Table of Contents

Section I – Management Commitment and Involvement 1
Section II – Safety and Health Training 2
Section III – Safety Meetings 3
Section IV – Safety Committee 4
Section V – Safety Inspections 5
Section VI – First Aid Procedures 6
Section VII – Accident Investigations 7
Section VIII – Workplace Safety RulesSection IX – On Property Safety 814


Be Safe Out There!

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


Section I.


Management Commitment and Involvement Policy Statement

The management of Big Cat Rescue is committed to providing employees with a safe and healthful workplace. It is the policy of this organization that employees report unsafe conditions and do not perform work tasks if the work is considered unsafe. Employees must report all accidents, injuries, and unsafe conditions to their supervisors. No such report will result in retaliation, penalty, or other disincentive.

Employee recommendations to improve safety and health conditions will be given thorough consideration by the management team. Management will give top priority to and provide the financial resources for the correction of unsafe conditions. Violation of workplace safety rules may result in disciplinary action. This action may include verbal or written reprimands and may result in termination of employment.

The primary responsibility for the coordination, implementation, and maintenance of our Workplace Safety Program has been assigned to the following individual who, in addition to any other title held, will be our Safety Program Coordinator:

Name: Gale Ingham

Title: Operations Manager

Telephone: 813.850.7052

Because we work with dangerous animals, safety is of absolutely paramount concern. But we must not let our focus on the animals allow us to fail to be aware of the safety issues that arise in any workplace, such as use of tools, equipment, ladders and safety issues inherent in the office environment. This manual is intended to cover these as well as some of the animal care safety issues that are covered in detail in our training programs.

This policy statement serves to express management’s commitment to and involvement in providing our employees a safe and healthful workplace. This Workplace Safety Program will be incorporated as the standard of practice for this organization. Compliance with the safety rules will be required of all employees as a condition of employment.

If at any time you feel that a safety issue you have raised to anyone other than myself has not been promptly or properly addressed, I want you to know that it is part of our policy and the commitment you make in signing this document that you will bring it directly to my attention.

Carole Baskin, Founder and CEO

I have received a copy of this Workplace Safety Program and in signing below I acknowledge that I:

  • have read it completely
  • have understood the contents or have had an opportunity to ask questions and if I have asked questions I have received answers that I understood
  • understand that compliance with these rules and others that I may be informed about from time to time is a condition of employment, and
  • agree to abide by the safety rules of Big Cat Rescue. 



Employee Signature


Print Name Legibly


Section II.


Safety and Health Training


Safety and Health Orientation


Workplace safety and health orientation begins on the first day of initial employment or job transfer. Each employee will be given a personal copy of this Workplace Safety Program containing our workplace safety rules, policies and procedures. Supervisors will answer the employee’s questions to ensure knowledge and understanding of safety rules, policies, and job-specific procedures described in this manual.

Supervisors will instruct all employees that compliance with the safety rules described in the workplace safety manual is required.


Job Specific Training


  • Supervisors will initially train employees on how to perform assigned job tasks safely.
  • Supervisors will carefully review with each employee the specific safety rules, policies, and procedures that are applicable and that are described in the workplace safety manual.
  • Supervisors will give employees verbal instructions and specific directions on how to do the work safely.
  • Supervisors will observe employees performing the work. If necessary, the supervisor will provide a demonstration using safe work practices, or remedial instruction to correct training deficiencies before an employee is permitted to do the work without supervision.
  • All employees will receive safe operating instructions on seldom-used or new equipment before using the equipment.
  • Supervisors will review safe work practices with employees before permitting the performance of new, non-routine, or specialized procedures.


Periodic Retraining of Employees


All employees will be retrained when changes are made to the workplace safety manual.

Individual employees will be retrained after the occurrence of a work related injury caused by an unsafe act or work practice, and when a supervisor observes an employee displaying unsafe acts, practices, or behaviors.


Section III.


Safety Meetings


The Safety Coordinator will conduct a monthly safety meeting with the employees covering one or more topics. In addition to the safety topic, supervisors may discuss other items such as recent accidents and injuries, results of safety inspections, and revisions of safety policies and procedures. Safety Meetings may be part of the monthly Volunteer Meeting so Volunteers obtain the benefit of them as well.

The Safety Coordinator will follow the below plan of action to ensure successful safety meetings are conducted.

  1. Preparing for the Meeting
  • The Safety Coordinator in the course of his duties as Operations Manager will observe and inspect the various areas and work practices and note any unsafe acts being performed or unsafe conditions that need to be corrected.
  • If any unsafe acts or conditions are discovered during the inspections, the Safety Coordinator will select an unsafe act or condition to be used as a Safety Meeting topic for the benefit of all. A Safety Meeting can help identify and eliminate hazards before accidents occur.


  1. Conduct the Meeting
  • The Safety Coordinator will discuss one topic per meeting unless he feels there are more than one that require attention.
  • Allow employees to discuss why the situation occurs if it has occurred.
  • Reach an agreement with employees on how to eliminate or control the situation if it has occurred.


  1. Keep a Record of the Meeting
  • Documentation will be maintained of each employee safety meeting. It should contain the subject(s) discussed as well as an attendance sheet. 


Section IV.


Safety Committee


Safety Committee Organization


A Safety Committee has been established as a management tool to recommend improvements to our Workplace Safety Program and to identify corrective measures needed to eliminate or control recognized safety and health hazards. The Safety Committee shall be composed of all of the members of the Volunteer Committee.




The Safety Committee will be responsible for:

  • Assisting management in communicating procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of control measures used to protect employees from safety and health hazards in the workplace.
  • Assisting management in reviewing and updating workplace safety rules based on accident investigation findings, any inspection findings, and employee reports of unsafe conditions or work practices; and accepting and addressing anonymous complaints and suggestions from employees.
  • Assisting management in updating the Workplace Safety Program by evaluating employee injury and accident records, identifying trends and patterns, and formulating corrective measures to prevent recurrence.
  • Assisting management in evaluating employee accident and illness prevention programs, and promoting safety and health awareness and co-worker participation through continuous improvements to the Workplace Safety Program.
  • Participating in safety training and for assisting management in monitoring workplace safety education and training to ensure that it is in place, that it is effective, and that it is documented.





Safety issues will be addressed at the meetings of the Volunteer Committee and the discussions reflected in the notes of the meeting. If any employee has raised a safety concern to be addressed by the committee, the employee shall be given a response in writing. If the discussion results in any change in rules or procedures, the Workplace Safety Program shall be revised to reflect these changes and all employees given copies of the revised pages to place in their personal copies of the program.


Section V.


Safety Inspections and Preventative Maintenance


Inspections provide an opportunity to survey the work place to detect potential hazards and correct them before an accident occurs. Typically, inspections are made to identify physical hazards at the work site, however, the work practices of employees will also be observed during the inspections. Supervisors and the Safety Coordinator will observe employees to determine if they are performing their jobs in accordance with safe job procedures. They will also inspect equipment and tools regularly to determine if maintenance is required to keep them in safe operating condition, and arrange for such maintenance if it is determined to be necessary.


Continuous Monitoring


Safety is the responsibility of each and every employee. Continuous, informal inspections should be conducted by employees, supervisors, and maintenance personnel as part of their regular job responsibilities. These are the personnel who are most familiar with work site operations and machinery. Our employees are a valuable source of information on work place hazards and we look to them for assistance in formulating practical workplace controls.

Supervisors must continually monitor their work areas. On a daily basis they will check that:

  • Employees are following safe work procedures
  • Machinery and tools are in good condition
  • Machine guards are in position
  • Material is stored properly
  • Aisles, walkways, and exit passageways are clear and accessible


Section VI.


First Aid Procedures

Emergency Phone Numbers


Safety Coordinator: 813.850.7052

Founder: 813-493-4564

Ambulance: 911

Walk In Clinic: Fast Track Walk-In Clinic

Phone: 813-925-1903

Address: 11969 Sheldon Rd., Tampa, FL  33626

South of Citrus Park Drive on Westwind

Hospital Emergency Room: Town & Country Hospital

Phone: 813-882-7130

Address: 6001 Webb Road, Tampa, FL 33615

Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222

Fire Department: 911

Police: 911


Please Note:

In all cases requiring emergency medical treatment, immediately call, or have a co-worker call, to request medical assistance.


Minor First Aid Treatment

If you sustain an injury or are involved in an accident requiring minor first aid treatment:

  • Inform your supervisor.
  • Administer first aid treatment to the injury or wound.
  • If a first aid kit is used, indicate usage on the accident investigation report.
  • Access to a first aid kit is not intended to be a substitute for medical attention.
  • Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.


Non-Emergency Medical Treatment

For non-emergency work-related injuries requiring professional medical assistance.

  • Inform your supervisor.
  • Proceed to the posted medical facility. Your supervisor will assist with transportation, if necessary.
  • Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.
  • Management will report the injury to the insurance company within 24 hours. Travelers 800-832-7839.


Emergency Medical Treatment

If you sustain a severe injury requiring emergency treatment:

  • Call for help and seek assistance from a co-worker.
  • Request assistance and transportation to the local hospital emergency room or call 911 for an ambulance as appropriate.
  • Provide details for the completion of the accident investigation report.
  • Management will report the injury to the insurance within 24 hours. Travelers 800-832-7839.


First Aid Training

Each employee will read the Human First Aid Procedures Class attached to this Safety Program and take the class as soon as possible.


Section VII.


Accident Investigation


Accident Investigation Procedures


The supervisor at the location where the accident occurred will perform an accident investigation. The safety coordinator is responsible for seeing that the accident investigation reports are being filled out completely and that the recommendations generated as a result of the investigation are being addressed. Supervisors will investigate all accidents resulting in an employee injury using the following investigation procedures.

  • Review the equipment, operations, and processes to gain an understanding of the accident situation.
  • Identify and interview each witness and any other person who might provide clues to the accident’s causes.
  • Investigate causal conditions and unsafe acts; make conclusions based on existing facts.
  • Complete the accident investigation report.
  • Provide recommendations for corrective actions.
  • Implement temporary control measures to prevent any further injuries to employees.
  • Indicate the need for additional or remedial safety training. 

Accident investigation reports must be completed and submitted to the safety coordinator within 24 hours of the accident.


Accident Record Keeping Procedures


The safety coordinator will control and maintain all employee accident and injury records. Records are maintained for a minimum of three (3) years and include:

  • Accident Investigation Reports.
  • Worker’s Compensation First Report of Injury or Illness form. 


Section VIII.


Workplace Safety Rules


The safety rules contained on these pages have been prepared to protect you in your daily work. Employees are to follow these rules, review them often and use good common sense in carrying out assigned duties.


General Employee Work Rules




  • Do not place trash in walkways and passageways.
  • Do not kick objects out of your pathway; pick them up or push them aside and out of the way.
  • Do not throw matches, cigarettes or other smoking materials into trash bins.
  • Do not store or leave items on stairways.
  • Do not block or obstruct stairwells, exits or accesses to safety and emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers or fire alarms.


Ladder and Step Ladder Safety

  • Do not use ladders that have loose rungs, cracked or split side rails, missing rubber foot pads or are otherwise visibly damaged.
  • Keep ladder rungs clean of grease. Remove build up of material such as plaster, dirt or mud.
  • Secure the ladder in place firmly; have another employee hold it when possible.
  • Face the ladder when climbing up or down.


Performing Work from a Ladder

  • One person shall be on the ladder at a time.
  • Face the ladder and do not lean backwards or sideways from the ladder.
  • Do not stand on the top two rungs of any ladder.
  • Do not use a ladder that wobbles or that leans to the left or right.
  • Do not try to ‘walk’ a ladder by rocking it. Climb down the ladder and then move it.


Office Personnel


Office Safety

  • Store sharp objects such as pens, pencils, letter openers, or scissors in drawers or with the points down in a container.
  • Carry pencils, scissors and other sharp objects with the points down.
  • Do not jump from ramps, platforms, ladders, or step stools.
  • Do not run on stairs or take more than one step at a time.
  • Use the handrails when ascending or descending stairs or ramps.
  • Obey all posted safety and danger signs.


Furniture Use

  • Open one file cabinet drawer at a time.
  • Close drawers and doors immediately after use.
  • Use the handle when closing doors, drawers, and files.
  • Put heavy files in the bottom drawers of file cabinets.
  • Do not tilt the chair you are sitting in on its two back legs.
  • Do not stand on furniture to reach high places. Use a ladder or step stool to retrieve or store items that are located above your head.


Handling Supplies

  • Do not block your view by carrying large bulky items; use a dolly or hand truck or get assistance from a fellow employee.
  • Cut in the direction away from your body when using knives or cutters.


Equipment Use

  • Use a staple remover, not your fingers, for removing staples.
  • Turn off and unplug machines before adjusting, lubricating, or cleaning them.
  • Do not use fans that have excessive vibration, frayed cords, or missing guards.
  • Turn the power switch of the equipment to ‘off’ when it is not being used.


General Labor Personnel



  • Do not leave loose tools or other items on a ledge or lying around the floor. Return tools to their storage places after use.
  • Keep walking surfaces of elevated working platforms, such as scaffolds and equipment, clear of tools and materials that are being used.
  • Do not use gasoline for cleaning purposes.
  • Sweep up scraps and debris from wallboard installation such as screws, mesh and tape by using a broom and dust pan.


Lifting Safety

  • Plan the move before lifting; remove obstructions from your chosen pathway.
  • Test the weight of the load before lifting by pushing the load along its resting surface.
  • If the load is too heavy or bulky, use lifting and carrying aids such as hand trucks, dollies, pallet jacks and carts or get assistance from a co-worker.
  • If assistance is required to perform a lift, coordinate and communicate your movements with those of your co-worker.
  • Never lift anything if your hands are greasy or wet.
  • Wear protective gloves approved by your supervisor when lifting objects with sharp corners or jagged edges.
  • Do not lift an object from the floor to a level above your waist in one motion. Set the load down on a table or bench and then adjust your grip before lifting it higher.


Job Site Safety

  • Do not walk under partially demolished walls or floors.
  • Stop working outdoors and seek shelter during lightning storms.
  • Do not begin working until barricades, warning signs or other protective devices have been installed to isolate the work area.
  • Do not throw away or toss debris outside barricaded areas.
  • Stay clear of all trucks, forklifts, cranes, and other heavy equipment when in operation.
  • Do not approach any heavy equipment until the operator has seen you and has signaled to you that it is safe to approach.
  • Keep shirts on to avoid dehydration and sunburn.


Electrical Safety

  • Assume all electrical wires as live wires.
  • Do not wear watches, rings, or other metallic objects which could act as conductors of electricity around electrical circuits.
  • Wear the dielectric gloves when working on electric current.


Electrical Powered Tools

  • Do not use power equipment or tools on which you have not been trained.
  • Do not carry plugged in equipment or tools with your finger on the switch.
  • Do not leave tools that are ‘on’ unattended.
  • Do not handle or operate electrical tools when your hands are wet or when you are standing on wet floors.
  • Do not operate a power hand tool or portable appliance:
  • That has frayed, worn, cut, improperly spliced, or damaged cord.
  • That has two-pronged adapter or a two-conductor extension cord.
  • If a prong from the three pronged power plug is missing or has been removed.
  • Disconnect the tool from the outlet by pulling on the plug, not the cord.
  • Turn the tool off before plugging or unplugging it.
  • Turn off the electrical tool and unplug it from the outlet before attempting repairs or service work. Tag the tool “Out of Service.”
  • Do not stand in water or on wet surfaces when operating power hand tools or portable electrical appliances.
  • Never operate electrical equipment barefooted. Wear rubber soled or insulated work boots.
  • Do not operate a power hand tool or portable appliance while holding a part of the metal casing or while holding the extension cord in your hand.
  • Hold all portable power tools by the plastic handgrips or other nonconductive areas designed for gripping purposes.
  • Do not use electrical tools if its housing is cracked.
  • Do not use electrical tools while working on a metal ladder unless the ladder has rubber feet.


Electrical Cords

  • Keep power cords away from the path of drills and wire soldering and cutting equipment.
  • Do not use cords that have splices, exposed wires or cracked or frayed ends.
  • Do not remove the ground prong from electrical cords.
  • Do not use any adapter such as a cheater plug that eliminates the ground.
  • Do not plug multiple electrical cords into a single outlet.


Power Saws

  • Wear safety goggles, protective gloves, a dust mask, and hearing protection when operating a power saw.
  • Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry.
  • Clean any residue from the blade or cutting head before making a new cut with the power saw.
  • Do not use a power saw that has cracked, broken, or loose guards or other visible damage.
  • Keep your hands away from the exposed blade.
  • Operate the saw at full cutting speed, with a sharp blade, to prevent kickbacks.
  • Do not alter the anti kickback device or blade guard.
  • Do not perform cutting operations with the power saw while standing on a wet or slippery floor.
  • When using the power saw, do not reach across the cutting operation.
  • Cut away from your body and below shoulder level when you are using a power saw.
  • If the saw becomes jammed, turn the power switch off before pulling out the incomplete cut.


Pneumatic Tools

  • Do not point a compressed air hose at bystanders or use it to clean your clothing.
  • Do not use tools that have handles with burrs or cracks.
  • Do not use compressors if their belt guards are missing. Replace belt guards before use.
  • Turn the tool off and allow it to come to a complete stop before leaving it unattended.
  • Disconnect the tool from the air line before making any adjustments or repairs to the tool.
  • Engage positive locks on hoses and attachments before use.
  • Shut off pressure valve and disconnect air line when not in use.
  • Tag damaged of defective pneumatic tools “Out of Service” to prevent usage of the tool by other employees.


Hand Tool Safety

  • Use tied off containers to keep tools from falling off of elevated work platforms.
  • Do not use a tool if its handle has splinters, burrs, cracks, splits or if the head of the tools is loose.
  • Do not use tools while your hands are oily, greasy or wet.
  • When handing a tool to another person, direct sharp points and cutting edges away from yourself and the other person.
  • Do not carry sharp pointed hand tools such as screwdrivers in your pocket unless the tool or your pocket is sheathed.
  • Do not perform ‘makeshift’ repairs to tools.
  • Do not throw tools from one location to another, from one employee to another, from scaffolds or other elevated platforms.
  • Do not carry tools in your hand when climbing. Carry tools in tool belts or hoist the tools to the work area with a hand line.
  • Transport hand tools only in toolboxes or tool belts. Do not carry tools in your clothing.
  • When you are performing electrical work, use the tools with the blue rubber sleeves covering the handle, these are insulated.



  • Keep control of saws by releasing downward pressure at the end of the stroke.
  • Keep your hands and fingers away from the saw blade while you are using the saw.
  • When using a hand saw, hold your panel firmly against the worktable.
  • Do not use a saw that has dull saw blades.
  • Do not carry a saw by the blade.
  • Oil saw blades after each use of the saw.



  • Wear safety glasses or safety goggles when using snips to cut materials such as lath or corner beads.
  • Wear your work gloves when cutting materials with snips.
  • Do not use straight cut snips to cut curves.
  • Keep the blade aligned by tightening the nuts and bolts on the snips.
  • Do not use snips as a hammer, screwdriver, or pry bar.
  • Engage the locking clip on the snips after use.


Toolboxes/ Chest/ Cabinet

  • Tape over or file off sharp edges on toolboxes, chests, or cabinets.
  • Do not stand on toolbox, chest, or cabinet to gain extra height.
  • Lock the wheels on large toolboxes, chest, and cabinets to prevent from rolling.
  • Push large toolboxes, chest and cabinets; do not pull.
  • Do not open more than 1 drawer of a toolbox at a time.
  • Close and lock all drawers and doors before moving the toolbox to a new location.
  • Do not use toolbox or chest as a workbench.
  • Do not move a toolbox, chest or cabinet if it has loose parts or parts on the top.


Knives/ Sharp Instruments

  • When handling knife blades and other cutting tools, direct sharp points and edges away from you.
  • Always cut in the direction away from your body when using knives.
  • Carry all sharp tools in a sheath or holster. Stores knives in knife blocks or in sheaths after using them.
  • Use the knife that has been sharpened; do not use knives that have dull blades.
  • Do not use knives as screwdrivers.
  • Do not pick up knives by their blades.
  • Carry knives with tips pointed towards the floor.


Forklift Safety Rules

  • Do not exceed the lift capacity of the forklift. Read the lift capacity plate on the forklift if you are unsure.
  • Follow the manufacturer guidelines concerning changes in the lift capacity before adding an attachment, such as wedges, to a forklift.
  • Lift the load an inch or two to test for stability: if the rear wheels are not in firm contact with the floor, take a lighter load or use a forklift with a higher lift capacity.
  • Do not raise or lower a load while you are en-route. Wait until you are in the loading area and have stopped before raising or lowering the load.
  • After picking up a load, adjust the forks so that the load is tilted slightly backward for added stability.
  • Drive with the load at a ground clearance height of 4-6 inches at the tips and 2 inches at the heels in order to clear most uneven surfaces and debris.
  • Drive at a walking pace and apply brakes slowly to stop when driving on slippery surfaces such as icy or wet floors.
  • Do not drive over objects in your pathway.
  • Steer wide when making turns.
  • Do not drive up to anyone standing or working in front of a fixed object such as a wall.
  • Do not drive along the edge of an unguarded elevated surface such as a loading dock or staging platform.
  • Obey all traffic rules and signs.
  • Sound horn when approaching blind corners, doorways, or aisles to alert other operators and pedestrians.
  • Do not exceed a safe working speed of five miles per hour. Slow down in congested areas.
  • Stay a minimum distance of three truck lengths from other operating mobile equipment.
  • Drive in reverse and use a signal person when your vision is blocked by the load.
  • Look in the direction that you are driving; proceed when you have a clear path.
  • Drive loaded forklifts forward up ramps.
  • Raise the forks an additional two inches to avoid hitting or scraping the ramp surface as you approach the ramp.
  • Drive loaded forklifts in reverse when driving down a ramp.
  • Drive unloaded forklifts in reverse going up a ramp and forward going down a ramp.
  • Do not attempt to turn around on a ramp.
  • Do not use ‘reverse’ to brake.
  • Lower the mast completely, turn off the engine and set the parking brake before leaving your forklift.


Loading Docks

  • Keep the forklift clear of the dock edge while vehicles are backing up to the dock.
  • Do not begin loading or unloading until the supply truck has come to a complete stop, the engine has been turned off, the dock lock has been engaged and the wheels have been locked.
  • Attach the bridge or dock plate before driving the forklift into the truck.
  • Do not drive the forklift into a truck bed that has soft or loose decking or other unstable flooring.
  • Drive straight across the bridge plates when entering or exiting the trailer.
  • Use dock lights or headlights when working in a dark trailer.


Warehouse Safety



  • When manually stocking shelves, position the materials to be shelved slightly in front of you so you do not have to twist when lifting and stacking materials.
  • Visually inspect for sharp objects or other hazards before putting hands, legs or other body parts into containers such as garbage cans, boxes, bags, or sinks.
  • Remove or bend nails and staples from crates before unpacking.
  • When cutting shrink-wrap with a blade, always cut away from you and your co-workers.
  • Do not try to kick objects out of pathways. Push or carry them out of the way.
  • Do not let items overhang from shelves into walkways.
  • Move slowly when approaching blind corners.
  • Remove one object at a time from shelves.
  • Place items on shelves so that they lie flat and do not lean against each other.


Hand Truck Operations

  • Tip the load slightly forward so that the tongue of the hand truck goes under the load.
  • Push the tongue of the hand truck all the way under the load to be moved.
  • Keep the center of gravity of the load as low as possible by placing heavier objects below the lighter objects.
  • When loading hand trucks, keep your feet clear of the wheels.
  • Push the load so that the weight will be carried by the axle and not the handles.
  • Place the load so that it will not slip, shift or fall. Use straps, if provided, to secure the load.
  • If your view is obstructed, use a spotter to assist in guiding the load.
  • For extremely bulky or pressurized items such as gas cylinders, strap or chain the items to the hand truck.
  • Do not walk backward with the hand truck, unless going up stairs or ramps.
  • When going down an incline, keep the hand truck in front of you so that it can be controlled at all times.
  • Move hand trucks at a walking pace.
  • Store hand trucks with the tongue under a pallet, shelf, or table.
  • Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load rated capacity. Read the capacity plate on the hand truck if you are unsure.


Pallet Jack Use

  • Only employer authorized personnel may operate pallet jacks.
  • Do not exceed the manufacturer’s load rated capacity. Read the lift capacity plate on the pallet jack if you are unsure.
  • Do not ride on pallet jacks.
  • Start and stop gradually to prevent the load from slipping.
  • Pull manual pallet jacks; push when going down an incline or passing close to walls or obstacles.
  • If your view is obstructed, use a spotter to assist in guiding the load.
  • Stop the pallet jack if anyone gets in your way.
  • Do not place your feet under the pallet jack when it is moving.
  • Keep your feet and other body parts clear of pallet before releasing the load.


Storeroom/ Stockroom

  • Use long handled snips when cutting strapping bands away from a shipping container.
  • Wear safety glasses when cutting strapping bands, uncrating materials and driving nails.
  • Stand to the side of the strapping band when cutting it.
  • Do not use pallets or skids that are cracked or split or have other visible damage.
  • Stack heavy or bulky storage containers on middle and lower shelves of the storage rack.
  • Do not lift slippery or wet objects; use a hand truck.
  • Follow the safe handling instructions listed on the label of the container or listed on the corresponding Material Safety Data Sheet when handling each chemical stored in the stockroom.
  • Do not smoke while handling chemicals labeled flammable.
  • Do not store chemicals labeled flammable near sources of ignition such as space heaters and sparking tools.
  • Do not handle or load any containers of chemicals if their containers are cracked or leaking.
  • Do not leave pallet jack unattended with the load suspended.
  • Obey all safety and danger signs posted in the workplace.



  • Do not exceed the rated load capacity noted on the manufacturer’s label on the cart.
  • Use a spotter to help guide carts around corners and through narrow aisles.
  • Do not stand on a cart or use it as a work platform.


Section IX.


On Property Safety



  • At no time, under any circumstances, will any part of your person come into direct contact with any animal at Big Cat Rescue unless under direct instruction and supervision of at least two of the following: The Founder, the President, the Operations Manager or the Attending Veterinarian.
  • An approved radio must be carried on your person at all times while on the property. You are responsible for keeping the radio in good working order.
  • No running or horseplay on the property.
  • Smoking is permitted in designated “smoking areas” only.

  • Absolutely no alcohol or drugs are allowed on the property at any time. No person shall enter the premises for eight hours after having consumed any alcoholic beverage or narcotics. Any person believed to be impaired due to alcohol or drugs will be removed from the property.


Property Access:

  • Do not operate the front gate nor allow access to the property to anyone with out proper training. If you do not recognize someone on the property, as a volunteer or staff member, politely ask if you can help him or her. Explain that they must be escorted by a volunteer or staff member. Lead them to the guest sign in and alert a Coordinator, Staff or Committee Member.
  • No person shall enter the property without having completed a “Release & Hold Harmless Agreement”.
  • If you have been entrusted with the gate code or keys, do not share these with anyone.

  • Make sure the gate is completely shut behind you as you enter and exit the property.
  • Employee parking is located in between the 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.

Safety Classes:

  • Follow all rules in the Tour Guide Procedures Class and Gate Operation, Tour Back Up & Guest Relations Class attached to this Safety Program. Take these volunteer classes as soon as possible after employment.

  • If you also volunteer at Big Cat Rescue, it is your responsibility to take the appropriate volunteer classes related to activities you engage in as a Volunteer and follow the rules contained therein and any other rules provided to you verbally or in writing separately from those classes.

As of June 2013.  See Staff for potential changes since this time.




The most common need for restraint is when vaccinating a big cat.  Here are a few ways to deal with vaccines that can also be used for sedating a big cat.

You will find many times when it is necessary to pick up and restrain an exotic cat, and hopefully, you will have started acclimating the cat to this behavior early in life. If the cat is small and can be picked up from behind, it is better than taking on the cat face to face. With a tame cat, you can place one hand around the middle of his body, then reach your fingers up from under the chest to cross and hold the front paws. This is critical if he has claws and just cuts down on the squirming if he does not. Keep your index finger between the paws for a better grip. Lift him up close to your body with his hips behind your back and elbow. If the cat is frightened at first you can lift them up, partially by the scruff of the neck and then lift his weight by cradling his back feet, again with one finger between them for a better grip. Except in extreme emergency we never allow a cat to dangle from his scruff. (Like when breaking up a cat fight by yourself, when you have to hold two cats off of each other… make sure a copy of your Will is on file.)

If the cat is really freaked out, or not tame we throw a towel or blanket over them and then scoop up the cat, wrapping the towel or blanket underneath as we lift. Depending on the size of the teeth, you may wish to don gloves before such a maneuver. As a last resort you can use the noose snare or a makeshift one of a leash or piece of rope. Slip the loop over the head A N D O N E FRO N T LEG and then tighten the loop and lift the cat into a carrier or up onto the table. If the cat must be treated in this manner, pull the leash forward and grasp the back legs, or the base of the tail, to stretch the cat out. This is much easier said than done and can be very dangerous, because the exotic will flip and twist until they kill themselves.



If the cat is tame and you have been working with him, the less restraint used, the better. Wild cats usually get more worked up over the restraint than the actual treatment. If you act confidant and speak kindly, but authoritatively you may be able to do things such as bathing, grooming and medicating without much more than a hand resting at the scruff to let them know that you can immobilize them at any moment they get too carried away.

Tame Cat Restraint: If you have two people and the cat likes to be carried, then one person holds the cat, with the cat’s body facing his, the face of the cat looking back over his shoulder and the back feet securely cupped at waist level. The other person, can hold the scruff and give a shot, or can come around from behind the person holding the cat and give a pill. If there is danger of the cat biting the person holding, then the cat can be placed on a table, belly down, and either held down or blanketed down. If the cat is very tame, but very big, one person can sit over the cat as though they were going to ride him, and using their knees, press from either side, crossing their feet behind the cat, so that he does not back out. With their hands, they can scruff the cat with one hand and either hold the front paws, or the muzzle with the other hand. Sometimes, even with tame cats, we have found it helpful to slip a muzzle over their face. We use the fabric type that cover the eyes and have a velcro close in back. When the cat cannot see, he will often sit very still, but hold him firmly just in case.



Wild Cat Restraint: We like to use a net for most purposes. We have several nets in different sizes. When the kittens are young we play with them and the nets so that they do not run at the sight of them. We custom make our nets and use rope netting, like you would use for commercial fishing. These have holes about an inch in diameter, and we can pull the scruff out through the net to give an injection or we can pull an ear out to treat for mites or to inspect. We make our nets long enough that we can fit the whole cat in and then double the net back over the hoop, so that the cat cannot escape. At the bottom, there is a drawstring and when we are through, we pull the bow and the cat can run out forward. They don’t back out well. If you will be dealing with the cat’s head, we leave the drawstring loose enough that the cat can get his head through, but not the rest of his body, while being tangled in the net. Anything a cat can get his head through, the rest of his body will follow without much trouble. I have seen a cat flatten down and slither under a closed interior door.

If you do not have a net and the cat is really getting crazy, you can tape their legs together and you can tape their muzzles closed with surgical tape or gauze. Use the kind that sticks to itself and not the fur if possible. Wild cats have incredible strength and you will need to insure that they do not thrash about in such a manner as to hurt themselves worse.

Transporting an injured cat can be very dangerous. No matter how tame the cat may be, they can lose all sense of perspective when they are in pain. You should not struggle unnecessarily with an injured cat because you are using what little strength he may have and cause him to regress into further shock and collapse. If you suspect a spinal injury, the cat should be lifted up in a blanket so that he is not turned or twisted. A carrier with a soft blanket, or hay, is the best transporter. If the cat is very agitated, you can throw a blanket over him and drop a cat carrier over him. Using a hard piece of cardboard, you can slide it up under him and scoop him into the carrier. Shut the door as you pull out the cardboard and leave the blanket for him to hide in.



Critical Incident Hurricane and Disaster Plan

Critical Incident Hurricane and Disaster Plan

Big Cat Rescue Captive Wildlife Critical Incident/Disaster Plan


Contact info:  Big Cat Rescue 12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625 813.920.4130 fax 866.571.4523

USDA 58-C-0814 FL ESB 578 ID# 402067429

Lat 28.061125 Long. -82.571387

Hurricane Evacuation Zone Category? NO  Flood Zone? NO


Emergency Contacts:

Veterinarian: Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM Ehrlich Animal Hospital 8009 Gunn Hwy. Tampa, FL 33625 813.920.0566 also Dr. Justin Boorstein, DVM Humane Society of Tampabay.

Sanctuary Operations  Gale Ingham  813 850-7052

CEO:  Carole Baskin 12802 Easy St. Tampa, FL 33625  813.493.4564


Capture Equipment Kept on Site:


1 blowgun, 1 pole syringe, 1 dart pistol, 2 dart rifles, 1 12 gauge shotgun, 1 30/30 rifle and net gun.  Several staff members are trained and well practiced in the use of these.  Kept in locked cabinets in locked rooms of locked buildings.


Transport Cages and Vehicles:

2 rolling circus wagons, ‘2012 Toyota Tundra with A/C topper, ’98 Dodge Ram extended van with two large cages made to fit inside.  ’05 Dodge Ram pick up truck 3/4 ton with Reese hitch, custom enclosed trailer that will haul two rolling circus wagons and other smaller cages in climate controlled space, assorted yard trucks, pallet jack, Kobelco tractor (lifts 3,000 lbs) with bucket attachment, dozens of carriers, wire transports and every cat’s cage is equipped with a lock out.


For a site plan of the facility to see buildings, access points, gates and cage layout visit these links:


We conduct random drills to test our staff and volunteers in the event of personal injuries, such as heat stroke, escapes, maulings, fire and hurricanes.  Although we cannot simulate a fire or hurricane we have often staged the other disasters so that most of the participants did not know it was a drill.  We have been very pleased with the results.


For What Kind of Emergencies Are We Prepared?


Scientist tell us that global warming will continue to disrupt our weather patterns and that we can expect far more powerful hurricanes for many years to come.  We have prepared in every way possible and are providing this page as a portal for those who are concerned about us and for those who are trying to find ways to protect their own sanctuaries.

Some disasters cannot be prevented, but others can.  Read more about what we are doing to ensure the safety of our cats and the surrounding communities at Big Cat Rescue below.


Hurricane Preparedness



The lockouts can no longer be removed as easily as back then.


How do you prepare a 55 acre sanctuary housing 100+ big cats for a Hurricane?  Since 2004’s episode including 4 major hurricanes in 6 weeks we get asked that question a lot.

The answer isn’t something that can be said in a sound byte though, because it takes months of planning, preparing and training to make sure that when the winds quit howling, the cats don’t start howling from the wrong side of the fence.

It starts with the caging.  Our cages are built from galvanized wire panels that are twice what the state standards require for strength.  Vern builds them in rounded, peanut styled formations that utilize the strength of the curvature without the necessity of posts.  Because there is nothing to catch the wind, which is the major factor in a hurricane, there is nothing to blow away.  Almost all of our Cat-A-Tats (our word for cages) have roofs made of the same material so the animal is safely contained on the top, sides and bottom.  The only major damage we have had to cages was in the non roofed enclosures.

Anticipating that, we had moved cats living in those enclosures into roofed cages to ride out the storms.  As soon as the winds reach 30 MPH all cats in open air enclosures are shut into their smaller, roofed areas until the winds subside.

The cougar hurricane shelter non roofed areas all are equipped with two or three strands of hot wire that is solar powered, because in a hurricane, the first thing to go is the power.  The solar units we use are very expensive but are reported to last 5 days in the dark.  Fortunately we have never had to test that claim; losing only 3 days of power at any given time.

All of our cats have dens to escape the rain.  Some of the small cats have igloo type dog houses that are shaped like tree stumps and barrels with one end half cut out up in the trees.  Most of the cats have some form of concrete den that is built to accommodate their size.  A cougar, for instance, has an underground area (which is actually elevated above the grade to prevent water from pooling inside) that is 8 feet by 12 feet by 2.5 feet high.  Over that is a mountain of dirt, plants and grass that provides a cool area in the summer and warmth against the chilling winds in the winter.  There isn’t a tree big enough to smash one of these 4 inch thick, rebar reinforced, concrete dens that are buried inside our man made hills.

Most of the other places in Florida housing exotic animals reported losing most of their trees during Charly, Francis, Ivan and Jeanne but we only lost a couple of dead pine trees.  As we looked around, and thought about why, we concluded that the same thing that kept our cats from blowing away, kept our trees from toppling as well.  Most of them are “caged”.  We build our Cat-A-Tats around trees and Vern very cleverly encloses the top into the center of the boughs so that the cats have lots of opportunities to climb and to do the things they would in the wild, like sleep in the trees all day and wait for night.  Because all of our best trees are part of enclosures this way, they were anchored to the ground by 1200 square foot cages.  The wind just couldn’t get a good enough grip to pull them up from the soggy earth.


Hurricane preparedness has a lot to do with our people.

The chain of command is clear.  There is always at least one staff member on property who has taken responsibility for the sanctuary that day.  That person in usually the Operations manager, but if it is their day off, someone is always scheduled to be the person in charge in their absence.  There are coordinators who have had years of training who then manage all of the 100 or so volunteers.  All of the staff have smart phones and all of the volunteers and staff carry 2 way radios.

Long before the first cloud blows in off the bay they have been rehearsing for the worst possible situation.  Thanks to the Volunteer Committee, regular drills are performed, documented and analyzed to see where we have come up short and what we can do to make sure that we are ready in the case of a real emergency such as a loose cat, an injured person or a fire.  Our President, Jamie Veronica, is always checking the supplies in the Emergency Response Center and the Cat Hospital.  These crucial supplies are always being checked, rechecked and restocked as they expire.

Classes are offered weekly to our members in such things as Animal Emergency, Human CPR and how to find the right tools and the right people in the most effective manner.  Everyone knows the chain of command and who has access to dart guns, tranquilizers and the expertise to use them.  All of our staff, volunteers and interns carry a two way radio with them at all times and do a radio check upon entering the property to be sure they can hear and be heard.

Our people are taught from day one that they have to lay eyes on every cat they care for and to report anything amiss with the animal and to report any threat to the cage that may compromise its ability to contain its inhabitant.  Those observations are all logged digitally in a daily record and the Operations Manager, double checks the entries and the cause each day. Her actions are then logged on Big Cat Rescue’s intranet site and reviewed at the weekly staff meetings.  All maintenance and preventative maintenance is done immediately.

Gale, Honey, Vern, Barbara and a dozen or more interns live on site and the perimeter fence is walked throughout the day and night daily to inspect for threats to its integrity.  During inclement weather all of these processes are stepped up.  Thanks to our involvement with Hillsborough County’s Emergency Operations Center we get up to the minute reports on all tropical storms and hurricanes via e-mail, complete with radar photos, tracking projections and information on what is being done across the state to prepare.

The cats are prepared for emergencies as well.  Thanks to an awesome Operant Conditioning Program the cats are trained to come into “lockout” on command.  Most of our cages are built in at least two sections so that the cat can be shut into one side or the other for cleaning or repair, but in the worst case scenario we are prepared to move the cat completely.  The cats are also trained to come to a target if we need to move them from side to side and while we haven’t tried that outside their cage, we are prepared to with our new golf cart gear.

Golf Cart RenovationDespite all of the best planning, things go wrong.  What if a big cat escapes his enclosure?  Then what?  Oddly, you can drive right up to a big cat and they don’t even think twice about it, but the minute you step out of the car, you are lunch or you are to be run from.  Neither of those options is conducive to a successful recapture. There are some places on the property that you just can’t get to by car but you can access these areas by golf cart.  Treats always come on golf carts and so do the Operant Conditioning people, so the cats LOVE golf carts.  Vern designed a portable cage that can be dropped down over the frame of a golf cart in a matter of seconds that protects the driver and a “shooter” much like the notion of sending a person in a cage down into a tank of sharks.  The golf cart can get within a couple feet of the cat in most cases and lure the cat back to a safe area by way of targeting as we do in Operant Conditioning, or the cat can be darted with a tranquilizer.

In the worst case, where escape from the property is eminent, the cat must be shot with a bullet.  Our staff has been trained and practices regularly with dart guns, blow pipes, and rifles and shotguns if there is no other alternative.  They have been mentally preparing for the day when they may have to shoot one of their “best friends” to keep the cat from being a danger to society, because avoiding an escape is critical to the continuance of the sanctuary for all of the good that we do for the rest of the animals.


Sheltering in Place


There is no place safer than Big Cat Rescue for the 100 or so big cats who live here.  In the event of just about any kind of emergency we are prepared to “shelter in place.”  Since we have 10-20 volunteers and staff living on site, there are plenty of people on hand to care for the cats.  If we had to move an animal or animals we have a climate controlled trailer, with remote cameras, that is designed to carry our biggest cats in a rolling beast wagon, or crates of our smaller cats.

Most of our cats are micro chipped and if we have to sedate a cat for any reason, we always micro chip them, if they have not been already.  All of our cats are in a census with their name, date of birth, date of arrival at the sanctuary, if they have been neutered or spayed, if they were declawed by their owners, and their photographs are all online.  All of our documentation is both in paper and paperless forms, kept online and in back hard drives.


Other Types of Emergencies




Only one building on the property houses exotic cats and that is the West Boensch Cat Hospital.  There is a working fire extinguisher in the building.  The Cool Cat Cave and Intern Housing houses domestic cats and kittens who are being fostered for adoption.  The office has an office cat.  All of these buildings are equipped with fire and smoke detectors, an alarm system that notifies the Operations Manager, President and Founder / CEO in the event of an emergency.  Working fire extinguishers are maintained in each building and there are regular inspections from the fire marshall.

Many of the cages are outfitted with PVC rain makers that can be turned on with the flip of the red levers that are at eye level.  Portable generators are by the lake, with fire hoses attached, and can be employed for putting out fires.   We are completely surrounded by commercial properties and homes.  No wildfire is likely to make it past these highly populated areas to us.  The fire department is 1.1 mile away (3 min.)


Electrical Outages


We have a propane powered generator that is capable of running our Cat Hospital and Food Prep during an extended power outage.  The domestic cats that are housed in Intern housing can be shifted to other buildings that are not on the same power poles, if there is an outage in one area of the property.  We have three, or more, portable generators that can be used in an emergency.


Disruption in Clean Water or Food Supply


Our water supply comes from five wells on the property.  These can be powered by the many portable generators we own.  We can store 17,000 pounds of frozen raw meat and our freezers are positioned next to the huge, propane generator, which was purchased primarily for insuring that we do not lose our food source during the aftermath of a hurricane.


Road Closed


There are three roads into the sanctuary.  We have chainsaws and people who know how to use them if trees were to block the roads.


Terrorist Attack on the Sanctuary


No one is allow unescorted on the property.  All guests are led by a tour guide and a tour back up.  The tour guide and tour back up both carry radios and will alert their coordinator if there is any trouble from a guest.  The coordinator knows to call 911 if the guest poses a threat to the animals, others or themselves.  The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is .7 miles away (3 minutes) Map:


Hazardous Materials


The only hazardous materials we have been subjected to since 1992 was during the fruit fly outbreak when USDA sprayed Malathion on us from airplanes.  A number of animals died during and immediately after the spraying and USDA was notified that their claims of the spray being non lethal to pets was a lie. More information on what we do for poisoning here:


Employee Absence


None of Big Cat Rescue’s employees are paid to do animal care.  We have more than 100 volunteers, who put in at least 4 hours per week, who are happy to make sure the cats are always fed, cleaned, given their meds and given enrichment and operant training.  Our paid staff manage these volunteers and do administrative work, so even if all of the 10+ employees were to walk out at the same time, the volunteers would make sure the animals were well cared for.


Death of Founder


Big Cat Rescue is unique in that the death of the Founder and CEO would have very little impact on the sustainability of the sanctuary.  The sanctuary has policies, protocols and a set of checks and balances that ensure the long term viability of the sanctuary.


Failure of Heating / Cooling in Cat Hospital


Cat Hospital LogsThe Cat Hospital is the only building where extremely elderly or sickly cats are brought inside during extreme weather.  The cats are monitored on web cams to insure that they are comfortable and the web cams are available to hundreds of our AdvoCats who live all around the world.  These people watch diligently for any sign of the cats being stressed or uncomfortable and have the ability to contact the Operations Manager by cell phone.  We have generators that can be used if the electricity is out.  We used Air O Force to do regular maintenance of our A/C’s and heat pumps.


Animal Escapes


Escapes are the obvious emergency crisis for which we are prepared.  More here:


Animal Disease Outbreak


All of our cats are vaccinated regularly for the typical feline diseases, but some diseases are jumping boundaries between species, such as Canine Parvo and Canine Distemper showing up in cats.  In our situation, the likely carriers of these diseases would be native raccoons and foxes.  We do not allow dogs on property.  We set humane traps daily for vermin to remove them immediately and take precautions to stake wire under fences and trim back trees to prevent intrusion.

Thanks to the diligence of our volunteers and the daily observation logs on the intranet site, we have been able to diagnose and quarantine cats who show signs of being ill so quickly that there has not been a spread of disease.  When a cat is in quarantine we use foot baths going into the areas around their cages, and designate a separate set of cleaning tools, and a designated, certified quarantine trained volunteer for their care.

Drugs and supportive therapy is administered as prescribed by our vets and we have had excellent success in nursing cats back from situations that could easily have claimed their lives.




The generators and fire hoses can pump down areas that flood, into ditches that carry the excess water off to Rocky Creek and out to Tampa Bay.




We haven’t had one yet, but our cages are built in a unique design that is anchored to the ground by the many trees inside them and the foliage that grows up the sides.  There is nothing to fall on the cages that would damage them.




All of the same work that we do to prepare for hurricanes would apply to tornadoes.  The difference is that a tornado can do a lot more damage, without as much warning.  If a cage, or cages, were rendered unsafe, we have 2-3 times as much cage space, if we shut guillotine doors between sections.  This gives us plenty of built in caging to use while repairing any tornado damage.


Extreme Heat

White tiger Zabu in the pool

The rain maker PVC systems that we installed for fires can be used just for cooling the cats off, if there were some freakish weather.  It’s Florida and it is often hot and humid.  Our cats have plenty of natural shade, dens that are 4 inches of reinforced concreate covered in earth and ferns for cooling, access to fresh water at all times and breezes that come up off the lake.  Our volunteers note on the observation log and let their coordinators know if they see any signs of heat stress.

All of the lions and tigers and some of the other cats have access to spring fed pools that are recirculated constantly.  We have portable pools that could be offered to cats who do not have permanent pools, if they needed to cool off more than their environment would allow.  These portable pools have always been used as a form of enrichment rather than for emergency use.



Human First Aid





If you are injured, seek professional, medical help.


You can help care for the cats in these perilous times.


Legislative Intern

Legislative Intern

Legislation & Advocacy Intern Position Description

The Legislation & Advocacy Intern [LAI] works under the direction of the Director of Outreach, the Founder, and the Operations Manager. As with all other intern paths, the LAI must complete approximately 600 hours of service during the 12-week internship.

This is equivalent to working approximately 50 hours per week. Interns may be required to work more or less hours as needed by the sanctuary.

LAIs must follow the same policies and procedures as Animal Care Interns. More information can be found on our website at:




Lobby Day

Lobby Day

The objective of the LAI is to support the Director of Outreach in promoting legislation, advocating for the welfare of big cats, and educating the public on the issues facing exotic cats, specifically private ownership and exploitation. Our goal is to end the trade by working with guests, supporters, voters, government agencies, and legislators to pass laws and implement stronger regulations and policies.

The LI will gain invaluable experience in the inner workings of a unique animal welfare nonprofit that not only rescues exotic cats and operates one of the largest accredited sanctuaries of its kind in the world, but also educates and actively works to end to trade of big cats through legislation and policy.

The LAI must be comfortable speaking to guests and meeting new people. They must also work effectively with staff, volunteers,  and fellow interns.

LAIs begin in Partner training to learn guest relations and how to guide tours, to better familiarize themselves with the mission of the sanctuary and become familiar with the daily operations of the sanctuary. Much of the initial training consists of the basic knowledge needed to be a valued intern. As a LAI advances through the program they will learn specific skills pertaining to BCR’s advocacy, education, legislative activities.

This internship position does not involve keeper duties (i.e. cat feeding, operant training, cleaning, meds administration). Although you will have the benefit of working at the sanctuary, your work will not directly involve any of our cats.

At this time, we will not consider applicants outside the U.S.




 Must be at least 18 years old.

 Must be a U.S. citizen.

 Possess a valid driver’s license or photo I.D.

 Must be fluent in English, both written and verbal. Above average writing skills.

 Internet savvy. Proficient in Microsoft Suite applications Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Familiar with Google applications.

 Must be comfortable advocating and soliciting support for animal welfare in subject areas that may be controversial or sensitive (e.g. circuses, zoos, ownership of exotic animals, hunting, animals in entertainment, fur, breeding).

 Must be professional and polite and retain this manner is potentially stressful or contentious situations.

Legislative Intern



 Capable of lifting and carrying at least 50 lbs., possess vision and hearing at adequate levels, good health and endurance for working outdoors in all types of weather.

 Complete disclosure of any prescription drugs, allergies and physical limitations.

 Interns must obtain a tetanus vaccination, at their own expense, that will be good for the duration of the internship, prior to participating in the internship program and must submit proof of vaccination.

 Able to financially support themselves for the duration of the internship.

 Travel may be required to attend meetings, conferences, and events.

 Ability to work standing for long periods of time.

Florida Animal Control Association FACA



a. Lead actions on-site, at events, and at presentations. BCR is very committed to changing the way society interacts and uses exotic cats. To that end, we are always actively pursuing public action – whether that is asking guests to call their legislators, sign petitions, submit comment, or sign their name to a pledge. There is a special area in our Gift Shop dedicated to these activities, called the “Action Space”. The LAI is responsible for leading the actions under the direction of the Director of Outreach. Similarly, the LAI may be asked to lead an action at events or presentations.

b. Guide group tours, education tours (children & adults), and tours privately scheduled by the Director of Outreach. Unlike our standard group tours, these tours are spoken tours and require knowledge of the cats (history, environment, behavior, adaptations, diet, species), our sanctuary’s evolution and operations, conservation in the wild, and the issues we are working to resolve (private ownership, animal handling, the illegal trade, abuse, poaching).

c. Represent BCR at community events, outreach venues, and educational presentations including meetings and conferences where BCR is an exhibitor, speaker, participant, sponsor, or beneficiary.

d. Successfully complete Legislation & Advocacy Intern training classes in addition to the BCR training classes required by level 1 interns.

e. Presenting to schools, student groups, community groups and organizations.

f. Promote BCR campaigns to guests and public such as the Pledge to Be Circus Free and Big-Cat Friendly Tourist campaign.

g. The LAI may be asked to support the Founder or Director of Outreach with online advocacy activities facilitated through and our website. This may include emailing actions to supporters, identifying supporters in key congressional districts, or following-up with supporters after they have visited BCR.

h. Additional duties such as writing articles, research, data entry, general office duties, assisting the Founder and Director of Outreach, and providing back-up support to the Operations Manager and Gift Shop staff as needed.

i. Create media and other outreach tools in support of our actions and campaigns.

The preceding position description is designed to indicate the general nature and essential duties and responsibilities of work performed by a Legislation & Advocacy Intern [LAI]. It may not contain a comprehensive inventory of all duties, responsibilities, and qualifications required of Legislation & Advocacy Interns.



DBC-2015-02-27 09.53.43




A $50 fee is required to be paid upon confirmation of the interview session. This non-refundable fee is for the cost of a criminal background check. A deposit of $300 must be submitted upon acceptance into the program. This deposit holds the internship slot and insures against failure to complete the requirements of the internship or damages to the radio, housings, or Big Cat Rescue property. Upon successful completion of the program, passing inspection of radio and housings, and not having damaged Big Cat Rescue property the intern will receive the deposit back. Fees and deposits are collected via credit card. The $300 deposit will not be returned to you if you; cancel your internship before it has started, do not show up on your scheduled start date, fail to successfully complete the internship, do not pass your housing inspections, do not return the radio in good working order, damage Big Cat Rescue property, leave the internship early, or are terminated from the internship due to breach of the Intern Orientation Contract.


Intern Housing Tiger Tail Lodge at Big Cat Rescue

Intern Housing Tiger Tail Lodge at Big Cat Rescue

Intern Housing at Big Cat Rescue provides free intern housing for up to 15 interns. All interns have their own private bedrooms, access to local phone lines, wireless internet, access to a shared computer and shared bathroom, kitchen and T.V. areas. Intern housing is stocked with linens, towels, pots, pans, dishes, etc., cleaning supplies, motion of alcohol or use of illegal drugs is strictly prohibited throughout the duration of the internship.

Special exceptions for drinking alcohol may be made for BCR organized volunteer gatherings only. Specific announcements will be made to the interns in these cases. Smoking areas are provided outside of the housings and at designated areas of the sanctuary.

Staff may reside in Intern Housings. Housings are for staff and interns only; guests are not permitted on the property or within the housings. If an intern is receiving a ride from another volunteer or a guest, that volunteer or guest must wait outside the entrance gate for the intern. They may not drive onto BCR property. Interns are permitted to live off-site in their own accommodations at their own expense.

Personal pets are not permitted in intern housings. See Intern Housing at Big Cat Rescue.


All interns are responsible for the cost of their own transportation, and long distance phone calls. Interns are allowed one vehicle for personal transportation and must be parked in approved intern parking area. Interns with vehicles must assist interns without transportation with grocery store trips and staff with picking up and dropping off interns at the airport. Interns that do not have transportation are encouraged to give a reasonable amount of money to the driver for fuel.


Each intern will be reimbursed for up to $50 of food costs each week (if receipts are submitted to the Intern Manager in a timely manner). A small stipend is available to help defray the cost of living for interns who are granted the Level 2-4 Internships. Upon acceptance into the Level 2-4 Internships, there may be a two week probationary period during which time a stipend is not offered. Following the probationary period, performance will be assessed by the Operations Manager.

ADDITIONAL POLICIES (General Big Cat Rescue Policies)

Animal Contact: Big Cat Rescue is a strict no contact facility. At no time, under any circumstances, will any part of your person come into direct contact with any animal at Big Cat Rescue. Nor shall you use any object to touch an animal such as a stick or pole etc. (There is a back scratcher program that is available to Senior and Master Keepers, this program is strictly monitored and is for the purpose to assist animals with removing matted fur.)

Animal Care: No animal abuse of any kind will be tolerated, including teasing, and is grounds for immediate dismissal. No food or toys shall be offered to any animal without approval from the Coordinator, Operations Manager, CEO or President. No animal shall ever be removed from its cage or enclosure without the express consent of the CEO or President. Notification of animal issues including veterinary procedures, moving animals and quarantined animals, etc will be posted on the Important Updates.

Security of Animal Information Files: Any printed or digital information about the cats and their health must always be readily available to our staff, vets, and appropriate volunteers. Such information shall not be moved, copied, altered, shared, deleted, or taken off of the property without express permission from the CEO or President.

General Safety: No part of your person shall ever pass through the bars of any enclosure at any time. No person shall run or horseplay on the property. An Emergency Contact, medications, allergies, and medical conditions are listed for each volunteer and intern in their digital Volgistics record which all coordinators have access to. Any person feeling under the weather should contact their coordinator to reschedule their volunteer time. Smoking is permitted in the 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 beverages or narcotics. Any person believed to be impaired due to alcohol or drugs will be removed from the property.

Entering Enclosures: No person shall enter any enclosure without direct permission from the Volunteer Coordinator, Operations Manager, President or CEO. Prior to entering any enclosure the animal will be safely locked out of the section of the enclosure to be entered. The Operations Manager can “lock out” cats smaller than lynx. The President or CEO must be present to “lock out” cats that are lynx and larger. When an animal is “locked out” it will be moved to another section of its enclosure. The separating guillotine door will be shut, a pole placed over the frame of the guillotine door to prevent its opening, a clip gate installed over the guillotine door and then a pad lock placed on the entrance door for the section housing the animal. When entering any enclosure, the safety door must be closed shut with a minimum of 2 snaps prior to opening the entrance door to the side of the enclosure the animal is locked out of. This entrance door must then also be closed shut with a minimum of 2 snaps. At no time should either door be left open, even if the enclosure is not inhabited by an animal.

Modifying Enclosures: No person shall make modifications to any enclosure without direct instruction from the Volunteer Coordinator, Operations Manager, President or CEO.

Drills: Every month the Volunteer Committee will post an electronic drill in the Volunteer Newsletter. The drill will consist of a scenario such as an injured guest or animal emergency, and course of action options for the intern to select or fill in. Each intern must read the monthly Volunteer Newsletter and mark that they have read it as well as complete the electronic drill. The Volunteer Committee will review the results of the drill and will council any intern that may have answered insufficiently or incorrectly.

First Aid Kits: There are fully stocked be first aid kits in the; Gift Shop, Volunteer Sign In, Food Prep, Cooling Station, Main Office, E-Center, and Party House. All supplies for the First Aid Kits are to be purchased by Big Cat Rescue. Volunteers and interns are not permitted to donate First Aid Supplies nor store their personal medications in the First Aid Kits.

Management: The interns and volunteers on property will be directly coordinated by either a Volunteer Coordinator or an Operations Manager. Volunteer Coordinators are staff or volunteers who report to the Operations Manager. The Operations Manager is a staff member who oversees the daily operations of the sanctuary and is the final authority on site operating under the CEO and President. There will always be at a minimum one staff Operations Manager on site each day during the hours that the public and volunteers are on the premises. This Operations Manager will have access to and will be trained in the use of meds, darts, guns, medical, and capture equipment. Volunteer Coordinators coordinating the keeper department must be at least a Green Level Senior Keeper. Volunteer Coordinators coordinating the partner department must be at least a Yellow Level Partner. Operations Managers may be any level deemed appropriate by the CEO and President and will be fully trained in every aspect that the job requires. All coordinators can be reached at one email address:

Volunteer Committee: The primary goal of the Volunteer Committee is to develop and maintain a successful volunteer force to carry out the mission of Big Cat Rescue. Volunteer Committee duties may include; maintaining files on each current volunteer and intern, writing standard operating procedures & volunteer program and class revisions, running monthly hour reports and following up with volunteers regarding their status, promotion applications, discussing issues concerning the volunteers, disciplinary actions, promotions and rewards within the volunteer program, frequently checking and responding to emails to, hosting quarterly Volunteer Appreciation Parties, keeping in touch with volunteers, recognizing birthdays, following up if a leave of absence is taken, and fostering relationships between volunteers, attending off-site classes or seminars to further improve operations, and other responsibilities as assigned by the CEO.

Suggestions, ideas, questions, special requests and even grievances should be submitted to the Volunteer Committee via email to Committee All discussions and decisions by and of the Volunteer Committee will be based on the Code of Honor. There is also an anonymous suggestion box located in the Gift Shop that is checked only by the CEO. Big Cat Rescue has an extensive website resource dedicated towards keeping the volunteers, interns, and staff informed of all policies, updates, contact information, and day to day operations of the sanctuary. Each volunteer is assigned a first.lastname email address and is required to log in to the site regularly to check their emails as well as to read the Important Updates. Access to and participation in the site is for current, active volunteers only. You must choose a password to enter the site when your internship begins. Please choose a password that is meaningful to you, yet hard for someone to guess. Never share your password with others. Don’t forget to sign out! The easiest way for unauthorized persons to access all of Big Cat Rescue’s information is to gain unsupervised access to a computer in which one of our authorized volunteers is signed in to the site but isn’t there. Remember that your Big Cat Rescue e-mail address is like an electronic version of the volunteer logo on your volunteer shirt. When you use it, you are representing Big Cat Rescue, even if you do not mean to. Please make sure that every e-mail you send from this address represents Big Cat Rescue accurately and positively.

Social Networking and BCR Email address Policies: As an intern, posts or communications regarding animal issues using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube etc. should represent Big Cat Rescue’s mission accurately and positively. Photos and comments encouraging the physical interaction between humans and wild animals are discouraged as this is counter productive to the mission of Big Cat Rescue. Postings regarding the death of an animal at Big Cat Rescue should be made no earlier than one week following the loss. This is to ensure that your fellow Rescuers have the opportunity to read the news via the Important Updates instead of through social media. Emails that an intern sends from their Big Cat Rescue e-mail address should only reflect the mission of Big Cat Rescue and should be courteous and professional in content.

Classes: There are several training classes available for each level of the Intern Program. A list of class teachers can be found on the Class Completion List. A link to this page appears at the top of the Classes and Maps page. Under the heading Training and Docs in the left-hand side bar of the site. On this chart you will find every volunteer listed with the dates that they completed each class. At the bottom of the chart is also a tab titled Teachers. You may contact the teachers and request a specific class to be given. Only approved volunteers can teach classes. When a class is given the most recent version of the class should be printed directly from the site as classes are frequently updated. Two copies should be printed, one for the student and teacher to sign, date, and turn in and a second for the student to keep. The signed copy should be put in Jamie Veronica’s mailbox and any certification sheets should be put in the appropriate binders in the gift shop or in food prep. If there is a video version of the class the video must be played instead of reading the class aloud to the student, however, all class materials must still be filled out and turned in.

Hours: Interns are required to complete 600 hours of volunteer service during their 3 month internship. An account is set up for each intern to log his or her volunteer time via touch screen. These time clock stations are available in the gift shop, food prep, and the main offices. Interns must clock in using their assigned PIN number when they arrive at the sanctuary and must clock out when they leave the sanctuary. Volunteer Coordinators have access to a document that contains every intern’s PIN number should the intern forget their number. If an intern does not complete their 600 hours prior to the end of their internship and they have applied for a next level internship, he or she may be required to complete the 600 hours serving at the previous level’s duties before advancing.

Radios: At time of orientation or on first day a radio will be provided from BCR and must be carried on your person and turned on at all times while on the property. Each intern is responsible for keeping his or her radio in good working order. Batteries for the radios are provided by Big Cat Rescue and can be found in food prep. The radio must be returned to BCR upon completion of the internship. Radio transmissions should be kept to a minimum. Radio transmissions must be monitored by the Volunteer Coordinator or Operations Manager throughout the day for questions or emergencies.

Access to the Property: Interns will not operate the entry gates nor allow access to the property to anyone without 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 a volunteer or staff member must escort them at all times. Lead them to the Gift Shop 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. Interns have the responsibility of making sure the gate is completely shut behind them as they enter and exit the property. Interns are provided with gate openers for the Lion’s Lair gate. These openers should be returned immediately to their designated space in the intern housing after each use. 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 on-coming traffic.

Intern Sign In: Before your intern shift begins, the Important Updates section on the site must be checked for important information such as rule changes, cat information, scheduled events, etc. Interns must also verbally check in and out with the coordinator in order to receive work assignments and so that the coordinator can keep track of the Intern’s progress. Hours must be logged on the computer time system daily. These time records will be monitored frequently to assure maintenance of intern responsibilities. The intern must initial next to daily chores as they are completed and check the posted schedule to receive information on cleaning and feeding routes, days off, and radio coverage duties.

Dress Code: Interns must wear a blue intern shirt upon entering and at all times while on the property. Each volunteer must wear a shirt the color designated for his or her level. Intern tank tops are available, but are only to be worn when working on a project (i.e., not when working with guests or guiding tours). Interns are visible to guests at any time while on the property and must look presentable. Interns that are giving tours or assisting with events must wear a clean intern shirt, so it is advised to bring an extra with you each day. Intern shirts are to be worn by interns only. They are not to be given to friends or family nor are they to be donated or sold to the general public. Closed-toe flat shoes must be worn at all times while on the property. Excess jewelry or heavily scented products should not be worn. Long pants are recommenced but shorts will be tolerated if worn at a presentable length. Any clothing including Intern shirts must be in presentable, unaltered condition. Intern sweatshirts are available. Any other sweatshirts, sweaters, or jackets must be worn underneath the intern shirt. Rain gear must be royal blue, the color of the intern shirts. Rain boots are encouraged during the rainy season and high socks are recommended to avoid chaffing when wearing rain boots.


Curfew: There is a 11 PM curfew for interns living in Intern Housing. Interns must be onsite and in their own assigned housing at this time. Interns living in Intern Housings are depended upon for nighttime and during closed hours for emergency situations and are not permitted to spend nights off site for the duration of the internship. Special exemptions to spending a night off property may be requested in advance and should be submitted to the Operations Manager in writing. Requests will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Cell Phones: Preferably, cell phones are to be left in the intern’s car, bag, or at home; however, if the intern is expecting an urgent call and must carry a cell phone, absolutely no calls will be answered while on the animal side of the barricades.

Personal Tours: All personal tours must be pre-approved by the coordinator in advance and be led by a certified tour guide. Volunteers may use their 10% discount for tour admission or give their guests tour passes that they have acquired through the reward program. Age restrictions apply to all guests on personal tours.

Grounds Maintenance: All interns are responsible for proper disposal of his or her trash as well as that of guests or other interns or volunteers. Recycle containers are provided for drink containers and cardboard, these containers are emptied into the dumpster in the guest parking lot marked recycling. When an intern completes a project, they must clean and put away all tools and excess materials and debris.

Monthly Volunteer Newsletter: A Volunteer Newsletter is published by the Volunteer Committee monthly and posted on the site. The newsletters are located under the heading Volunteer and sub-heading Newsletter on the left side bar of the site as well as posted via a button titled Monthly News on the home page of the site. The Volunteer Newsletter includes safety reminders, requests, announcements, financial updates, and other important information that every intern should be aware of. It is mandatory that all interns read these newsletters and check the box available at the bottom of the newsletter indicating that the newsletter has been read.

Volunteer Appreciation Parties: Volunteer Appreciation Parties are held quarterly. Invitations are posted in the Important Updates, monthly newsletter, as well as emailed to all volunteers. These parties are a social gathering of volunteers to enjoy food, drinks, guest speakers, special announcements, and to celebrate awards and promotions. Interns must RSVP (attending or not attending) to invites so that the Volunteer Committee can be sure to have enough food and drinks for everyone that attends. The attire for the quarterly Volunteer Appreciation Party is casual. Interns do not need to wear their volunteer shirt, unless instructed otherwise (annual group photos). Name badges will be provided for the attendees to wear that state the name, department and level so that new interns and volunteers can become acquainted with senior volunteers. It is highly encouraged to attend these gatherings to promote camaraderie among interns, volunteers, and staff.

Demotions: Any intern who does not meet the requirements or adhere to the policies for their level will be reduced to the level for which requirements are being met. The Volunteer Committee reserves the right to query interns, either in writing or in person, in order to establish whether or not requirements are, or are not, being met as well as policies being followed before making their determination.

Dismissals and Denials: The Volunteer Committee retains the right to permanently excuse anyone from the program or from the property if his or her conduct is deemed unbecoming for an intern representing Big Cat Rescue. The Volunteer Committee may also deny any individual from joining the Intern or Volunteer Program.


Rumor control is everyone’s responsibility. The spreading of inappropriate information to fellow volunteers or to the public will not be tolerated. This includes negatively questioning the judgments or actions of the senior volunteers, Volunteer Committee, staff, or veterinarian care to or in front of volunteers or the public. Any issues, concerns, or grievances with staff or volunteers at any level should be addressed, in writing, to the Volunteer Committee if the issue can not be first be resolved directly with the other party. Every effort will be made to achieve resolution. The party deemed at fault for the grievance will be required to apologize and make every attempt to resolve the conflict with the offended party.

DBC-2015-03-03 08.21.00While an intern is on the property or at an event or outreach, he or she is representing Big Cat Rescue. Please dress appropriately and refrain from using offensive language or behavior.

When you send an email from your Big Cat Rescue e-mail address you are representing us. Please be sure that you represent Big Cat Rescue’s philosophy accurately and positively. This also includes postings on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and My Space, etc. While we cannot control what current and former staff and volunteers post to their social networking sites, we would like to reiterate that we would appreciate your attention to the message that your photos and comments on these sites sends about Big Cat Rescue and especially about the animals that we represent.

If you drive your vehicle with Big Cat Rescue signs, bumper stickers, license plates, etc. you are an ambassador for the sanctuary and we ask that you drive and act in a responsible manner.

If you do not know the answer to a question asked of you, please do not make one up. Tell the person that you will find out for them and then do so. Bad information is worse than none at all and each intern’s words are a reflection of Big Cat Rescue’s mission.


  1. I will focus on what works best to achieve our mission of caring for cats and ending the trade.
  2. I will speak my truth to the best of my ability and listen attentively as others speak theirs, with an end goal of finding solutions that work for all.
  3. I will support my fellow Rescuers early, often and unconditionally.
  4. I will be truthful and responsible for my actions, accepting my role with grace and performing to the best of my ability.
  5. I will deal with complete transparency and proactively work to resolve any conflicts directly with those involved. I will be sensitive to their feelings and in no way belittle or challenge them in front of others. If no resolution is achieved I will ask that all involved parties meet together with the person(s) who can settle the matter.
  6. If it’s not my story, I won’t tell it.
  7. I will celebrate the good my fellow Rescuers do and show respect by saying please, thank you and job well done.
  8. It is my responsibility to uphold the code and address breaches of the code with my fellow Rescuers directly, privately and respectfully.
  9. I will be mindful of my tone, body language and the fact that we are all on the same path, albeit at different stages, so I will be open and gentle when asked for clarification.
  10. I will trust that my fellow Rescuers share my same good intentions and will give the benefit of the doubt or seek their input in a kind and courteous way.


The Intern Program Orientation Contract applies to all Interns, Volunteers, Staff, and Guests (where applicable) while on the property. Each person is responsible to abide by and enforce these all of the documentation in this contract. Any infraction of this contract should be immediately brought to the violator’s attention as well as to the coordinator and the Volunteer Committee. The Volunteer Coordinator must fill out an Incident Report (available on the site in the Training and Docs section on the left hand side bar). This report should be filled out with the pertinent information and submitted to the Volunteer Committee. The Volunteer Committee will decide the appropriate action or disciplinary measure (demotion, dismissal, etc.). Any infraction of the Intern Program Orientation Contract may result in an Incident Report, which will become a permanent record in the violator’s file or immediate removal from the program.

How to Apply:


This section covers the intern application process only. Please read the entire Intern Orientation Contract (all of the information on this web page) so that you are completely aware of the requirements of the intern program, deposits and fees, work schedule, housing and transportation, and basic rules that apply to all interns, volunteers, and staff.

Big Cat Rescue can only accommodate a limited number of interns at any given time.

Applications are accepted year round.

It is recommended that you apply no later than three months prior to your desired start date, but applications will be accepted at anytime.

Acceptance into the program is on a rolling basis throughout the year and is based on the availability of the applicants and housing.

If you would like to apply for the Big Cat Rescue Internship Program please complete the InternApplication below and submit the below listed required documents. (Email the preferred method for submitting applications)


Your application packet must contain:
Complete the application here:

Legislative Intern Application
AND submit the following via Email:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • 3 Professional letters of recommendation
  • A copy of your Driver’s License or Passport

Please provide all of the requested information in your application packet or your application will not be considered.



Within 2 weeks of receiving your application packet the Intern Manager will review it. The best applicants will then be contacted to schedule a series of Skype interviews.



Up to 2 separate Skype interviews will be conducted.

Once an interview session has been scheduled, a non-refundable $50 application fee will then be required to hold your interview session dates and to perform a criminal background check.



After completion of your interview sessions a criminal background check will be performed. If you pass the criminal background check, you will hear from us within 3-4 weeks and will be notified as to whether or not you have been accepted. You will then be offer one or more start dates to choose from.



Once you have confirmed your start date with the Intern Manager, the $300 deposit will be required to hold the internship slot and insures against failure to complete the requirements of the internship or damages to the housings. This deposit is taken via credit card.

The entire $300 deposit will be returned you after the successful completion of the internship. To successfully complete the internship you must have met all of the requirements of the internship, returned your radio in good working order, have not damaged any Big Cat Rescue property, and have passed your housing inspections.
The $300 deposit will not be returned to you if you; cancel your internship before it has started, do not show up on your scheduled start date, fail to successfully complete the internship, do not pass your housing inspections, do not return the radio in good working order, damage Big Cat Rescue property, leave the internship early, or are terminated from the internship due to breach of the Intern Orientation Contract.



Chelsea FeenySubmit specific questions regarding the intern program via email to Chelsea Feeny:


Chelsea Feeny, Big Cat Rescue Intern Intake Manager

12802 Easy Street – Tampa, FL 33625  813.323.5991


Animal Health

Animal Health


In brief, this is how we insure the good animal health of our many exotic cats.

When the Keepers clean, if they do not find poop, the cat goes on the ‘check again’ chart. Then a second team goes around and searches for their poop. If none is found the cat is watched closely and checked on frequently and they go on the “No poop today” chart. This chart is looked at by the founder, coordinators and vets. The cat’s medical history is checked and the cats is watched closely. If there is no poop the second day they go on the vets’ ‘needs checked’ list.

The same with meals. If the cat does not seem excited about meal time, it is charted. If a cat does not eat all of their meal it is charted and the cat goes on the ‘observation sheet’ and is checked on frequently. The Operant Conditioning team tries throughout the day to offer food treats to get the cat to sit, lay, show mouth, show paws, and show belly so they can carefully watch how the cat moves and looks. The results are added to the observation chart for the vets.

If cats’ body language, behavior, attitude, appetite, or anything changes from the norm the cat goes on the observation chart. Cats are experts at hiding symptoms so it is crucially important that everyone here is trained to note any changes at all and charts it on the observation charts. Also, after mealtime keepers go back around and check to see if everyone ate all their food and if a cat still seems hungry after eating all their meal it gets noted on the charts as well for the vets to review the cats’ weight, medical history, and dietary needs. Catching problems as early as possible is really important because cats are so good at hiding symptoms by the time you see symptoms they really need quick attention.


Rehab Bobcat Under Vet Care

Rufus Bobcat Under Vet Care

The Keeper is the first line of defense in caring for the animals in the Refuge. Big Cat Rescue maintains a close relationship with two full-time Veterinarians, and their Lab Technicians. However, the Keeper, being responsible for the daily care of the Refuge’s animals, plays an important part in the Big Cat Rescue’s animal health program. The effectiveness of the Keeper’s role depends on several factors.

Attitude:The Keeper’s attitude and the attitude of the Refuge’s Veterinarian and Management are all important for effective animal care.
Awareness: The keeper should be aware of his/her role in maintaining animal health, the policies and procedures of the animal health care program and the needs of the animals.

Prevention: The Keeper can help prevent problems caused by being uninformed, using poor techniques and practices, poor animal nutrition, improper use of tools and equipment, and substandard husbandry.

Observation: The Keeper must carefully observe the animals and all things in the Refuge which directly or indirectly affect them. Knowledge of an animal’s normal routine, behaviour and appetite is important. N ot all changes in behaviour will be caused by disease.


Communication: Good communications with co-workers and all other Refuge staff at all levels increases a Keeper’s effectiveness. All observations are to be documented immediately on the Observation Chart.

Co-operation: The Keeper is part of a team and should accept the role of others in animal health care, nutrition, etc.; record all information for the use of other staff and for future reference.



Disease is a condition of ill health or malfunctioning in a living organism. There are many forms of diseases which may be manifested by various signs or systems.




Wild animals, especially cats, often mask the symptoms of disease, illness or injury until death approaches or the disease has reached an acute stage; this is a matter of survival. The Keeper must be aware enough to detect subtle changes in his animals.

There are 11 signs of disease or change that a Keeper should look for and which may be significant to the Veterinarian or Director. In a specific animal any one of these may be normal by itself, but all of them should be recorded and reported if they occur. In all cases a comparison should be made with known behavior or history of the animals and with other individuals in the group.

  1. Changes in behaviour: A quiet animal becoming aggressive, an active one becoming listless or depressed. A herd animal isolating itself or being ostracized. Evidence of pain, reduced grooming etc.
  2. Changes in defecation: Diarrhea, foul odor, white flecks or blood in the stool, increase or decrease in frequency or amount, straining, presence of foreign objects. N o feces at all.
  3. Changes in urination: Increase or decrease in frequency or amount, absence of urine, discolouration, presence of blood or pus, straining.
  4. Discharges: From the eye, ear, nose, vulva or penis. Amount, colour, consistency and odor are all important.
    Coughing, sneezing, gagging: How often and how much.
  5. Limping or refusal to rise: Which leg and severity of lameness.
  6. Change in appetite/water consumption: Eating less or not at all, drinking more or less, etc.
  7. Wounds, sores, lumps: Appearance, size, location, rate of growth.
  8. Change in appearance: Loss of hair, dull or matted coat.
  9. Sudden loss or gain in weight, changes in general carriage, eye shine, etc.
  10. Respiration: Change in depth and frequency of respiration, animal may tire easily.
  11. Regurgitation or vomiting: When does it occur in relation to eating, how much, how often? Presence of foreign bodies, hair balls, parasites or blood.




Diseases can be classified according to the cause or etiology:

Infectious : Caused by lower organisms (virus, bacterium, fungus, internal and external parasites). May or may not be contagious (capable of being transmitted directly from one animal to another).

Nutritional : Caused by a deficiency or excess of any part of the diet (protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals).

Mechanical : Injuries or trauma, burns, foreign bodies, obstructions, intestinal twists, etc

Neoplastic (new tissue): Growths or tumors; may be fast or slow growing, malignant or benign.
Metabolic: Disorders of metabolism, eg. diabetes, capture myopathy.

Toxic: Ingestion or absorption of toxic substances.

Psychological: Stress related such as self trauma.

Developmental : Abnormalities of organ growth or development may be hereditary (genetic) and/or congenital (present at birth).




Various intrinsic and extrinsic factors will determine the severity of disease:

Species of animal and type of disease: Some species are resistant to certain diseases. Some microorganisms affect animal species, others are quite specific.

Genetic variability: Some strains or individuals are more susceptible, i.e. poor conformation may lead to foot and leg problems.

Age: Old and very young animals are generally more susceptible.

General state of health and nutritional status: Any underlying disease or deficiency can exacerbate disease or affect the immune system.

Stress: From humans, other animals, captivity can directly affect immune system.




Infectious diseases are acquired in various ways: through the skin (cuts, scratches, punctures), orally, into the respiratory system, from the mother utero or by other routes i.e. urogenital system.

Transmission occurs directly by contact through the air or by way of infected feces, saliva or discharges. Indirect transmission may occur via animate carriers (boots, tools, clothing) or through vectors (living disease carriers such as insects, bats or other animals, etc.).

Most diseases caused by microorganisms have direct life cycles. In the case of some parasites the life cycle may be indirect involving one or more intermediate hosts. An animal group or species in which a disease exists permanently is known as a reservoir. (i.e. skunks for rabies).
Knowledge of the methods of disease transmission and parasite life cycles is important in disease prevention.




To prevent disease from occurring in Big Cat Rescue animals we can do a number of things:

  1. Keep groups of animals properly separated: Besides interspecific aggression, some species may act as reservoirs.
  2. Keep all pets outside: Diseases that are mild domestic animals may be lethal to wild animals.
  3. Quarantine all new animals entering the Refuge: Examine, test, treat or even reject them.
  4. Hygiene: Wash hands, tools, boots before going from one area to another. Clean pens, dishes, bowls. Dispose of manure, bedding properly. Avoid conditions suitable for microorganisms such as wet areas.
  5. Vaccination program: Rabies, distemper, rhino, calici, chlamydia, tetanus, etc
  6. Parasite control program: Routinely screen all animals and treat as necessary.
  7. Effective pest control program: Including wild birds, rodents, insects and other animals.
  8. Other preventive medicine measures: TB tests, hoof and teeth care, routine health examinations, good nutritional program.
  9. Encourage participation in the Refuge’s Public Health Program.


Other points to consider in animal health care:

  1. The Keeper should always record all changes in physical appearance and behaviour of the animal he or she works with. Do not feel stupid about reporting any small changes in your animals – their lives may be at stake. When reporting on animals’ condition, use the correct anatomical terms.
  2. Quarantines and foot baths help reduce the spread of disease or infection. When finished in an animal area clean tools and maintain separate sets of tools for each animal section.
  3. Never smoke in an animal exhibit or holding area.



Injury or illness in the Refuge may be caused by a number of factors- accidents, fighting among animals, problems with Refuge visitors, sudden stress, mismanagement, escapes, and problems during restraint are some. The Keeper can eliminate many of these problems or minimize the trauma by being alert and prepared. Anticipating certain problems allows the Keeper to prevent their occurrence:

  1. Know your procedures for fire, escape, and dangerous situations.
  2. Know your equipment, its location and how to use it; keep all your equipment in good condition.
  3. Know your animal’s behaviour; be aware of problems, such as increasing stress, and try to remove the cause of the problem.
  4. Never close a shift door unless the animal is in full view (all limbs and tail).  Always check the ropes and snaps to be sure they won’t slip after you have secured them.
  5. Keep a look out for toxic material-plastic, plants, wire, etc.
  6. Protect animals from each other and the public-rectify any unsafe situations.
  7. Try to take precautions before problems occur, not afterwards.
  8. Think before you move animals; prepare in advance for their arrival or departure.
  9. Prepare pens in advance with the needs of the animal taken into consideration. N ew animals in multi-use holdings can be injured by lights ( deer that bounce off walls) or limbs and heads can become trapped in wire fences (servals and goats).
  10. Because animal catch-ups or knockdowns are not part of the daily routine more diligence is required to check animal areas after these events. Ropes, pens, darts, needles and other veterinary tools may be left behind or become covered with sand.
  11. The cool weather substitution of heat lamps for regular lights may cause serious problems. Water from rain or hoses will cause infra-red lights to explode. Fixtures used for regular spot lights may not be designed to withstand the heat provided by infra-red lamps. Wood used near lights can easily catch fire with the heat provided from infra-red lights. If water is used in an area for the first time ensure that electrical outlets are designed for use in moist surroundings and have suitable covers or grounds.

When the Keeper enters a cage for any reason he should always use the following checklist to ensure that the area is safe for the animals.


  1. Look for sharp objects such as glass, nails, screws and wire projections.
  2. Look for flaking paint.
  3. Make sure there are not any cleaning agents or chemicals in proximity to the animal cage, or within sight to tempt the animal to reach for them.
  4. Look for holes in the floor, walls and ceiling in fences, wood and mesh, etc.
  5. Check that the water supply is clean and unobstructed, and that the cat can reach it.
  6. Check that the food and water is properly positioned where the animal will not walk, defecate or urinate in it.
  7. Check that there are no sharp point on the cage that the cat can injure itself on.
  8. Check that all temperature, lighting and humidity controls are functioning correctly.
  9. Check ventilation and electrical systems.

In good animal husbandry, prevention of disease, illness and injury is a prime task of the Keeper. The prevention of disease through proper care, feeding and vaccination is better than having to treat a diseased animal.




New construction or repair and upgrading of existing facilities is a common occurrence at Big Cat Rescue. This presents the potential for a) animal contact with hazardous materials, b) the accidental (wind) or intentional introduction of hazardous materials into animal exhibits from construction areas.

Keepers should always be on the lookout for litter of any kind even if it is outside the cage. If construction material must be stored near animal areas arrange for barriers to be installed around the construction area.

Hardware disease is caused when a foreign object, usually metal, punctures the reticulurn of the ruminant stomach, The reticulum (or honeycomb) is one of the compartments of the four-chambered ruminant stomach and often retains heavy foreign objects swallowed by the animal. Problems may not occur unless the object is sharp (such as a nail or piece of wire), and punctures the stomach wall during that organ’s muscular contractions. The object may then puncture the liver or the diaphragm; in the latter case it may pass into the chest cavity and puncture the lungs or heart, causing death.

This is not a rare problem, because in general ruminants are indiscriminate feeders and will eat wire, plastic, rope, nails, etc. along with a mouthful of hay. They may even seek out certain objects if their diet is deficient.  Cats will swallow anything they can get into their mouths.

Knowledge of these habits and close supervision of work in his area helps the Keeper to avoid problems. Scrutinize the exhibit before allowing animals into it; use the magnet to find small metal objects. Make sure your inspections are persistent and relentless, and remember that fill may also be contaminated, and requires continual inspection.




Other aspects of animal health care include feces, fecal samples, prescriptions, the necropsy and handling carcasses.




Feces are a very interesting material and any good Keeper over a period of time becomes a connoisseur of texture, colour, smell and amounts of fecal material. Every Keeper should be aware of feces as an indicator of the animal’s condition; feces are a source of much information about an animal and a good Keeper can extract much of this information.

The terms feces, stool, dung and excreta are all interchangeable. The Keeper should learn what normal feces are for a particular species, for only by knowing what normal stool is can he be aware of abnormalities or problems.

The first thing a Keeper considers is, are there any feces? Lack of fecal matter can indicate a serious problem. Feces begin as food in the mouth of the animal and shows up at the rectum after enzymatic, bacterial, protozoal and chemical actions have occurred. If an animal stops eating, a similar reduction in stool production will occur; the time between the animal stopping eating and when if stops defecating depends on the species. It can range from a few hours in small cats to weeks for larger felids.

When determining normal feces for a particular animal, consider the following:



Feces should appear at regular intervals and be of about the same type each time it is observed. The nature of the animal will dictate the type of feces seen. Obviously excreta from a lemur will be different from a cat or bearcat. These differences are due to different foodstuffs being consumed, different types of digestive systems, and different modes of digestion. Each animal has a complex relationship with its total environment and if the animal’s state changes it may be reflected in the feces. A Keeper, when checking feces, looks for changes in consistency (diarrhea, looseness), foul odor, an increase or decrease in the amount and frequency of defecation, parasite eggs or worms, blood, mucus or foreign objects.

The Keeper should know that many animals can produce diarrhea at will, especially when under stress, such as mating or fighting, or during catch-up.

Anal glands may pass a secretion out with the stool and provide a characteristic odor.

Certain abnormalities visible in feces may indicate specific problems:

PARASITES: Tapeworms, roundworms and other worms are sometimes seen in feces. Feces should be broken up so that the insides can be checked for parasites. Parasite eggs can be seen microscopically.

MUCUS: Mucus-covered feces may mean an inflammation or irritation in the intestine, a serious problem, and may indicate bacterial or protozal infection of the gut.

BLOOD: Tarry, black stool may mean bleeding in the upper digestive tract. The blood (a protein) is digested by enzymes and the pigment seen at defecation is black. It may indicate a serious problem, intestinal parasite or foreign bodies. Carnivores consuming blood in their food (meat) tend to produce a dark, tarry stool, depending on the amount of blood in the food; this does not indicate a problem. Blood or blood flecks in the stool can indicate an inflammation of the colon or caecum, caused by both infectious agents and non-infectious processes.

Whenever parasites, mucus or blood appears in the stool, or even if you are not satisfied that the stool is normal, take a sample of feces containing the abnormality. Always wear rubber gloves; never handle fecal matter with naked hands. When reporting, describe whether the blood is throughout the feces (inflammation of the colon or caecum) or only on the outside (indicates difficulty in passing stool – straining, possible constipation; may need oil or diet change). Label the sample clearly and precisely and indicate whether any previous behaviour may account for the condition of the feces.

Fecal examination in the laboratory takes place on a regular basis to prevent parasite build-up in the host animal. When parasites are detected, treatment should be carried out according to the Veterinarian’s specific instructions, with repeat doses administered on schedule to complete the worming process. The Keeper will probably administer the worming medication, and should observe the feces and, if necessary, collect further samples for prompt delivery to the laboratory.

When describing feces in daily reports and other records the following standard descriptions should be followed to avoid confusion.

NORMAL : Regular for that species or individual in all respects.
SOFT/UNFORMED: Softer than the consistency normal for the species or individual, but still has “body” .
LOOSE: Feces with the consistency of pancake batter.
DIARRHEA: Watery stool – a sample should be taken with a syringe or spatula.

Additional descriptions can provide other data, such as foul smell, mucoid, tarry, watery, etc.

Antibiotic treatment of an infection may kill off an animal’s gut fauna; it may be necessary to re-introduce bacteria into the animal’s gut as replacements. Remember that feces can tell you a lot by their presence or absence, whether the animal is in good health or whether it has parasites, has swallowed a foreign body, or how well it is digesting and absorbing food.

Don’t just throw feces in the garbage – have a look at them first to see what you can learn.




Animal fecal samples are routinely submitted several times a year to the laboratory as a part of the Refuge’s animal health program. Other reasons for fecals to be collected include testing new arrivals at the Refuge, animals transferred within the Refuge and clinical cases, where there is diarrhea or persistent loose stool, for example. Submit as early in the day as possible for quick examination.

When submitting fecal samples the stool must be fresh, in a sealed, plastic bag, and properly identified; the animal’s species, sex, I.D., area, whether routine (R) or clinical (C), and the reason for submission if clinical, as well as the date are written on a tag attached to the plastic bag.

If the feces are from a group, try to identify the individuals. Use full species name and identification. For instance we have a Serval, a Cougar and a Bobcat, all named Cleo.




From time to time the Keeper will have the responsibility of administering certain prescribed medicines or treatments for his or her animals.  Expired drugs are not allowed;  read expired drugs

If you are not sure what the chart means, don’t guess, ask.

Report the treatment’s effectiveness, dates administered and when finished on the required Medication Chart and turn in to Coordinator when done.

Feed back to the Veterinary Department any suggestions you have for more effective presentation of medication (i.e. offering the Rx in a particular preferred food). Return any unused medication as soon as possible.




Necropsy means, simply, examining the dead. When an animal dies, decomposition (autolysis) begins immediately in cases where the animal is under heat or stress. This means that bodies must be submitted for post-mortern as soon as possible after death. Specimens should be refrigerated (not frozen, which destroys tissue) immediately and taken to the Veterinarian as soon as practicable.

The body is usually collected and bagged (if its size allows) by the Keeper. A tag is attached to the bag or animal, stating the date, time found, the animal’s identification, and the Refuge area. The animal’s medical history should accompany the animal to the Vet.

Be sure that information you record on the tag and form is accurate, (especially the animal’s identification), and as full as possible. Information from the necropsy may save other lives in the Refuge by telling the Veterinarian what killed the animal, its parasite load (in relation to Refuge worming procedures), its general state of health before death (in relation to nutrition and diet), and its reproductive state. The data supplied by the Keeper may be important in the final diagnosis of the cause of death.




Disposable gloves must always be worn.
If the animal is a rabies suspect or a wild animal, place the carcass in double plastic bags.
Handle the carcass as little as possible; use a branch or tool to push it into the bag.
Make sure the carcass is transported immediately to the Veterinarian.
Report the death and animal I.D. on your Observation Chart .





The following books and journals are recommended reading for Keepers wishing to gain more insight into, or a more detailed understanding of some of the topics covered in this manual.


Crandall, L.S. – Management of Wild Animals in Captivity
– A Zoo  Man’s Notebook
Ewer, R.F. – The Carnivores
Fowler, M. – Restraint and Handling of Domestic and Wild Animals.
Hediger, H. – Man and Animal In the Zoo
– Psychology and Behaviour of Wild Animals in Zoos and Circuses
– Wild Animals in Captivity
Karsten, P. – A Safety Manual for Keepers (Animal Restraint)
Young, E. (Editor) – Capture and Care of Wild Animals
Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (13 volumes)
International Zoo Yearbooks (Vols. 1-21) EXCELLENT SOURCE
Mammals of the World ( Walker, 3rd Edition)

American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums – Conference Proceedings Animal Keeper’s Forum (journal of the A.A.Z.K.) – a wealth of articles. Ratel (journal of the Association of British Wild Animal Keepers – ABWAK).




Animal Fact Sheets – ZooKeeper Taraining, Volunteer Guides, Big Cat Rescue – background information (Education Department) Standard Operating Procedures  – all staff Emergency Instructions, The Safari Guide Book and Free Spirits in Captive Cats.

There are many other publications – books, magazines, articles and journals in the Refuge Library, many dealing in detail with specific subjects. Keepers are urged to use their Refuge Library and to become familiar with the various sources of information.




American Association of Keepers – Animal Keeper’s Forum Vols. 1975-1982
American Refuge & Aquarium Association – Keeper Training Manual 1968
– Animal Husbandry Training Manual 1981
– National and Regional Conference Proceedings
Association of British Wild Animal Keepers
(ABWAK Journal) – (RATEL) Feb.1981
– RATEL vol.7, no.1
– ABWAK N ewsletter
Association of Zoo Directors of Australia and N ew Zealand – Bulletin of Zoo Management, Oct. 1981
Buchsbaum, Ralph & Milne, Lorus J. – The Lower Animals-Living Invertebrates of the World
(Double Day & Company, Inc. Garden City, N .Y. 1967)
Crowcroft, P. – The Zoo
Crandall, L.S. – The Management of Wild Animals in Captivity
( University of Chicago Press, Chicago)
– Zoo Man’s N otebook
( Univ. of Chicago Press)
Ewer, R.F. – The Carnivores
(Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N ew York 1973)
Fowler, M.E. – 1978 The Restraint and Handling of Wild & Domestic
( Iowa State University Press, Ames , Iowa )
– 1986 Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine
(W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia )
Geraci, J.R. – 1981 Marine Mammal Care
(O.V.C. University of Guelph , Ontario )
Gray, P. – The Dictionary of the Biological Sciences
(Van N ostrand Rheinhold)
Grzimek, B. – 1977 Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia
(Van Nostrand Rheinhold , N ew York , 13 volumes)
Hediger, H. – Man and Animal in the zoo : Refuge Biology
(Routledge and Kegan Paul, London )
– The Psychology and Behaviour of Animal in Zoos and Circuses
( Dover Publications, N ew York )
– Wild Animals in Captivity
( Dover Publications, N ew York )
Heymer, A. – Ethological Dictionary
(Garland Publishing, Inc., N ew York )
Hickman, Cleveland, P. – Integrated Principles of Zoology 4th Edition
(C.V. Mosley Co., St. Louis, 1970)
International Union for the Conversation of N ature and N atural Resources – Red Book on Rare and Endangered Species
( Gland , Switzerland )
International Species Inventory System – Manuals and Codebooks
( ISIS , Apple Valley , Minnesota )
Jaeger,E.C. – A Source Book of Biological N ames and Terms
(Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, Springfield , Illinois )
Jennings , J.B. – Feeding Digestion & Assimilation in Animals
(Macmillan, St. Martin ‘s Press 2nd Edition)
Karsten, P. – Calgary Refuge In-Service Training Program for Refuge
Keeper Apprentices
(City of Calgary , Calgary , Alberta )
– 1974 Safety Manual for Keepers (Animal
Larousse Encyclopedia of Animal Life (1967 Hamlyn Publishing Group)
Livingston, B. – Zoo Animals, People, Places
(Arbor House)
Pettingill, Jnr., O.S. – 1970 Ornithology in Lab and Field
(Burgess Publishing Co.)
Sheridan College Keeper I Course N otes 1981/82
Schwabe, Calvin S. – 1969 2nd Edit. Veterinary Medicine & Human Health
(Williams & Wilkins Company, Baltimore)
Taylor, S. and Bietz A. – 1979 Infant Diet/Care N otebook
(A.A.Z.P.A. Wheeling , West Virginia )
Tongren, S. – What’s for Lunch – Animal Feeding at the N .Z.P.
(GMG Publishing)
Van Tyne,J.& Berger, A.J. – 1976 Fundamentals of Ornithology (Dover Publishing, Inc.)
Walker , E.P. – 1975 Mammals of the World (Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore , Maryland ,
3rd Edition, 2 volumes)
Wallace, R.A. – Ecology and Evolution of Animal Behaviour
(Goodyear Publishing Co. California , 2nd Edition)
Welty, J.C. – The Life of Birds (W.B. Saunders, Co., 2nd Edition)
Whitehead, G.K. – Deer of the World (Constable, London , England )
Wilson , C.L. & Loomis, W.E. – Botany (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 4th Edition)
Young, E. – Capture and Care of Wild Animals – The Work of
18 Veterinary Medical & Wildlife Experts
(Ralph Curtis Books, Florida )
Zoological Society of London – International Refuge Yearbooks – Vols. I – 21
(Zoological Society of London , England )



Volunteer Management

Volunteer Management

Volunteer Management

Big Cat Rescue had 89 volunteers at the end of 2014 who clocked in 40,547 man-power hours, in addition to 54 interns who clocked 32,400 man-power hours, plus 4,793 Volunteer Committee member hours. In total this amounted to 77,740 man-power hours provided roughly the equivalent workforce of 37 more full time staff.  Between paid staff, part time staff, contractors and volunteers we averaged the equivalent of 52 full time staff.

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