I would like to take a moment to thank you and your volunteers for our recent visit to BCR. I was so impressed with the orderliness of our check-in, the brief orientation, and the ease in which you gathered enough people to assist with the golf cart riders, and our group in general. We truly were amazed by the animals we visited, and by their stories. The headsets were so helpful in hearing our guide and the histories of each cat. I was happy to see how clean all the enclosures are, and to hear about the “Rotation Vacation” program. The entire visit was a positive experience. I heard so many good comments from my travelers.
Please convey our deep appreciation to your volunteers. They are so knowledgable, and interacted beautifully with the visitors; you can be proud of this great group of young people.
Precious came to Easy Street from an auction when she was about six months old. She is a Texas Bobcat, which is the most dramatically spotted variety. She lived in the house for a while, but she was never house broken and never trusted people. She seems happiest to have people keep their distance and admire her from afar. She shared a 900 square foot Cat-A-Tat with Shiloh and Indian Summer for many years and then, one day, they decided they didn’t like her anymore and wouldn’t let her come down, out of the tree, to eat. Vern built her another Cat-A-Tat with a great climbing tree so that she can live near by them, but not have to worry about being attacked.
Clipping Bobcat Claws
Oct. 16, 2013
Precious and the Great Pretender were both on the Vet Observation Chart yesterday (2/18/13) at Big Cat Rescue. Pretender wasn’t hungry, which never happens, and Precious was said to have a long toe nail that looked like it might be hitting her paw pad when she walked.
Precious Bobcat used to climb trees all the time, but is 21 years old and barely even uses the ramps that were constructed up into the tree for her. Pretender is also 21 and both suffer from periodic neurological symptoms, but have been in amazingly good health for their age.
It would be very risky to sedate a bobcat this old, just for a hang nail, so Dr Justin Boorstein and President Jamie Veronica came up with a plan to clip the nails while causing the least amount of danger to the bobcat. This is a long video, but pretty amazing footage that has probably never been captured before.
Some cats, including Precious were purchased at auctions where the uncaring owners were dumping the cats with no concern about their welfare. The people bidding on such cats were usually taxidermists or those who owned canned hunting ranches. There is much controversy over whether we did the right thing by paying the ransom for these cats. We still accept many unwanted cats each year, but do not pay for them and typically require that their owner surrender their license, in an attempt to keep people from just trading in their cats each year for a newer, cuter model. We have to turn away more than 100 cats each year due to a lack of space and funds and the lack of regulation of the exotic pet trade. Read more about our Evolution of Thought HERE
Jan 27, 2014: Precious Bobcat suffered a major stroke today. She was sedated to halt the seizing, but an exam showed that her bones were softening and bowing to the point that she wasn’t able to walk, and she was euthanized. She would have been 22 in April.
Note from Carole: Some things just can’t be unseen.
I just hate days like today. I got a call saying that a cat was having a seizure. There are some things that are so painful to witness that I wonder, “Was it harder for the cat, or those of us who could only stand there and watch while waiting for instruction from the vet.”
Thankfully, Dr. Wynn answered her phone and was able to come immediately but every minute seems like hours when a cat is suffering. I knew this was the end for this cat, and that I would have to be the one to say so, and hated that I am in a position to have to make such decisions.
The cat’s suffering was over in a few minutes. I may never be able to forget what I saw or what has to be done. I know that those with me suffered as greatly, or maybe even more, because they aren’t in the position to decide. I don’t know what is worse, actually.
These headlines linked to the story when it broke, but news portals often change their link structure after the first day, so some articles may not load. Follow Big Cat Rescue so that you never miss an important lion story.
This is where you can find out about everything that is happening with lions and get involved to make a difference. The opinions expressed in the news articles above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Big Cat Rescue.
These headlines linked to the story when it broke, but news portals often change their link structure after the first day, so some articles may not load. Follow Big Cat Rescue so that you never miss an important tiger story.
This is where you can find out about everything that is happening with tigers and get involved to make a difference. The opinions expressed in the news articles above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Big Cat Rescue.
Sasha the lioness who would be 20 this year has long had a mass on her face, but it was small and innocuous. Recently it had ruptured and there were reports that she wasn’t eating as well as expected so we decided to sedate her, remove the mass and check on an oral mass that had been seen back in 2008, when Sasha had been sedated to remove a collar that was embedded in her skin. Sasha’s previous owner had used her for photo ops and would stake her down tightly to the ground, with a short chain on either side of that collar so that she could not stand up or bite her tormentors.
I had a bad feeling about this. Jamie did too, but for different reasons. Lions are just plain scary. Everyone was worried that her mate, Joseph, would just go nuts and hurt himself or trash the separating doors, if he saw us anywhere near Sasha. We gave him 5 connected cages to explore and mark, a turkey, a whole chicken and a bucket of treats. Much to our surprise, that managed to keep him fully engaged throughout the next few hours.
Jamie and Dr. Boorstein easily sedated Sasha and then Jamie went in to be sure Sasha was asleep before the vet team came inside the cage.
Yep. She’s asleep.
Dr. Liz Wynn leaped into action as soon as Jamie determined that Sasha was asleep.
Dr. Justin Boorstein set up the anesthesia machine, under the watchful eye of Arthur and Andre Tigers.
Chris Poole helped Jamie and the vets carry Sasha the lioness up onto her platform for the procedure.
Gale Ingham held the Y pole over Sasha so that if she awakened suddenly, she wouldn’t bite the vets.
Dr. Wynn shaved the area around the mass next to Sasha’s eye.
We marveled at her big fluffy paws. Sasha had been declawed and defanged by her former owner.
Chris took her temperature and Sasha was connected to a blood pressure monitor as well.
We wondered if this odd little tail of hers was due to inbreeding or some trauma she experienced before her rescue.
Dr. Wynn did the mass removal while Jamie held the anesthesia mask on Sasha and Dr. Boorstein monitored her vitals.
The gas mask was something Jamie made out of a bucket because a dog mask was just too small.
Sasha seemed to be only lightly sedated, but at her advanced age we were being extra careful. She fluctuated a bit on the monitors, but that was because she was holding her breath. A lot of cats just scare us half to death because they hold their breath for so long when sedated, but her heartbeat was strong.
Anyone who didn’t know us would think from all the smiles and joking that we aren’t being serious, but it is just how we deal with such extreme stress.
The scar line on her paw indicates that her declaw job was probably botched and required multiple procedures and re wrappings before it finally healed.
Warning: Graphic Images Below
Once the mass was removed from her face, Dr. Wynn turned her attention to Sasha’s tongue. The mass she had seen inside the jowl back in 2008 was now gone, but there was a nasty laceration on her tongue.
At first we thought is was from her mangled, defanged tooth alignment, that she might be cutting her own tongue, but there was a big hard lump in the lion’s tongue.
Dr. Wynn decided to pull out the lump with the scalpel & tweezers and send it out for testing.
At Sasha’s age we probably would never take a chance of sedating her again, so we felt like anything we could do now to help her out later was going to be worth it.
After cutting out the hard little tumor, Dr. Wynn quickly began stitching up the tongue.
We were concerned that she would wake up any minute. Jamie and Dr. Boorstein where bracing her mouth open so that she wouldn’t clamp down on Dr. Wynn if she did wake suddenly. We only had a few minutes to go and didn’t want to add any more drugs to her system.
Jamie said, “She’s holding her breath. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her breathe.” Dr. Boorstein and Marie began giving her a vigorous chest rubbing. Dr. Wynn was done and we were going to reverse her, gather our stuff and run out of the cage…and then that bad feeling I had turned to peace.
I was leaning over her, in the cat hat because I was freezing in the 50 degree weather. I saw a tiny trickle of blood run from the sutured tongue onto the wooden platform.I felt a soft, yet powerful essence blow through me. I could feel Sasha’s spirit hovering over all of us as she rose through us and over the cage. She was free and she wasn’t coming back.
What was strange was that she still apparently had a heart beat, and we carried her to the soft earth, by the side of her cage to let her wake up. I was confused. I could feel her outside of her body, but we were all treating her body as if it were waking up. I scrambled with the volunteers to move all of the equipment out of the cage while Dr. Wynn, Dr. Boorstein and Jamie tended to Sasha.
I heard Dr. Boorstein call out for the Epinephrin. I’m no vet, but that rang alarm bells in my head and woke me from the kind of dreamy stupor that was Sasha in us, over us and surrounding us.
Dr. Wynn gave two injections to restart the heart in between CPR given by Dr. Boorstein, but Sasha was gone and she wasn’t coming back.
That bad feeling that I said I had?
Leading up to the time that we were going to sedate her, I felt like I was going to have to make the awful decision to euthanize her because I felt certain that her cancer had spread and that it would be the humane thing to do. What we had found didn’t look so bad, and her vitals had been so strong that her sudden death just left us all stunned.
I could sense Dr. Wynn replaying the entire situation over and over in her head trying to figure out where it all went wrong. She leaned back against the fence and seemed to be at an utter loss. Finally she said aloud, “I just don’t know what happened.”
I tried to reassure her by words I truly felt when I said, “I don’t either, but I do know that everything happens exactly as it is supposed to.”
We wrapped Sasha in a blanket and loaded her up onto the long-bed golf cart so we could do a necropsy in the Cat Hospital. Within moments Jamie texted me that Sasha’s lungs were absolutely riddled with tumors. While I hadn’t noted any trouble in Sasha’s breathing before today it was clear that if she had not died on her own this day, we would be back, a few weeks later to sedate her again, when she would begin to show signs of labored breathing. She made her decision and saved us all the pain of watching her begin to suffer.
I spoke to Joseph. He was laying quietly, looking in the direction in which she had left this existence. He seemed to know. He seemed sad, but seemed to know why she was gone.
Update 1/14/14 The masses in her lungs were a high grade (aggressive) adenocarcinoma. Bad cancer. – Dr. Wynn
Sasha has been declawed (and very badly, at that) and defanged) so she struggles to eat.
We provide a soft diet for her, but without her teeth it is hard to hold the food and even hard to contain her tongue.
You will often see her with her tongue hanging out as a result.
A Lion Pride of a Different Stripe
It took the combined efforts of USDA, undercover agents and concerned citizens seven years to shut down Diana McCourt (aka Cziraky) and her Siberian Tiger Foundation. It wasn’t until her landlords, Donnalynn and Christian Laver were able to evict her from the property that Knox County was able to seize the six cats who had been used for years as props in Diana McCourt’s “tiger training” scheme.
By the end of the ordeal eye witnesses said that the cats were starving and they still have inadequate shelter from the elements.
Even though McCourt lost her USDA license to operate the tiger-tamer camp in 2000, and permanently in 2006, she still continued to charge people to come into her back yard in Gambier, OH and pet the adult lions and tigers.
The cats would often be chained down so that people could touch them or have their photos made with the cats.
To make the cats more pliable McCourt had their teeth and claws removed. (Joseph still has his canine teeth) Despite the abusive violations to their bodies and mobility, the USDA investigation included eight allegations of attacks on visitors in an 8 month period.
In May of 2007 Diana McCourt emailed Carole Baskin asking if she could move her operation to Tampa and bring her cats to Big Cat Rescue. Our response was that her cats were welcome here but her brand of animal abuse was not. By August McCourt had been evicted and Knox County was awarded custody of the four tigers and two lions. Dean Vickers, the State Director for the Ohio branch of the HSUS contacted Big Cat Rescue and asked if we could take the cats, but six more big cats increases our annual budget by $45,000.00.
When Sarabi, our lioness died, her half acre enclosure was opened up so that Nikita our only other lioness could have the run of both half acre enclosures. This large enclosure has an open roof and is only suitable for lions because they don’t climb, or very old, declawed tigers, who would be unable to climb. Taking on two lions, age 9 and 13, who have a 20 year life expectancy means a cost of $15,000.00 annually and $150,000.00 in the long run. Lions often end up in canned hunts, especially males who are coveted as wall trophies, so we felt certain our donors would help us rescue these two cats. Our board convened and agreed that the lions would be rescued as soon as we could make travel arrangements for them.
Calling with the good news, that at least the lions would be spared, we were told by the landlord, who has been caring for the cats since evicting Diana McCourt, that the male tiger, Nikita, would be heartbroken that his best friend in the world, Joseph the lion, would be leaving. As the conversation unfolded it appears that for the last 13 years, two tigers and two lions have shared a cage. (Joseph only coming along in the past 9 yrs) Instead of being elated for the lions, we now felt sick that they would be separated from the only pride (albeit tigers) they had ever known. And thinking about how they would feel, of course, led to thinking about how the tigers left behind would feel.
We appealed to our supporters, asking if they would be willing to help us rescue all four cats who have lived together and the response was an overwhelming, “YES!”
On Oct. 19th Big Cat Rescue’s President Jamie Veronica, VP Cathy Neumann, Operations Manager Scott Lope and Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM flew to Columbus, OH to rendezvous with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) staff and a driver and vet tech from the Animal Sanctuary of the United States (ASUS) at the Columbus Zoo at 6 am on the morning of the 20th. From there the entourage drove an hour to the Gambier, OH facility and met with the property owner and the Knox County Animal Control Officer, Rich Reed who had been granted possession of the six cats.
Within just a few hours all of the cats were safely loaded and on the way to Florida where they arrived at 6 am the morning of the 21st. While the weary drivers slept, the Big Cat Rescue team unloaded Nikita, Simba, Sasha and Joseph into their new enclosure, which is a little more than half an acre of lakeside living with high grass, cave like dens and hills from which they can survey their new kingdom.
We let you know that the rescue would cost us $34,000.00* and 294 of you responded. As of 11/16/07 $29,435.00 has been raised to save these four cats. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to help rescue the last two cats and IFAW paid to transport all six cats to their final destinations. That saved us $4,000.00! We are now only $565.00 short of what this rescue will cost us in the first year. Thank you everyone who has helped so far! If you haven’t helped yet, keep in mind that your donations are tax deductible and that these cats rely entirely on your generosity.