Sanctuary Master Plan

Sanctuary Master Plan

You have to start with the end in mind…

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


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


1. On site workshops and Internet webinars

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









Got a Great Cat Story to Share?


Five Grand Prize Winners to Each Receive $5,000 and Have Their Cat Relationship Story Told through an Online Video; More than $30,000 in Total Prizes to be Awarded

ST. LOUIS (JUNE 6, 2012) – Every cat owner has a story – from how you came to own your first cat to the way she greets you at the door every day – and now you have a place to share the once-in-a-lifetime events and everyday moments that make your relationship unique. Purina Cat Chow announced today the launch of the “Purina Cat Chow Real Stories Project Contest,” a nationwide search to find, showcase and celebrate cat stories that highlight the special relationship between cat people and their cats, as well as the many ways our cats are always there for us. Purina Cat Chow is asking you to share your story for an opportunity to be one of five grand prize winners who receive a $5,000 cash prize.

From now until July 31, you can participate in the Purina Cat Chow Real Stories Project Contest by submitting your cat relationship story at Five grand prize winners will each receive a $5,000 cash prize, a one year supply of Purina® Cat Chow® brand cat food for one cat, and have their cat relationship story told through a Purina Cat Chow brand online video. The winners’ videos will be shared online with the Purina Cat Chow Community on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

“We believe the best stories come from real life, and every day we are inspired by the stories shared by our cat-owning community,” said Vincent Biroscak, Purina Cat Chow brand director. “The Purina Cat Chow Real Stories Project furthers our commitment to unite the community of cat owners by collecting and celebrating their cat-relationship stories. Every cat owner has a story unique to them and their cat.”

Purina Cat Chow is committed to telling and highlighting the real stories of everyday cat people. Purina Cat Chow recently launched a new national TV advertising campaign inspired by stories of real-life cat owners and new product packaging featuring five owners and their cats.  

To enter the Contest, cat people are invited to complete an online entry form, select a theme that best describes their story, options include: My First Cat, Why I’m a Cat Person, Forever a Cat Family, How We Found Each Other, Generations of Care, Always There for Me, and Memories. Upon selecting the story theme, cat people shall submit a brief written entry (600 characters or less) about their special relationship with their cat including a description of how he or she is always there for you. People may also include an optional photo or video (two minutes or less) that supports the story.

Purina Cat Chow will also recognize the cat relationship stories of five runners-up with a $1,000 cash prize each and one year supply of Purina® Cat Chow® brand cat food for one cat. In addition, 40 stories will receive an honorable mention and a $100 gift card. In total, the Contest will award more than $30,000 in prizes.

The Purina Cat Chow Real Stories Project is looking for stories about the comfort, support, friendship and connection that describe the cat-owner relationship – from head butt greetings-at-the-door moments to the way she wakes you up in the morning. People may also submit their story at

The entries will be evaluated using the following criteria:
·        Originality in describing your special relationship with your cat(s) (30%)
·        High quality storytelling captured in the essay and/or photo or video (30%)
·        Effectively demonstrating the Purina Cat Chow brand belief of “always there for you” (40%)

Following the story submission close on July 31, an independent panel of judges will narrow the stories down to 10 finalists. Consumers will be asked to vote on their favorite stories from Aug. 28 – Sept. 18, 2012, at help identify the winning stories. The winners will be announced on or about October 1, 2012.

About Nestlé Purina PetCare and Purina Cat Chow Brand Cat Food
The North American headquarters for Nestlé Purina PetCare is located at Checkerboard Square in St. Louis, Mo., where Ralston Purina was founded more than a century ago. Nestlé Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, humane education, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. One of the leading global players in the pet food industry, Nestlé Purina PetCare is part of the Swiss-based Nestlé S.A. – the world’s largest food company. With nutrition for each life stage, Purina® Cat Chow®brand Cat Food offers a family of products with 100 percent complete and balanced nutrition for physical health and well being. For more information on Purina Cat Chow, visit

No Purchase Necessary to Enter or Win. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., 18 years of age or older at the time of entry (19 years of age or older if resident of AL or NE). Entry period ends at 11:59:59 a.m. ET on 7/31/12. See Official Rules for details. Sponsored by Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, Checkerboard Square, St. Louis, MO.

Big Cat Rescue Safety ID Kit

Big Cat Rescue Safety ID Kit

Big Cat Rescue has a Child Safety ID Kit that is free to all families


During this summer as a gift from the cats, staff and volunteers at Big Cat Rescue we would like to offer a couple dozen free customizations of Big Cat Rescue’s Child ID Safety Kit for businesses, organizations, clubs, day cares, schools, etc .


Why Does this Matter To Businesses & Organizations?


Businesses and organizations spend a lot of advertising dollars every year to give away things with their logos on them such as ball caps, ink pens, calendars, paper weights and such. Have you ever wondered how long customers and clients actually keep those items? Unlike an ink pen, this has not only the name, address, URL and logo of the business and organization but it also has all of that info plus a hot link to the your website and a whole screen devoted to introducing you to your client.


By giving away a customized version of a Child ID Safety Kit you are giving something that is long term and directly beneficial to your clients’ families. You are giving something your clients will not only hold on to and reuse but will make copies of and share with their friends and family. For businesses and organizations this a great advertising viral marketing tool that is more affordable that logo ink pens and is advertising that sticks around for a while.


At the same time for your clients’ families it is a wonderful item they will use and re-use and pass along to other families.


Another benefit is that your business or organization can offer this item as a free download from your website. This is a great viral marketing tool because people not only download it themselves but they make copies of it for their friends and families which in turn can lead new people to your website.


What is the kit?


It is a small computer program that walks parents thru everything they need to do to make a Child ID Safety Kit complete with everything they will need to get a search and/or Amber Alert started more quickly if their child goes missing. It also has instructions on making and preserving DNA kits. DNA kits are an important tool that can reunite a child with their family faster. When a child goes missing as an infant, toddler or small child and are recovered years later they won’t know who they really are or who their real parents are. Thus, DNA can speed up the process of finding and reuniting the family with their missing child.


The kit includes:


Dental chart / record

Finger print chart

Police information form

Medical information form

Fill in info once and four Pocket ID Cards are automatically generated

Special needs instructions (if the child or mentally impaired adult has any special needs)

Instructions to create your own DNA kit & how properly preserve it

Missing Child / Missing Person Poster Maker

Amber Alert info and how to get one issued

Safety tips to help keep your child safer

What to do tips if your child goes missing

A resources list & helpful links

· We will even add new features if it is feasible to do so


Who has used it?


During April 2012 one of our Advocats made a couple of extra special customized versions. The following two versions included not only the Child ID Safety Kit program but also a lot of games and printable goodies for the kiddos to enjoy.


Here are a few quotes from Pasco County OACAC Headstart’s safety event coordinator:


“…I am extremely pleased with the cd’s and have already showed them to one of my daughters who is a preschool teacher in a private daycare. Next week the daycare she is working in is doing stranger danger so she will be doing activities from your cd with her children also. I started showing it to a couple of my co-workers and they were totally psyched about using them also. I could never say thank you enough for all of the hard work that you put in for our program…”


Here is a quote from a Tiger Scout troop leader in a neighboring state whose troop used their customized version to earn their safety badges:


“..I presented it and the kids loved it. The parents had my one laptop screen to look over my shoulder so they were extremely impressed. They all expected some silly handouts to fill out not a professional tool with games and activities out the wazoo. It was so great!”


Customized versions of Big Cat Rescue’s Child ID Safety Kit has been used by various politicians, schools, day cares, radio stations, infant toddler stores, Health Departments, COP Neighborhood Officers, Neighborhood Associations, Girl Scout troops, Boy Scout troops, Tiger Scout troops, and even a couple Eagle Scout projects to mention just a few. It has even been used by a baby safety organization in Australia and a family safety group in western Africa.


What is the purpose of the kit making program?


· Its purpose is simply to be a tool to help speed up the process or getting a search or Amber Alert started when a child goes missing. Those first few minutes saved can make a difference in when or if a child is recovered quickly and safely.

· Connecting parents with information to help in the search for their child.

· Teaching parents and kids a few tips on being safer.

· Getting people and organizations thinking about doing safety events.


The kit is a small computer program that you can use and reuse for as many kids as you want. It eliminates those long agonizing minutes wasted giving info and waiting for the officer to write it all down. It eliminates the wasted time searching for names and numbers and addresses and photos for poster making.


Families no longer have to spend big dollars to get a complete safety kit, they no longer have to wait until some organization offer a free safety clinic to get a child ID kit for their children.


Again I will repeat this kit is re-usable so as your child ages and looks change you can simply update the parts of the kit that need updating.


What does customization of the kit include?


· Your business or organization name, address, website link and logo in various places in the program

· You also get a whole screen to share information about your business or organization.

· You can even have a few photos included in that “About” screen.


How can the Child ID Safety Kit be distributed?


Pretty much any way you want as long as families get it free and no one sells it or profits from it.


· Website download


· USB thumb drive

· Sometimes we can even add games, printables and crafts to it if you’d like.



Here is the link to the 2010 version and I will get the 2012 version uploaded in a few hours. (working on new version now)


How to get a free customized version?


If you re interested in a free customized version of Big Cat Rescue’s Child ID Safety Kit program for your business or organization, please contact


Qualifications to get a free customized version are:


must be a family safe business or organization

must not be in conflict with Big Cat Recue’s mission

must be on the email list for Big Cat Rescue’s Advocat

must agree to not sell the program but instead to give it to your clients free of charge


Tiger Skin and Tiger Bones Openly Traded on eBay in 2012

Tiger Skin and Tiger Bones Openly Traded on eBay in 2012

Tiger Skin and Tiger Bones Openly Traded

on eBay in 2012


These tiger pelts and tiger bones were being offered for sale on eBay in the U.S. and the U.K. in April and May of 2012.


Big Cat Rescue filed complaints with eBay and the USFWS but these kinds of illegal tiger products are openly traded on eBay and Craig’s List.  Government agencies are ill prepared to regulate the trade in endangered species and that is why it is so important to ban the private possession of big cats.


eBay and Craig’s List are great about removing such items once they are aware and we have filed complaints.  If the open trade in tiger parts just makes you see RED, there is something you can do about it.  Send one of our easy email letters to your Representative in Congress here:  This bill would end the private trade in big cats.





Pet First Aid Awareness Month April 2012

Pet First Aid Awareness Month April 2012

Pet safety expert offers life saving tips for furry first aid


Herndon, VA (April 23, 2012) — April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month and the leader in pet safety gear and services, Wag’N Enterprises, reminds pet parents that as the seasons change, so do dangers for the family pet. Before looking forward to warm summer weather, springtime often brings out the worst in Mother Nature with tornados, flooding and more.


Spring is also a time for new blooms and buzzing bees. Did you know that Easter Lilies are toxic for cats? Pet parents should be mindful of certain environmental hazards that could have a devastating effect on pet health. Wag’N Enterprises also encourages creating a pet safety plan this April.


According to Pet Tech®, pet first aid is the immediate care given to a pet that has been injured or suddenly take ill. This includes home care and when necessary veterinary help. Knowing the skills and techniques of pet first aid can mean the difference between life and death; temporary and permanent disability; and expensive veterinarian bills and reasonable home care.


“We want to encourage pet parents to plan ahead for possible pet emergencies by taking small steps that could result in quicker response times during a potential dangerous situation. For example, making sure pet parents understand how to care for an injured pet until it is transported to the local emergency veterinarian can save the pet’s life” said Ines de Pablo, who is a Pet Tech® Certified Master Pet First Aid Instructor and founder of Wag’N Enterprises.


“Because there are only little variances between human and animal mechanisms of injury, pet parents can provide basic first aid for injuries and ailments like bleeding and fractures or heat stroke, seizures, chocking management and respiratory distress. Just like us, most incidents can be addressed using a first aid skill,” according to de Pablo. She says initial response and care is vital. “You are your pet’s paramedic during a health related emergency until your pet is transported to the veterinarian. Panic and doubt are not going to help your pet and can both place you in danger and further the pet’s injury,” notes de Pablo.


Wag’N Enterprises recommends keeping important pet lifesaving phone numbers both in their cell phone registry and displayed on paper copy in a prominent area of the residence and vehicle. Important numbers include their primary veterinarian as well as their emergency veterinarian’s phone number, the ASPCA Poison Control Center Number (888) 426.4435 and the National Poison Control Number (800)222.1222.


Is there an app for that? Wag’N recommends pet parents invest in the PetTech Pet Saver App, available for iPhone, Android phones and Windows 7 phones. The app covers topics such as CPR, heat and cold injuries, choking, snake bites, shock, bleeding protocols, how to restrain and muzzle, what to do in an emergency situation, how to transport an injured pet, the snout-to-tail assessment and more. Each skill includes step-by-step instructions with pictures and narrated audio files. Wag’N warns that this comprehensive pet health app does not circumvent attending a PetTech® Pet First Aid & Care class.


Pet owners and pet care professionals can learn pet life-saving skills nationwide from trained instructors. Pet CPR, first aid and care classes are available in the Washington, D.C. area from Wag’N Enterprises and Ines de Pablo. Attendees can expect to learn pet first aid and care training including: restraint and muzzling, CPR, seizure management, choking management, heat and cold injuries, shock management, bleeding injuries, mitigation and response to poisoning emergencies and much more.


About Wag’N Enterprises:

Founded in 2007, Wag’N Enterprises ( offers pet emergency management solutions to service industries, first responders and pet parents to effectively mitigate, prepare for and respond to emergencies that impact pet health and safety. Executive Director of Pet Emergency Management Division Ines de Pablo holds a Master’s Degree in Risk, Crisis & Emergency Management from the prominent George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and has more than a decade of extensive field training experience under her belt. Wag’N Pet Safety Gear is a branded and extensive collection of purposefully designed tools and services giving people and their pets peace of mind in case of an emergency.


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