner, the president of the St. Louis Zoo, says Abell’s death illustrates just how dangerous wild animals can be.
Nov. 17: 8:45pm Big Cat Rescuers arrive at the Cave In Rock Lodge. It is a tiny, yet historic lodge nestled in the Shawnee National Park. Cave In Rock Park is named for the 55-foot-wide cave that was carved out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago. Following the Revolutionary War, this immense recess came to serve as the ideal lair for outlaws, bandits and river pirates who preyed on the people traveling along the Ohio River.One of the most ambitious of these ruthless malefactors was Samuel Mason. Once an officer in George Washington’s Revolutionary Army, in 1797 he converted the cavern into a tavern which he called the Cave-In-Rock. From this apparently innocent and inviting position, Mason would dispatch his cohorts upriver to befriend unwary and bewildered travelers with offers of help and guidance. As they neared the cave, these henchmen would disable their boats or force them toward the yawning hollow, where the hapless pilgrims would be robbed, or worse. Few victims lived to tell their story.
By the early 1800s, following the demise of the Mason Gang, the cave sheltered the even more notorious Harpe Brothers, a pair of killers fleeing execution in Kentucky. They continued their personal reign of thievery and murder in Illinois, using the cave as hideout and headquarters until they too were killed.
It’s interesting to note that the cave served as a backdrop for a scene in the movie “How The West Was Won.” The scene was a near-accurate portrayal of how, in the 18th and 19th centuries, ruthless bandits used the cave to lure unsuspecting travelers to an untimely end.
Although other desperadoes continued to take advantage of the secrecy and seclusion afforded by Cave-In-Rock, by the mid-1830s the quickening westward expansion of civilization and the steady growth in the local population and commerce had destroyed or driven out the “river rats” and the cave began to serve as temporary shelter for other pioneers on their way west.
Nov. 19: 3:52 am the Big Cat Rescue team and Freddy and Sassy the cougars arrived at Big Cat Rescue, but it was too dark to safely let them out, so everyone slept for a couple of hours and waited for dawn.
6:30 am The staff, volunteer committe and board were invited to see the release, but it had been sent out so late that only Chelsea, Howard and I came to watch Jamie, Gale, Chris & Chelsea release Freddy and Sassy into their new, spacious, lakeside homes. Video will be coming soon; once Chris has some time to sleep, get married, renew his driver’s license and piece together the footage and interviews. Meanwhile, a picture (or two) is worth a thousand words.
6:30 pm Jamie hand fed Freddy and Sassy from a stick tonight to get a good look at their teeth and to begin a bonding process with them. Our main diet is a prepared ground diet of muscle meat, organs, bones and vitamins but it will be a gradual process to move these cats to the healthier fare. She gave them a few balls on the end of the stick and they weren’t crazy about it. They each ate a chicken leg quarter, a plate of necks, and several chunks of beef. Jamie said they would have eaten more, but she didn’t want to overload their systems, so she left some more of the ground diet, so that they wouldn’t go to bed hungry. The ground diet comes in three fat content levels, so we may try them on the higher content to get them liking it and then scale back once they are in good condition again. Both cats have been very calm and acting like they have known us forever, so all is well tonight at Big Cat Rescue.
Big Cat Rescue is an educational sanctuary and a home for more than 100 big cats 12802 Easy St. Tampa, FL 33625 813.920.4130
Sassyfrass Vet Visit 2014
Sassyfrass the cougar didn’t come out to eat last night, so we knew something was up and set an appointment to see the vet.
Sassyfrass the cougar has failing kidneys, and is incontinent, so he pees on himself in his sleep and then lays in it.
He is old and arthritic, so he can’t groom himself any more and his fur gets matted.
We have to shave him once a year so we decide to do it while he is at the vet’s office under sedation.
Volunteers load up Sassyfrass the cougar and take him into our on site cat hospital to await transfer to the van.
He will be weighed so we know how much sedation to give at the vet’s office. He weighs 134 lbs.
We will check his blood again to see how much his kidney failure has progressed.
His transport cage is supported by long poles so the keepers don’t get their hands near him.
Every time we go to the vet we try to choose an Intern or Volunteer to go with us for their education.
Gale put Michael to work, helping her shave Sassyfrass while the vet and vet techs did their work up on him.
Sassyfrass’ breath would knock you over, and they thought there must be bad teeth, but after cleaning and X-rays, they saw that none needed to be pulled.
Sassyfrass does have one eye with blood in the chamber, so he is being treated for that and he had ulcerations on his tongue; but no obvious cause. The rest of his blood work was sent out for further testing.
Section VIII – Workplace Safety RulesSection IX – On Property Safety
Be Safe Out There!
Tour Guide Procedures Class
Gate Operation, Tour Back Up & Guest Relations Class
Animal Emergency Procedures Class
Human First Aid Procedures Class
Management Commitment and Involvement Policy Statement
The management of Big Cat Rescue is committed to providing employees with a safe and healthful workplace. It is the policy of this organization that employees report unsafe conditions and do not perform work tasks if the work is considered unsafe. Employees must report all accidents, injuries, and unsafe conditions to their supervisors. No such report will result in retaliation, penalty, or other disincentive.
Employee recommendations to improve safety and health conditions will be given thorough consideration by the management team. Management will give top priority to and provide the financial resources for the correction of unsafe conditions. Violation of workplace safety rules may result in disciplinary action. This action may include verbal or written reprimands and may result in termination of employment.
The primary responsibility for the coordination, implementation, and maintenance of our Workplace Safety Program has been assigned to the following individual who, in addition to any other title held, will be our Safety Program Coordinator:
Name: Gale Ingham
Title: Operations Manager
Because we work with dangerous animals, safety is of absolutely paramount concern. But we must not let our focus on the animals allow us to fail to be aware of the safety issues that arise in any workplace, such as use of tools, equipment, ladders and safety issues inherent in the office environment. This manual is intended to cover these as well as some of the animal care safety issues that are covered in detail in our training programs.
This policy statement serves to express management’s commitment to and involvement in providing our employees a safe and healthful workplace. This Workplace Safety Program will be incorporated as the standard of practice for this organization. Compliance with the safety rules will be required of all employees as a condition of employment.
If at any time you feel that a safety issue you have raised to anyone other than myself has not been promptly or properly addressed, I want you to know that it is part of our policy and the commitment you make in signing this document that you will bring it directly to my attention.
Carole Baskin, Founder and CEO
I have received a copy of this Workplace Safety Program and in signing below I acknowledge that I:
have read it completely
have understood the contents or have had an opportunity to ask questions and if I have asked questions I have received answers that I understood
understand that compliance with these rules and others that I may be informed about from time to time is a condition of employment, and
agree to abide by the safety rules of Big Cat Rescue.
Print Name Legibly
Safety and Health Training
Safety and Health Orientation
Workplace safety and health orientation begins on the first day of initial employment or job transfer. Each employee will be given a personal copy of this Workplace Safety Program containing our workplace safety rules, policies and procedures. Supervisors will answer the employee’s questions to ensure knowledge and understanding of safety rules, policies, and job-specific procedures described in this manual.
Supervisors will instruct all employees that compliance with the safety rules described in the workplace safety manual is required.
Job Specific Training
Supervisors will initially train employees on how to perform assigned job tasks safely.
Supervisors will carefully review with each employee the specific safety rules, policies, and procedures that are applicable and that are described in the workplace safety manual.
Supervisors will give employees verbal instructions and specific directions on how to do the work safely.
Supervisors will observe employees performing the work. If necessary, the supervisor will provide a demonstration using safe work practices, or remedial instruction to correct training deficiencies before an employee is permitted to do the work without supervision.
All employees will receive safe operating instructions on seldom-used or new equipment before using the equipment.
Supervisors will review safe work practices with employees before permitting the performance of new, non-routine, or specialized procedures.
Periodic Retraining of Employees
All employees will be retrained when changes are made to the workplace safety manual.
Individual employees will be retrained after the occurrence of a work related injury caused by an unsafe act or work practice, and when a supervisor observes an employee displaying unsafe acts, practices, or behaviors.
The Safety Coordinator will conduct a monthly safety meeting with the employees covering one or more topics. In addition to the safety topic, supervisors may discuss other items such as recent accidents and injuries, results of safety inspections, and revisions of safety policies and procedures. Safety Meetings may be part of the monthly Volunteer Meeting so Volunteers obtain the benefit of them as well.
The Safety Coordinator will follow the below plan of action to ensure successful safety meetings are conducted.
Preparing for the Meeting
The Safety Coordinator in the course of his duties as Operations Manager will observe and inspect the various areas and work practices and note any unsafe acts being performed or unsafe conditions that need to be corrected.
If any unsafe acts or conditions are discovered during the inspections, the Safety Coordinator will select an unsafe act or condition to be used as a Safety Meeting topic for the benefit of all. A Safety Meeting can help identify and eliminate hazards before accidents occur.
Conduct the Meeting
The Safety Coordinator will discuss one topic per meeting unless he feels there are more than one that require attention.
Allow employees to discuss why the situation occurs if it has occurred.
Reach an agreement with employees on how to eliminate or control the situation if it has occurred.
Keep a Record of the Meeting
Documentation will be maintained of each employee safety meeting. It should contain the subject(s) discussed as well as an attendance sheet.
Safety Committee Organization
A Safety Committee has been established as a management tool to recommend improvements to our Workplace Safety Program and to identify corrective measures needed to eliminate or control recognized safety and health hazards. The Safety Committee shall be composed of all of the members of the Volunteer Committee.
The Safety Committee will be responsible for:
Assisting management in communicating procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of control measures used to protect employees from safety and health hazards in the workplace.
Assisting management in reviewing and updating workplace safety rules based on accident investigation findings, any inspection findings, and employee reports of unsafe conditions or work practices; and accepting and addressing anonymous complaints and suggestions from employees.
Assisting management in updating the Workplace Safety Program by evaluating employee injury and accident records, identifying trends and patterns, and formulating corrective measures to prevent recurrence.
Assisting management in evaluating employee accident and illness prevention programs, and promoting safety and health awareness and co-worker participation through continuous improvements to the Workplace Safety Program.
Participating in safety training and for assisting management in monitoring workplace safety education and training to ensure that it is in place, that it is effective, and that it is documented.
Safety issues will be addressed at the meetings of the Volunteer Committee and the discussions reflected in the notes of the meeting. If any employee has raised a safety concern to be addressed by the committee, the employee shall be given a response in writing. If the discussion results in any change in rules or procedures, the Workplace Safety Program shall be revised to reflect these changes and all employees given copies of the revised pages to place in their personal copies of the program.
Safety Inspections and Preventative Maintenance
Inspections provide an opportunity to survey the work place to detect potential hazards and correct them before an accident occurs. Typically, inspections are made to identify physical hazards at the work site, however, the work practices of employees will also be observed during the inspections. Supervisors and the Safety Coordinator will observe employees to determine if they are performing their jobs in accordance with safe job procedures. They will also inspect equipment and tools regularly to determine if maintenance is required to keep them in safe operating condition, and arrange for such maintenance if it is determined to be necessary.
Safety is the responsibility of each and every employee. Continuous, informal inspections should be conducted by employees, supervisors, and maintenance personnel as part of their regular job responsibilities. These are the personnel who are most familiar with work site operations and machinery. Our employees are a valuable source of information on work place hazards and we look to them for assistance in formulating practical workplace controls.
Supervisors must continually monitor their work areas. On a daily basis they will check that:
Employees are following safe work procedures
Machinery and tools are in good condition
Machine guards are in position
Material is stored properly
Aisles, walkways, and exit passageways are clear and accessible
First Aid Procedures
Emergency Phone Numbers
Safety Coordinator: 813.850.7052
Walk In Clinic: Fast Track Walk-In Clinic
Address: 11969 Sheldon Rd., Tampa, FL 33626
South of Citrus Park Drive on Westwind
Hospital Emergency Room: Town & Country Hospital
Address: 6001 Webb Road, Tampa, FL 33615
Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
Fire Department: 911
In all cases requiring emergency medical treatment, immediately call, or have a co-worker call, to request medical assistance.
Minor First Aid Treatment
If you sustain an injury or are involved in an accident requiring minor first aid treatment:
Inform your supervisor.
Administer first aid treatment to the injury or wound.
If a first aid kit is used, indicate usage on the accident investigation report.
Access to a first aid kit is not intended to be a substitute for medical attention.
Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.
Non-Emergency Medical Treatment
For non-emergency work-related injuries requiring professional medical assistance.
Inform your supervisor.
Proceed to the posted medical facility. Your supervisor will assist with transportation, if necessary.
Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.
Management will report the injury to the insurance company within 24 hours. Travelers 800-832-7839.
Emergency Medical Treatment
If you sustain a severe injury requiring emergency treatment:
Call for help and seek assistance from a co-worker.
Request assistance and transportation to the local hospital emergency room or call 911 for an ambulance as appropriate.
Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.
Management will report the injury to the insurance within 24 hours. Travelers 800-832-7839.
First Aid Training
Each employee will read the Human First Aid Procedures Class attached to this Safety Program and take the class as soon as possible.
Accident Investigation Procedures
The supervisor at the location where the accident occurred will perform an accident investigation. The safety coordinator is responsible for seeing that the accident investigation reports are being filled out completely and that the recommendations generated as a result of the investigation are being addressed. Supervisors will investigate all accidents resulting in an employee injury using the following investigation procedures.
Review the equipment, operations, and processes to gain an understanding of the accident situation.
Identify and interview each witness and any other person who might provide clues to the accident’s causes.
Investigate causal conditions and unsafe acts; make conclusions based on existing facts.
Complete the accident investigation report.
Provide recommendations for corrective actions.
Implement temporary control measures to prevent any further injuries to employees.
Indicate the need for additional or remedial safety training.
Accident investigation reports must be completed and submitted to the safety coordinator within 24 hours of the accident.
Accident Record Keeping Procedures
The safety coordinator will control and maintain all employee accident and injury records. Records are maintained for a minimum of three (3) years and include:
Accident Investigation Reports.
Worker’s Compensation First Report of Injury or Illness form.
Workplace Safety Rules
The safety rules contained on these pages have been prepared to protect you in your daily work. Employees are to follow these rules, review them often and use good common sense in carrying out assigned duties.
General Employee Work Rules
Do not place trash in walkways and passageways.
Do not kick objects out of your pathway; pick them up or push them aside and out of the way.
Do not throw matches, cigarettes or other smoking materials into trash bins.
Do not store or leave items on stairways.
Do not block or obstruct stairwells, exits or accesses to safety and emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers or fire alarms.
Ladder and Step Ladder Safety
Do not use ladders that have loose rungs, cracked or split side rails, missing rubber foot pads or are otherwise visibly damaged.
Keep ladder rungs clean of grease. Remove build up of material such as plaster, dirt or mud.
Secure the ladder in place firmly; have another employee hold it when possible.
Face the ladder when climbing up or down.
Performing Work from a Ladder
One person shall be on the ladder at a time.
Face the ladder and do not lean backwards or sideways from the ladder.
Do not stand on the top two rungs of any ladder.
Do not use a ladder that wobbles or that leans to the left or right.
Do not try to ‘walk’ a ladder by rocking it. Climb down the ladder and then move it.
Store sharp objects such as pens, pencils, letter openers, or scissors in drawers or with the points down in a container.
Carry pencils, scissors and other sharp objects with the points down.
Do not jump from ramps, platforms, ladders, or step stools.
Do not run on stairs or take more than one step at a time.
Use the handrails when ascending or descending stairs or ramps.
Obey all posted safety and danger signs.
Open one file cabinet drawer at a time.
Close drawers and doors immediately after use.
Use the handle when closing doors, drawers, and files.
Put heavy files in the bottom drawers of file cabinets.
Do not tilt the chair you are sitting in on its two back legs.
Do not stand on furniture to reach high places. Use a ladder or step stool to retrieve or store items that are located above your head.
Do not block your view by carrying large bulky items; use a dolly or hand truck or get assistance from a fellow employee.
Cut in the direction away from your body when using knives or cutters.
Use a staple remover, not your fingers, for removing staples.
Turn off and unplug machines before adjusting, lubricating, or cleaning them.
Do not use fans that have excessive vibration, frayed cords, or missing guards.
Turn the power switch of the equipment to ‘off’ when it is not being used.
General Labor Personnel
Do not leave loose tools or other items on a ledge or lying around the floor. Return tools to their storage places after use.
Keep walking surfaces of elevated working platforms, such as scaffolds and equipment, clear of tools and materials that are being used.
Do not use gasoline for cleaning purposes.
Sweep up scraps and debris from wallboard installation such as screws, mesh and tape by using a broom and dust pan.
Plan the move before lifting; remove obstructions from your chosen pathway.
Test the weight of the load before lifting by pushing the load along its resting surface.
If the load is too heavy or bulky, use lifting and carrying aids such as hand trucks, dollies, pallet jacks and carts or get assistance from a co-worker.
If assistance is required to perform a lift, coordinate and communicate your movements with those of your co-worker.
Never lift anything if your hands are greasy or wet.
Wear protective gloves approved by your supervisor when lifting objects with sharp corners or jagged edges.
Do not lift an object from the floor to a level above your waist in one motion. Set the load down on a table or bench and then adjust your grip before lifting it higher.
Job Site Safety
Do not walk under partially demolished walls or floors.
Stop working outdoors and seek shelter during lightning storms.
Do not begin working until barricades, warning signs or other protective devices have been installed to isolate the work area.
Do not throw away or toss debris outside barricaded areas.
Stay clear of all trucks, forklifts, cranes, and other heavy equipment when in operation.
Do not approach any heavy equipment until the operator has seen you and has signaled to you that it is safe to approach.
Keep shirts on to avoid dehydration and sunburn.
Assume all electrical wires as live wires.
Do not wear watches, rings, or other metallic objects which could act as conductors of electricity around electrical circuits.
Wear the dielectric gloves when working on electric current.
Electrical Powered Tools
Do not use power equipment or tools on which you have not been trained.
Do not carry plugged in equipment or tools with your finger on the switch.
Do not leave tools that are ‘on’ unattended.
Do not handle or operate electrical tools when your hands are wet or when you are standing on wet floors.
Do not operate a power hand tool or portable appliance:
That has frayed, worn, cut, improperly spliced, or damaged cord.
That has two-pronged adapter or a two-conductor extension cord.
If a prong from the three pronged power plug is missing or has been removed.
Disconnect the tool from the outlet by pulling on the plug, not the cord.
Turn the tool off before plugging or unplugging it.
Turn off the electrical tool and unplug it from the outlet before attempting repairs or service work. Tag the tool “Out of Service.”
Do not stand in water or on wet surfaces when operating power hand tools or portable electrical appliances.
Never operate electrical equipment barefooted. Wear rubber soled or insulated work boots.
Do not operate a power hand tool or portable appliance while holding a part of the metal casing or while holding the extension cord in your hand.
Hold all portable power tools by the plastic handgrips or other nonconductive areas designed for gripping purposes.
Do not use electrical tools if its housing is cracked.
Do not use electrical tools while working on a metal ladder unless the ladder has rubber feet.
Keep power cords away from the path of drills and wire soldering and cutting equipment.
Do not use cords that have splices, exposed wires or cracked or frayed ends.
Do not remove the ground prong from electrical cords.
Do not use any adapter such as a cheater plug that eliminates the ground.
Do not plug multiple electrical cords into a single outlet.
Wear safety goggles, protective gloves, a dust mask, and hearing protection when operating a power saw.
Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry.
Clean any residue from the blade or cutting head before making a new cut with the power saw.
Do not use a power saw that has cracked, broken, or loose guards or other visible damage.
Keep your hands away from the exposed blade.
Operate the saw at full cutting speed, with a sharp blade, to prevent kickbacks.
Do not alter the anti kickback device or blade guard.
Do not perform cutting operations with the power saw while standing on a wet or slippery floor.
When using the power saw, do not reach across the cutting operation.
Cut away from your body and below shoulder level when you are using a power saw.
If the saw becomes jammed, turn the power switch off before pulling out the incomplete cut.
Do not point a compressed air hose at bystanders or use it to clean your clothing.
Do not use tools that have handles with burrs or cracks.
Do not use compressors if their belt guards are missing. Replace belt guards before use.
Turn the tool off and allow it to come to a complete stop before leaving it unattended.
Disconnect the tool from the air line before making any adjustments or repairs to the tool.
Engage positive locks on hoses and attachments before use.
Shut off pressure valve and disconnect air line when not in use.
Tag damaged of defective pneumatic tools “Out of Service” to prevent usage of the tool by other employees.
Hand Tool Safety
Use tied off containers to keep tools from falling off of elevated work platforms.
Do not use a tool if its handle has splinters, burrs, cracks, splits or if the head of the tools is loose.
Do not use tools while your hands are oily, greasy or wet.
When handing a tool to another person, direct sharp points and cutting edges away from yourself and the other person.
Do not carry sharp pointed hand tools such as screwdrivers in your pocket unless the tool or your pocket is sheathed.
Do not perform ‘makeshift’ repairs to tools.
Do not throw tools from one location to another, from one employee to another, from scaffolds or other elevated platforms.
Do not carry tools in your hand when climbing. Carry tools in tool belts or hoist the tools to the work area with a hand line.
Transport hand tools only in toolboxes or tool belts. Do not carry tools in your clothing.
When you are performing electrical work, use the tools with the blue rubber sleeves covering the handle, these are insulated.
Keep control of saws by releasing downward pressure at the end of the stroke.
Keep your hands and fingers away from the saw blade while you are using the saw.
When using a hand saw, hold your panel firmly against the worktable.
Do not use a saw that has dull saw blades.
Do not carry a saw by the blade.
Oil saw blades after each use of the saw.
Wear safety glasses or safety goggles when using snips to cut materials such as lath or corner beads.
Wear your work gloves when cutting materials with snips.
Do not use straight cut snips to cut curves.
Keep the blade aligned by tightening the nuts and bolts on the snips.
Do not use snips as a hammer, screwdriver, or pry bar.
Engage the locking clip on the snips after use.
Toolboxes/ Chest/ Cabinet
Tape over or file off sharp edges on toolboxes, chests, or cabinets.
Do not stand on toolbox, chest, or cabinet to gain extra height.
Lock the wheels on large toolboxes, chest, and cabinets to prevent from rolling.
Push large toolboxes, chest and cabinets; do not pull.
Do not open more than 1 drawer of a toolbox at a time.
Close and lock all drawers and doors before moving the toolbox to a new location.
Do not use toolbox or chest as a workbench.
Do not move a toolbox, chest or cabinet if it has loose parts or parts on the top.
Knives/ Sharp Instruments
When handling knife blades and other cutting tools, direct sharp points and edges away from you.
Always cut in the direction away from your body when using knives.
Carry all sharp tools in a sheath or holster. Stores knives in knife blocks or in sheaths after using them.
Use the knife that has been sharpened; do not use knives that have dull blades.
Do not use knives as screwdrivers.
Do not pick up knives by their blades.
Carry knives with tips pointed towards the floor.
Forklift Safety Rules
Do not exceed the lift capacity of the forklift. Read the lift capacity plate on the forklift if you are unsure.
Follow the manufacturer guidelines concerning changes in the lift capacity before adding an attachment, such as wedges, to a forklift.
Lift the load an inch or two to test for stability: if the rear wheels are not in firm contact with the floor, take a lighter load or use a forklift with a higher lift capacity.
Do not raise or lower a load while you are en-route. Wait until you are in the loading area and have stopped before raising or lowering the load.
After picking up a load, adjust the forks so that the load is tilted slightly backward for added stability.
Drive with the load at a ground clearance height of 4-6 inches at the tips and 2 inches at the heels in order to clear most uneven surfaces and debris.
Drive at a walking pace and apply brakes slowly to stop when driving on slippery surfaces such as icy or wet floors.
Do not drive over objects in your pathway.
Steer wide when making turns.
Do not drive up to anyone standing or working in front of a fixed object such as a wall.
Do not drive along the edge of an unguarded elevated surface such as a loading dock or staging platform.
Obey all traffic rules and signs.
Sound horn when approaching blind corners, doorways, or aisles to alert other operators and pedestrians.
Do not exceed a safe working speed of five miles per hour. Slow down in congested areas.
Stay a minimum distance of three truck lengths from other operating mobile equipment.
Drive in reverse and use a signal person when your vision is blocked by the load.
Look in the direction that you are driving; proceed when you have a clear path.
Drive loaded forklifts forward up ramps.
Raise the forks an additional two inches to avoid hitting or scraping the ramp surface as you approach the ramp.
Drive loaded forklifts in reverse when driving down a ramp.
Drive unloaded forklifts in reverse going up a ramp and forward going down a ramp.
Do not attempt to turn around on a ramp.
Do not use ‘reverse’ to brake.
Lower the mast completely, turn off the engine and set the parking brake before leaving your forklift.
Keep the forklift clear of the dock edge while vehicles are backing up to the dock.
Do not begin loading or unloading until the supply truck has come to a complete stop, the engine has been turned off, the dock lock has been engaged and the wheels have been locked.
Attach the bridge or dock plate before driving the forklift into the truck.
Do not drive the forklift into a truck bed that has soft or loose decking or other unstable flooring.
Drive straight across the bridge plates when entering or exiting the trailer.
Use dock lights or headlights when working in a dark trailer.
When manually stocking shelves, position the materials to be shelved slightly in front of you so you do not have to twist when lifting and stacking materials.
Visually inspect for sharp objects or other hazards before putting hands, legs or other body parts into containers such as garbage cans, boxes, bags, or sinks.
Remove or bend nails and staples from crates before unpacking.
When cutting shrink-wrap with a blade, always cut away from you and your co-workers.
Do not try to kick objects out of pathways. Push or carry them out of the way.
Do not let items overhang from shelves into walkways.
Move slowly when approaching blind corners.
Remove one object at a time from shelves.
Place items on shelves so that they lie flat and do not lean against each other.
Hand Truck Operations
Tip the load slightly forward so that the tongue of the hand truck goes under the load.
Push the tongue of the hand truck all the way under the load to be moved.
Keep the center of gravity of the load as low as possible by placing heavier objects below the lighter objects.
When loading hand trucks, keep your feet clear of the wheels.
Push the load so that the weight will be carried by the axle and not the handles.
Place the load so that it will not slip, shift or fall. Use straps, if provided, to secure the load.
If your view is obstructed, use a spotter to assist in guiding the load.
For extremely bulky or pressurized items such as gas cylinders, strap or chain the items to the hand truck.
Do not walk backward with the hand truck, unless going up stairs or ramps.
When going down an incline, keep the hand truck in front of you so that it can be controlled at all times.
Move hand trucks at a walking pace.
Store hand trucks with the tongue under a pallet, shelf, or table.
Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load rated capacity. Read the capacity plate on the hand truck if you are unsure.
Pallet Jack Use
Only employer authorized personnel may operate pallet jacks.
Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load rated capacity. Read the lift capacity plate on the pallet jack if you are unsure.
Do not ride on pallet jacks.
Start and stop gradually to prevent the load from slipping.
Pull manual pallet jacks; push when going down an incline or passing close to walls or obstacles.
If your view is obstructed, use a spotter to assist in guiding the load.
Stop the pallet jack if anyone gets in your way.
Do not place your feet under the pallet jack when it is moving.
Keep your feet and other body parts clear of pallet before releasing the load.
Use long handled snips when cutting strapping bands away from a shipping container.
Wear safety glasses when cutting strapping bands, uncrating materials and driving nails.
Stand to the side of the strapping band when cutting it.
Do not use pallets or skids that are cracked or split or have other visible damage.
Stack heavy or bulky storage containers on middle and lower shelves of the storage rack.
Do not lift slippery or wet objects; use a hand truck.
Follow the safe handling instructions listed on the label of the container or listed on the corresponding Material Safety Data Sheet when handling each chemical stored in the stockroom.
Do not smoke while handling chemicals labeled flammable.
Do not store chemicals labeled flammable near sources of ignition such as space heaters and sparking tools.
Do not handle or load any containers of chemicals if their containers are cracked or leaking.
Do not leave pallet jack unattended with the load suspended.
Obey all safety and danger signs posted in the workplace.
Do not exceed the rated load capacity noted on the manufacturer’s label on the cart.
Use a spotter to help guide carts around corners and through narrow aisles.
Do not stand on a cart or use it as a work platform.
On Property Safety
At no time, under any circumstances, will any part of your person come into direct contact with any animal at Big Cat Rescue unless under direct instruction and supervision of at least two of the following: The Founder, the President, the Operations Manager or the Attending Veterinarian.
An approved radio must be carried on your person at all times while on the property. You are responsible for keeping the radio in good working order.
No running or horseplay on the property.
Smoking is permitted in designated “smoking areas” only.
Absolutely no alcohol or drugs are allowed on the property at any time. No person shall enter the premises for eight hours after having consumed any alcoholic beverage or narcotics. Any person believed to be impaired due to alcohol or drugs will be removed from the property.
Do not operate the front gate nor allow access to the property to anyone with out proper training. If you do not recognize someone on the property, as a volunteer or staff member, politely ask if you can help him or her. Explain that they must be escorted by a volunteer or staff member. Lead them to the guest sign in and alert a Coordinator, Staff or Committee Member.
No person shall enter the property without having completed a “Release & Hold Harmless Agreement”.
If you have been entrusted with the gate code or keys, do not share these with anyone.
Make sure the gate is completely shut behind you as you enter and exit the property.
Employee parking is located in between the Education Center and the cell tower.
Easy Street is a privately owned road (not by Big Cat Rescue) and the people that live on the road are not affiliated with Big Cat Rescue. It is very important that we respect these people and drive no faster than 10 mph as well as yield to outbound traffic.
Follow all rules in the Tour Guide Procedures Class and Gate Operation, Tour Back Up & Guest Relations Class attached to this Safety Program. Take these volunteer classes as soon as possible after employment.
If you also volunteer at Big Cat Rescue, it is your responsibility to take the appropriate volunteer classes related to activities you engage in as a Volunteer and follow the rules contained therein and any other rules provided to you verbally or in writing separately from those classes.
As of June 2013. See Staff for potential changes since this time.