Bobcat Calls

Bobcat Calls

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It’s not even 2 days into the new year and I got another bobcat call.

I was on my way in to work when I got a call from our Gift Shop that a man had walked in and asked if we were missing a bobcat.  I’m always surprised at how many Floridians don’t know that bobcats are native to our state.  What had started out as a beautiful morning, quickly turned dark and dreadful.

As I approached the location it was clear, from the beautiful spotted underbelly facing the sky, that the animal who was being hit time and time again by motorists, was indeed a bobcat.  I waited for a break in traffic to run out and retrieve her broken body.  Usually bobcats seem to make it out of the roadway, or at least to the shoulder of the road, but she had been crushed so many times, that it felt like my heart would break into as many shards, when I felt her in my trembling hands. I thought about the male bobcat who had lost his life at this same crossing just a little over a month ago.  On both sides of Sheldon Road there is massive development underway to add more stores, homes and a recent emergency clinic.  Ironic…

BobcatsHitByCarCitrusPark

I vowed to create a document to track all of these calls.  We have done a good job of documenting the bobcats we have rescued, but what about all of the times when we didn’t get there in time?  We have gotten 12 bobcat calls in the last year; four of them were dead on arrival and we never did find the fifth bobcat, although we did find blood on the pavement.  Right now we have 6 bobcat kittens in rehab and hope to release all of them this year.  While it brings great joy to return them to their rightful place, it is just barely enough to make up for the pain of finding the broken bodies of those we can’t help.

So many campaigns suggest that you should give wildlife a “brake” and it’s a lovely sentiment, but it you have ever seen a bobcat run, then you know there is no way a person could avoid hitting one if the cat darted out in front of them.  The only real solution is to build under and over passes that connect major green ways for the animals and high fences with a cantilever at the top to keep wildlife from scaling them.  The straight, 8 foot fences that are used current are totally inadequate.  These are pricey projects, but without them we will lose our wildlife and all that is beautiful and pure in this world.

BrakeForWildlife

We are working hard to end the private possession of exotic cats and doing so would put us out of business.  We really look forward to that day, but I know that won’t be an end to the long days and sleepless nights.  We will always provide rehab and release for native bobcats and that need seems to be increasing.  It’s hard to know if the number of bobcat calls are escalating, or if it is just that people know to call us now, because we are so well known for our premiere rehab facilities.  12 calls were an all time high in 2015 and were three times higher than any year, dating back to 1994.  Even other rehabbers will often call us for the time consuming and costly process of getting a bobcat ready for release back to the wild.

Thanks to explore.org we have a webcam on one of our Rehab Bobcat enclosures where viewers can watch the current residents as they recover from injuries, or learn how to be bobcats when they grow up.  http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-bobcat-rehab-and-release

We have a major project underway at the sanctuary for a Small Cat Fun area, similar to our Vacation Rotation, but as soon as it is done we need to begin fundraising for a complete overhaul of our Bobcat Rehab enclosures.  We have had to temporarily outfit cages for bobcat rehab that were not designed for that purpose and while it works, and is better than any other options out there for rehab, it isn’t optimal.  We want to start from scratch to build rehab enclosures that are bigger, allow for more muscle toning, and that are further away from human encroachment.  With more than 30 years of bobcat rehab under out belts, we know what we need and think our donors will help us make it a reality.  If saving native bobcats and returning them to nature appeals to you, then you can help out here:

https://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51389/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=9489

To see some of our rehab bobcat rescue videos:

If saving native bobcats and returning them to nature appeals to you, then you can help out here:

https://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51389/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=9489

Tommie

Tommie

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Tommie Girl

hear big cats

Female Bobcat
DOB appx 10/1/11 – 12/13/15
Rescued 3/6/12

 

 

Tommie the bobcat's rescuer Tommie DeanerOn Mar 5 we got a call from the Florida Wildlife Commission asking if we could help a blind bobcat that had been reported by the Manager of the Cemex Mine.  His name is Tommie and he loves the wildlife that calls his land a sanctuary.  He knew there was something desperately wrong with this little kitten from the first day he saw her, which was about two weeks before.

We made arrangements to drive up to the mine on Mar 6 to set a humane trap because the kitten had not been seen since Feb 27.  Jamie and I drove up with a trap, nets, carrier, and bait for four days and Tommie Deaner agreed to check and set the trap daily.

On the way to Center Hill Tommie texted that the bobcat was in sight and that he had caught some fish for her and was feeding her.  Jamie texted back to stop because traffic had us running a half hour late.  Since there was no way to get a fish away from a starving bobcat, Tommie improvised and got a box out of the trash to trap her in.

When Jamie and I drove up we were waved to the scene by Cemex staff.  When we saw the box we were thrilled at the prospect of NOT having to chase a bobcat all over place. The problem was that the box didn’t have a bottom.

tommie-girl-watchingWe slid a piece of plywood under the box, like you would pick up a spider with a cup and cardboard (per Jamie) and then put the whole thing in the van.  The plan was to shift her from the box to the carrier inside the van, so that if the bobcat escaped, she was at least trapped in the van… with us.  Well, that part wasn’t very appealing, but it was better than the risk of losing her and having her starve to death.

If you have never seen Jamie net a cat; you haven’t seen art in motion.  Quicker than a blink she had her in the net and backed up to the carrier door.  Since she really couldn’t see well enough to put up much of a fight, we got her in the carrier pretty neatly.  She growled for a while, but the belly full of fish and the swaying motion of the van for an hour and a half put her right to sleep.

She was suffering from starvation, blindness and parasites and was so badly debilitated that she will never be a candidate for release.  She has very limited, if any sight, so she will spend the rest of her life at Big Cat Rescue.

 

Tommie Girl watches Gale and the interns cleaning out Canyon Sandcat’s third section to prepare it for a tunnel, all of the weeds out of Nirvana Ocelot’s enclosure and many more landscaping projects.

On 12/13/15 Tommie Girl was found laying next to her water bowl, completely drenched, as if she had a seizure and had dumped the bowl on herself in the process.  Keepers found her breathing shallowly and staring out into space.  The vet happened to be right next door and rushed in, but she was dead within minutes.  We sent her entire body out for necropsy to two facilities in Georgia, but despite one of them specializing in brain issues, neither could determine her cause of death.  She was one of our youngest residents and we never expected to lose her so soon, even though she had arrived with severe neurological issues.

 

 

 

 

It is very rare that we get video of Tommie, so this was a real treat!

 

AdvoCat 2015 12

AdvoCat 2015 12

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Happy Holidays from Big Cat Rescue

 

We have so much to be thankful for; wonderful people like you who help ensure that our big cats stay fed, our AdvoCats all around the world who work for laws to end the abuse of big cats, our Big Cat Rescuers who donate their time to caring for the cats, running the sanctuary and educating our guests, and to live in paradise.  This issue is our gift to you!

 

Holiday Goody Gifts for YOU!

Big Cat Rescue has teamed up with Explore.org who is hosting LIVE STREAMING video of the cats. See tigers playing, swimming, sleeping, and eating.  Watch Nikita lioness as she plays and sleeps.  Watch adorable funny kittens playing.

FIRST: Go to http://Explore.org/BigCatRescue to see the live streaming videos and use the “Snapshot” feature there to take your own photos of the lions, tigers, and kittens.

EVERY photo submission gets YOUR NAME placed in a drawing for a free t-shirt.

SECOND: Submit your photos to us before midnight on Christmas Eve.  The T-Shirt Winner will be announced on Christmas Day.  We will pick 30 photos to include in a special edition screensaver that we will give away Christmas Day.  Find out how to submit your photos here, where it says, Win A FREE Big Cat Rescue T-Shirt http://chatbigcats.com/newsletter-gifts-december-2015/

Video Updates Since the Last Mews Letter

Bobcat Release Site Needed in Highlands County FL

State law requires that bobcats be released back to the same county where they were picked up for rehab.  Rain and Dancer came from Highlands County, so we need a release site that is in excess of 40 acres (the more land the better) where the owner will give us written permission to release them.  If you have land, or know a land baron, please email Cat@BigCatRescue.org and let us know.

 

Can’t Get Enough of the Big Cats?

Now you can watch them LIVE on explore.org/bigcatrescue  Check out each of the webcams below:

Nikita Lioness

Vacation Rotation

Feeding Station

Kitten Cabana

Windsong Memorial Cat Hospital

Bobcat Rehab

AdvoCats Come in All Sizes

Our AdvoCats come in all ages, from all over the US and the world. Eleven year-old Alexander P. proves that anyone who cares about big cats can make a difference. For the past two years Alexander has supported Big Cat Rescue through our Buy a Brick program by collecting donations rather than gifts for his birthday. This school year, he and his fellow classmate are organizing a school fundraiser to sponsor one of our very own bobcats in honor of their school mascot.

Alexander_BigCat_2

Just this week, Alexander’s family surprised him with an early Christmas gift – a trip from Maryland to our sanctuary in Tampa, FL! During his visit Alexander learned more about the issues of private ownership and about our federal bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Wanting to voice his support for big cats, Alexander plans on visiting the Capital next year to meet with legislators and tell them just how important this bill is to him.  Thank you for all that you do for the cats, Alexander!

Jennifer Leon, MPA Director of Outreach

 

Windsong Memorial Hospital

Windsong Memorial Hospital

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Windsong Memorial Hospital

The Windsong Memorial Hospital was completed in January 2015.  Nikita the tiger was the first to benefit from having a tiger sized X-ray machine on site.

Vet-Nik-Tiger-Last-Day-2015-01-22 19.38.06

The X-ray table can easily handle over 1,000 pounds.  The nearest X-ray machine of this size is nearly 3 hours away.

Vet-X-ray_4818

The Windsong Memorial Cat Hospital is LIVE

Vet-X-ray_4021

State of the art X-ray and software in a lead lined room with lead aprons in fashionable cat prints.

Vet-X-ray_4026

Big Cat Rescue utilizes ZIMS for our animal care records.

Vet-Wet-Table-Dental-5712

Wet table with dental X-ray for any size toothache.

Vet-Joseph-Lion-2015-05-18 11.17.05

 

The Windsong Memorial Hospital includes an anesthesia machine, heart monitors, overhead surgery lights, a warmer for the patient, blood machines, auto clave, microscopes and more.

Windsong-Hospital-2015-01-27 16.22.16

The floors are easy to clean and yet a no slip surface.  The surgery table has been replaced with a new, hydraulic table.

Vet-Amanda-Tiger-2015-05-29 18.46.49

The second story loft has a plexiglass viewing window and seating for 20 people to watch the surgery without contaminating the surgery suite.

Video of surgery in the new Windsong Memorial Hospital

View from observatory above shows the delicate eye surgery.

 

The Windsong Memorial Hospital began construction in the Spring of 2014 after the generous donation of an X-ray machine and was completed in January 2015.

Here is a little bit of that history:

Nov. 2014  Steady progress is being made on the new Windsong Memorial Hospital. At this writing the concrete slab has been completed and the shell of the building is complete. The vendor for the X-ray machine has started the production process (they make these one at a time to order).

Windsong HospitalWe explored options for bringing the required 3 phase power to us. Because we are at the end of a long dirt road far from the nearest node of that kind of power, the cost to bring power under the only practical scenario was estimated to be $69,000 by our electric company. In addition it required them to get easements, put in new poles, and then put this into their construction backlog. In short, it would have been hugely expensive and taken months.

With the help of the X-ray manufacturer and our electrical engineering firm we came up with a better solution. Since the X-ray machine is only used intermittently, it can be powered by a generator. Of course, we are not talking about those little units you see in Home Depot. We are talking about a 50kW diesel powered generator that is 8 feet long and weighs a little over one ton! This generator will cost an estimated $25,000 – $30,000 installed. Still very expensive, but less than half the cost of the power line and it can have us up and running MUCH sooner. Currently our engineering firm is completing the electrical drawings that are needed to apply for the electric permit.

So, what is left to do? We need to get the electrical permit, install the wiring and fixtures in the hospital, install the air conditioning and the generator, finish out the inside of the building, get the X-ray machine and install it, and set up the ultrasound system. A lot to do, but we are on the way.

The total cost of the building including the generator is currently estimated to be about $85,000. This week our fundraising received a huge boost from Sarah and Bruce McWilliams, who previously provided the funding for the X-ray machine itself. These passionate advocates for the cats have generously offered an additional $42,500, half the estimated cost of the completed hospital, as a Matching Grant to match all other donations dollar for dollar.

Our sincere thanks to the McWilliams’ for this very generous matching donation and to all of you who help us earn the match!

 

.WindsongMemorialHospital4 WindsongMemorialHospital3 WindsongMemorialHospital2

WindsongMemorialHospital1

Windsong-Hospital-2015-01-27 16.22.26

 

Little Feather

Little Feather

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hear big catsLittle Feather

Female Bobcat

DOB 5/3/93

Rescued 5/8/93

 

Bobcat_LittleFeatherLittle Feather was five days old when she came to Big Cat Rescue. She had been bred at a game farm that bred bobcats and cougars. Game farms often breed wild animals to be shot as game, or to be exploited in other awful ways.  One of the most common is one that you have probably seen.

If you have ever seen bobcat or lynx mothers with their kittens in a field of flowers, you have probably seen game farm cats.  Photographers will pay a lot for images they can’t get in the wild because no mother bobcat or lynx is going to let you get anywhere near her kittens.

The mothers are drugged, and wired down in place behind the flowers or log so you can’t see that their back legs are tightly secured to the ground.  The kittens are turned loose and they run to their mothers.  As she awakens, surrounded by photographers, she is terrified and gives them the hissing images they know will sell.

The photo session is concluded by the mother being darted again so that she can’t move.  This constant drugging destroys her kidneys and she will die young, but game farmers just consider that the cost of doing business.  Kittens who don’t look just right, or who grow too old are discarded as pets, to hunting ranches and other bad places.

Please, don’t buy books, calendars or other items with wildcat mom and kitten photos and don’t pass them around on social sites, unless you know that they were really taken in the wild or at a sanctuary that doesn’t buy, breed or sell wild animals.

When Little Feather arrived we began bottle feeding her, and she quickly became everyone’s little darling. Her surrogate mother was Breezy, a freebred domestic cat rescued from the streets.

Little Feather was very sickly as a kitten and spent days in a pouch around Carole Baskin’s neck to keep her warm and to monitor her every breath. She never grew to be very big for some unknown reason, and full grown she weighs only 16 pounds.

Little Feather is a very odd looking bobcat, she is stocky and has a fluffy coat like a northern bobcat, but has the dark coat pattern with small spots and her face has little ruff like a southern bobcat. She is likely a cross between the two.

She is now over 20 years old, but still just as cute as a kitten thanks to those huge eyes.

Due to blood clot, Little Feather has been lame in her back leg and has been receiving K-Laser Therapy three times a week thanks to K-Laser Veterinary.  She still limps a little, but the overall improvement has been amazing.  See the video below to show the progression from the time of lameness until her near recovery.

Here are a few pages that show the K-Laser therapy for Little Feather:

http://bigcatrescue.org/working-with-big-cats-at-big-cat-rescue-116/

http://bigcatrescue.org/working-with-big-cats-at-big-cat-rescue-114/

http://bigcatrescue.org/working-with-big-cats-at-big-cat-rescue-113/

 

 

Sponsor Little Feather http://big-cat-rescue.myshopify.com/collections/sponsor-a-cat

 

2014:  Little Feather is a 21 year old bobcat at Big Cat Rescue. She was reported for having a puffy looking chin, which turned out to be some bad teeth. The dental work went fine and she seemed to be well on her way to recovery, so we took her back to her Cat-a-Tat.

When we let her loose, we were horrified to see that she was lame. See how three vets, a number of techs, K-Laser and Big Cat Rescuers all came together to try and give her back the ability to walk.

See how you can help: http://bigcatrescue.org/cat-hospital-wishlist/

More About Little Feather:

* January 2015 video has some footage of Little Feather: http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-feb-16-2015/

* Wildcat Walkabout Video has footage of Little Feather looking cute – February 24, 2014: http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-feb-24-2014/

* This page has a short video clips of Little Feather enjoying being scratched: http://bigcatrescue.org/dont-they-miss-being-petted/

* Today At Big Cat Rescue for October 2, 2014 – This page has a lot of photos including Little Feather. http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-oct-2-2014/

* Today At Big Cat Rescue for November 12 – This page has several photos of the cats including photos of Little Feather: http://bigcatrescue.org/today-at-big-cat-rescue-nov-12/

* Now at Big Cat Rescue for July 29, 2014 is a video that has some footage of several cats including Little Feather: http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-july-29-2014/

* Now at Big Cat Rescue for June 22, 2014 is a video that has some footage of several cats including Little Feather: http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-june-22-2014/

* Today At Big Cat Rescue for September 16th – This page has a lot of photos including Little Feather: http://bigcatrescue.org/today-at-bug-cat-rescue-sept-16/

* Today At Big Cat Rescue for October 17, 2014 – This page has several photos of the cats including photos of Little Feather: http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-oct-17-2014/

* Walk About Video for May 3, 2014 has some footage of several cats as well as Little Feather –  Little Feather turns 21 and gets a doll house. http://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-may-3-2014/

 

Big Cat Coalition

Big Cat Coalition

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Timeline of the Big Cat Coalition

 

If it seems rather late to be discussing these coalitions,  it is because we have to be as stealthy as the cats we are protecting, so that those who abuse wild cats cannot thwart our mission.  There are LOTS of exciting things going on behind the scenes right now that we can’t talk about, for that very reason, but now that we have achieved many of our goals, it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

The timeline of the Big Cat Coalition starts with the

 

Timeline of the International Tiger Coalition

This is being told from the perspective of Carole Baskin, Founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue.

 

2007  A loose coalition of NGO’s began working together and had achieved some unprecedented goals by 2009 when Big Cat Rescue joined the coalition.  Judy Mills was the facilitator for our monthly and sometimes weekly meetings.   

HelpWanted2009 Big Cat Rescue attended the launch of the World Bank’s involvement in Washington, D.C. which was emceed by Harrison Ford and attended by Bo Derek and Robert Duvall.  The coalition’s initial goal was to stop tiger farming for their parts in China and to increase the wild tiger population to 10,000 animals by the next Year of the Tiger.  Big Cat Rescue joined the International Tiger Coalition to ensure that these groups considered the fact that cub handling in the U.S. was exacerbating the poaching in range states and giving China an excuse to farm tigers for their parts since breeders in America farm them for cub handling exploitation.

2010 Big Cat Rescue sponsored the ITC booth at CITES and sponsored the attendance of the ITC Moderator, Judy Mills at the Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

2010 Big Cat Rescue sponsored the International Tiger Coalition booth in Doha, Qatar thanks to your votes for us in the Chase contest where we won $25,000. Your votes help save tigers!

2011 Big Cat Rescue made introductions to the Rose Church of members of the ITC to form the Big Cat Coalition.

4/4/2011 Rose Church a pro bono attorney for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation contacted Big Cat Rescue asking what Ian could do to help Tony the tiger be saved from the truck stop in Grosse Tete, LA.  Ian Somerhalder is the star of the Vampire Diaries and from Louisiana and had a Twitter following of 2.3 million fans at that time.

We had been working to save Tony since 2009 and so had the Animal Legal Defense Fund and there wasn’t anything more that could be done at the time as these things drag out through years and years of appeals, so Howard Baskin and I suggested that if Ian really wanted to make a difference for big cats that he help us stop cub handling.

Rose couldn’t believe that such abuse actually existed in this country and contacted her law professor, Diane Sullivan, to see what could be done. They thought that bringing together the big non profits who work on big cat issues together for a round table would be a good idea and asked if I knew anyone.  I gave her the contacts we had in the International Tiger Coalition and she managed to get representatives from a number of them to come to a meeting on July 25, 2011.

Attendees were:

ALDF  Stephan Otto from the Animal Legal Defense Fund

BCR  Howard Baskin and Carole Baskin from Big Cat Rescue

BF USA  Adam Roberts and Tracy Coppola from Born Free

GFAS  Patty Finch from the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

HSUS  Debbie Leahy from the Humane Society of the United States

IFAW  Jeff Flocken, Nathan Herschler & Gina Miller from the International Fund for Animal Welfare

ISF  Rose Church from the Ian Somerhalder Foundation

MSL  Dean Diane Sullivan, from Massachusetts School of Law, filmed the Plight of Tigers further down

WCAR  World Council for Animal Rights

WCCLAS  Wild Cat Conservation Legal Aid Society

WWF  Leigh Henry from the World Wildlife Fund

Combined we represent more than 18 million supporters.

 

8/22/11 After a meeting with the USFWS the Generic Tiger issue was published to the Federal Register for public comment and got over 15,000 comments in support of our request to ban the breeding of non purebred tigers.

The coalition continued to have weekly calls and hundreds of emails to compile the evidence and drafting of our submissions to USDA, USFWS and Congress.

1/26/2012 Met w/ USDA to present all of the evidence that they can and should ban public contact under the Animal Welfare Act.

2/29/2012 Rep. McKeon and Rep. Loretta Sanchez introduced the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act in the House (HR 4122) and Sen. Kerry commits to introducing into the Senate, which he did just prior to the elections.

3/2/2012 Ian Somerhalder tweets it to his fans.

3/28/12  Massachusetts School of Law won a Bronze Telly Award for the Plight of Tigers film.

 

 

July 2012  Carole presented this at the Taking Action for Animals conference in Washington, D.C.

 

One person can be the cat-alyst for change. If you are sitting in this audience, YOU might be the kind of person who has the passion to overcome the impossible in order to help save thousands, or millions of animals. Rose Church is one of those people.

How many of you have heard about Tony the tiger who has been kept at a Louisiana truck stop for the past decade?

How many of you have heard of, or recognize Ian Somerhalder from the Vampire Diaries?

Ian Somerhalder

Rose Church is a pro bono attorney for the Ian Somerhalder foundation and she wanted to get Ian involved in freeing Tony the tiger. Ian has 2,300,000 followers on Twitter and she thought that getting him to Tweet about Tony might help raise awareness about Tony the truck stop tiger. She contacted me to ask what Ian could ask his followers to do.

Even though we get more complaints about Tony than any other single situation and have been working to free him for the past decade, we had exhausted our ability to do anything. We had hired the tiger a lawyer and had shown up with plenty of supporters to testify, but it had become obvious that the state of Louisiana was not going to do anything. USDA has revoked the license to display the tiger, but that rarely seems to stop exhibitors from exhibiting.

The ALDF (Animal Legal Defense Fund) had continued the fight in the only venue left, which was the legal system. Court cases wind their way through the system like a river of molasses so there wasn’t much anyone could do. It seemed like the whole world already knew about Tony, so having Ian Tweet his audience didn’t seem like a terribly productive thing to do. If we had the help of a celebrity we told Rose that he could make a far great impact for thousands of tigers like Tony by educating his fan base about the issue that causes so many tigers and other big cats to end up being bred, exploited and discarded.

The underlying cause for almost all of this suffering is cub petting.

I explained to Rose that it was big business in the U.S. for breeders to charge the public to pet or pose with big cat cubs. One claims to have made $23,000 in a single weekend at a mall, charging people to have interaction with the cubs and / or have their photos made with the cubs. The breeders and dealers were doing these pay to play sessions with older lions and tigers up until the death of a high school student named Haley Hildebrand.

Thanks to pressure from the media and then the public, the USDA issued a FAQ sheet suggesting that cubs under 8 weeks should not be used this way. In a separate appellate court case the judge ruled that cubs over the age of 12 weeks were too dangerous for such interaction. The unintended result was creating a loophole whereby breeders could still charge customers to touch cubs who were between 8-12 weeks old. That resulted in massive breeding in order to have profitable cubs to use. Since their shelf life was only 4 weeks, breeders decided to produce lion and tiger cubs every month so that they would always have “legal” age cubs to use.

Rose could hardly believe her ears. First of all, she had never seen these mall exhibits where tiger breeders set up shop and offer cubs as photo props all day over a four day weekend. Second, she couldn’t believe that USDA hadn’t done something to close that 4 week window they had created.

It can be anything from fixing a broken toy to curing some social ill; have you ever had one of those moments where you see a situation and think to yourself, “I can fix this.” This was Rose’s moment. She said to herself, “I can do something about this!”

Rose figured there at LOTS of animal protection groups out there and if they all worked together they could fix this thing. But, she doubted that anyone would listen to her if she made the suggestion that they do so. She took the information to her professor from Law School, Diane Sullivan because she knew that Dean Sullivan had her own animal law television show and a lot of clout in the animal protection community. She figured that if Dean Sullivan were to ask the big animals groups to come together that it might actually happen.

Rose asked me who the big players are that care about tigers. That was an easy question because I had been part of a team of more than 40 such organizations who worked together as the International Tiger Coalition. The ITC had been formed primarily to end the tiger farming in China, but time and again the hurdle was that China would resist our suggestions by pointing out the fact that the U.S. doesn’t even know how many tigers we have nor where they are nor how they are being housed. I gave her the names and contact info for the people who I felt had been most involved in the ITC and who could work well together.

Rose contacted IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and went over the list to get further input on who would be willing to work together on the tiger issue. The result was a round table meeting in D.C. at IFAW in July 2011. At the table were the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States, Born Free, the World Wildlife Fund, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Wild Cat Conservation Legal Aid Society, World Council for Animal Rights, the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, Ian Somerhalder Foundation, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and Big Cat Rescue. Combined we represent more than 18 million supporters.

I’ve been a part of other animal welfare coalitions but this group has worked better together than anything I’ve ever seen before. The meeting was hugely successful and we got to the root of the tiger problem: cub petting. In your conference bags you will find a four page summary of the Tiger Handling Crisis. There is another page of citations used for the document that we are providing online at BigCatLaws.com

What the group concluded was that we can’t save wild tigers as long as there is such unregulated trade in captive tigers who provide a legal smoke screen for illegal activities such as poaching. China has made the argument that they should be allowed to farm tigers for their parts to fill the demand, but there will always be a demand for the “real” tiger; the “wild” tiger and expanding the market through farming tigers will only result in them being exterminated more quickly in the wild.

Right now there are more tigers in back yard cages in America than are left in the wild. It is thought that there are less than 3200 tigers left in the wild and at last count, by USDA, there were about 5000 tigers in USDA facilities. Only about 200 of those are AZA zoos, so the rest are in roadside zoos, circus acts, and back yards; and that is just the ones who voluntarily reported and who hold USDA licenses. For those who are not licensed by USDA, the people who own them as pets, there has been no census done.

As the group looked at the situation in the U.S., it became apparent that the number one cause for so many tigers to end up in deplorable conditions was the very lucrative cub petting industry. Two factors made this abuse possible.

Back in the 1980s white tigers became all the rage. White tigers would sell for $60,000 because the public was so enamored with seeing this freak of nature. What the zoos kept quiet was the fact that the only way to create that white coat was through purposely inbreeding, father to daughter, mother to son and brother to sister. Over time the cubs became more and more genetically impaired, suffering from club feet, open spines, crossed eyes and badly formed bones and teeth. Before long the Bengal tigers were so inbred that they were no longer reproducing or cubs were being born dead. But the public demanded to see white tigers, so the zoos started hybridizing Bengal tigers and Siberian tigers to continue the inbreeding a few generations more.

So many zoos and backyard breeders were cross breeding tigers that the USFWS decided it wasn’t worth their time to process the captive bred wildlife permits that are required for endangered species, so they created the “generic” tiger loophole. What this did was allowed zoos and private owners to breed non purebred tigers with no oversight and the tiger population exploded in the U.S.

The other factor that made it so easy for tigers to be bred and used as photo and petting props was that even though USDA had inadvertently created a four week window, between 8 and 12 weeks when cubs could be petted by the public, they had no way to enforce it because they do not require any sort of registration of tigers and rely almost entirely on what the tiger owner tells them as to the age of the cub or why the cub was taken from their mother. The same person who claims to make over $20,000 in a good weekend at the mall had 23 tiger cubs die over the span of just a little over a year, but to date the USDA has done nothing about it.

So, the coalition decided on a three prong approach to ending the abuse of tigers:

Close the generic tiger loophole at the USFWS

Ask USDA to close the 4 week window of cub petting

A federal bill that ends the breeding and trade in big cats outside of AZA zoos

Only a year has passed since one person arranged for a bunch of animal protection groups to work on this and we have good news so far:

The USFWS has put the suggestion of closing the generic tiger exemption out on the Federal Register for public comment and more than 14,000 commented in favor of doing so. The rule hasn’t been made final, but the government moves slowly.

We met with USDA, presented the Cub Handling Crises flier you have, along with the citations and the concurrence of 20 zoo vets who agree that cub petting should be banned. Unfortunately, the USDA has taken the position that they do not have the power to close the window. They made it; they should be able to close it, but they are unwilling, so we are still working on that one. For the most part their attitude seems to be that they don’t think it is a big enough problem because they don’t hear about it much. With your help we can fix that!

In March of 2013 our federal bill HR 4122 was introduced. It is gaining momentum and we currently have 30+ cosponsors. Senator Kerry’s office is working on a companion bill and we will be shepherding these federal bills through Congress by reaching out to our 18 million supporters and asking them to personally call or visit their Congress men and women to support this bill. These things usually take several years to gain the momentum necessary to be heard before the entire House and Senate, but the good news is that when they are heard, the support is almost universal.

The coalition continues to meet every couple of weeks by phone to update each other on our progress. We visited with Rose in Boston a few weeks ago and she tells us that Ian Somerhalder has met with President Obama. We are hoping that Ian might be able to persuade the President to direct USDA to make it a priority to protect big cat cubs by closing the cub petting window.

In summary I’d like to point out that one person can make a difference. Whether you are a young woman who is donating time to a non profit, like Rose, who gets huge organizations to all work as one, or you are a teen idol like Ian, who can manage an audience with the President of the United States, you can be the voice for the voiceless.

 

Back to the Big Cat Coalition Timeline

 

9/2/2012  By this time we had garnered more than 400 phone calls from our visitors to their members of Congress in our gift shop at Big Cat Rescue.

Sign Re Big Cat Ban

9/17/2012 Senator John Kerry introduced S.3547, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.

9/20/2012  Presented a unified front to a Congressional Briefing

Big Cat Coalition-Congressional-Briefing

12/31/2012 Due to a lack of action by the House and Senate, largely to do with the election and then the “fiscal cliff,” the Big Cats & Public Safety Act died.

5/15/2013 Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon & Rep. Loretta Sanchez re-introduced the Big Cats and Public Safety Act as HR 1998.

7/29/13 Sen. Richard Blumenthal re-introduced the Big Cats and Public Safety Act as S 1381.

8/5/2013 The USDA posted a request for public comment on our petition to ban cub handling for 30 days.

11/17/2013  IFAW and Big Cat Rescue arranged for a Fly In of 17 of Big Cat Rescue’s most ardent supporters who were in key Congressional districts.

Senator-Richard-Blumenthall

11/18/2013 The above comment period had been extended due to the AZA wishing to exempt their cheetah petting fundraisers, but closed today with over  15,000 responses and over 100,000 responses if you include those submitted via coalition partner’s supporters.

2/10/14  Big Cat Rescue hired a Republican lobbyist to assure Republicans that this is a bipartisan bill where everyone can agree that big cats don’t belong in backyards and basements.

6/26/14  Big Cat Rescue was the Diamond Sponsor at Taking Action for Animals in Washington, D.C. and brought the bill to the attention of 1,200 attendees through our booth, two one hour presentations, 3 workshop panels and a presentation at the plenary.

7/1/2014 Now that Congress is back in session we will continue to build the cosponsors for our bills.  We currently have 108 cosponsors in the House and 5 cosponsors in the Senate.  Want to help?  Call your lawmaker or send an email here: BigCatAct.com

1/6/2015 Judith A. Mills releases her expose on the tiger trade called Blood of the Tiger.  It connects the thousands of tigers being bred and killed for their parts in China to the U.S.’s own failure to regulate the captive trade in tigers, and how this is exterminating tigers in the wild.

2/5/2015  Our bills died without being heard last year, but the House version had 119 cosponsors and the Senate version had 6 and did have a sub-committee meeting that went very well.  In fact, the only negative statement made during the meeting was that the Senators thought we should be banning more and restricting more with our language.  We are currently looking to re-introduce the bill and will keep you posted.

7/7/2015  We expect the bill to be reintroduced any day now. Aids keep telling us they will be introducing the bill soon.

9/17/2015 HR 3546 was re-Introduced in the House.  A senate version is ready and the sponsor has committed.  A congressional briefing has been scheduled.

2/11/2016 SB 2541 was introduced in the Senate by Senator Richard Blumenthal.  Congress moves VERY slowly.

2/11/2016 Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders and Senator Richard Blumenthal wrote a formal letter to USDA asking that they take action to protect big cats and their cubs. Bernie Sanders Richard Blumental USDA 

4/3/2016 USDA cracks down on abuse of cubs under the age of four weeks.  In response to a 2012 legal petition filed by The Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, Detroit Zoological Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Born Free USA, Big Cat Rescue, Fund for Animals and Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued guidance making clear that exhibitors violate the Animal Welfare Act by allowing members of the public to handle or feed infant exotic cats like tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars or leopards.  Read more.

4/5/2016 USFWS announced that they are rescinding the generic tiger loophole. Big Cat Rescue has been pressuring the USFWS since at least 2007 to rescind this loophole and on 8/22/11 after a meeting with the USFWS the Generic Tiger issue was published to the Federal Register for public comment and got over 15,000 comments in support of our request to ban the breeding of non purebred tigers.  Read more.