According to JnK volunteers, Zeus was the son of the original female, Kimba. He was bred back to his mother to create the other nine tigers, including Keisha. This is commonly done on purpose to create white tigers, which are the result of severe inbreeding.
Zeus suffered from an eye injury that would later be diagnosed as a luxated lens. He had been this way for over a year and never received any treatment. Because Zeus was so malnourished upon his arrival we could not perform surgery until he had gained some weight and his overall health stabilized.
After months of specially prepared diets Zeus was finally in a healthy enough state to sedate. An eye specialist examined his eye and discovered that what we thought was his good eye actually had very bad cataracts that limited his vision in that eye tremendously.
The eye with the luxated lens had more vision, but also had an ulcer on the surface. The decision was made to repair the ulcer and see if that was the cause of his pain. If his eye continues to be a source of discomfort it will be removed which will essentially blind him.
While Zeus’ underwent this eye surgery he was also neutered with the hopes that he and Keisha can live with one another. They both seem very interested in the other and pine for each other at the sides of their enclosures.
Zeus and Keisha Tiger Vacation Together
The romance didn’t last long. Keisha is just too playful and pounce-y and just scared Zeus half to death so much of the time that we had to separate them. They live close to each other, but have their own space to live in peace.
Zeus the tiger was born at a pseudo sanctuary in Sinclairville, NY called JnK’s Call of the Wild in 1996.
He was saved by Big Cat Rescue in May 2014 when the NY state attorney’s office decided to send a message to all of the backyard breeders, dealers and pseudo sanctuaries that they would no longer turn a blind eye to the danger that these facilities pose to the public and launched the biggest seizure of wild animals in New York’s history.
Most states ban the private possession of lions and tigers, but exempt anyone with a USDA license. That license is far too easy to get and nearly impossible to have revoked, but conditions were so bad at Zeus’ former home that the license had been cancelled and it took the combined efforts of IFAW and a number of sanctuaries to place all of the big cats, bears and wolves.
The day he was rescued, after months of starving, Zeus RAN down the length of his cage, chasing Big Cat Rescue’s Operations Manager, who was racing (outside the cage) toward the beast wagon with a piece of meat. He would do anything for just a morsel of food, so loading him took no time at all. Zeus was less than half the weight he should have been and his coat was ragged from the poor diet and filthy conditions.
As soon as Zeus arrived at Big Cat Rescue he knew he had found paradise. While the other tigers were being unloaded at the sanctuary, Zeus checked out his pool, all of the space, toys and great napping spots. He has been ever so grateful to his keepers and a joy to be around. It is because of people like you that Zeus will never go hungry again.
When Big Cat Rescue saved Zeus the tiger from starving to death at a backyard zoo a few months ago, we knew that he would need a lot of vet care to bring him back to health, but first we had to fatten him up enough that he would survive the surgeries.Today we neutered him and began the process to try and save whatever vision he has left.We are forever grateful to YOU, our viewers, and our wonderful vet team, including Dr. Tammy Miller, Dr. Liz Wynn, Dr. Justin Boorstein, Dr. Petterson & crew.
Zeus Goes on Vacation!
Thank you everyone who make these kinds of days possible.
Rescued 2/16/2016 10:40 PM 3504 Ogden St Port Charlotte, FL Died 2/19/2016
I would have thought that time had stood still because Jamie was poised, net in the air, leaning impossibly into the space between us on one foot, and she had stopped moving. Interns, Martin and Devin had also stopped mid step with her. You could hear a pin drop into the high grass that was up past our knees, and the freezing cold water that was up over our ankles. It was like how a live feed just freezes, but you aren’t sure if the connection has died, or if all has just gone very, very still.
My racing heart told me that time hadn’t stopped, but everything around the center attraction had.
At the center of this bizarre scene was a bobcat who had been seen vomiting on the side of the road.
A cat vomiting is hardly an emergency situation and certainly not one you would drive two hours to witness, but this one seemed to have extenuating circumstances. Around 6PM a call came in from a Port Charlotte woman named Sandy, who said she had been on her way to the ER regarding her mother, and had seen a bobcat vomiting on the side of the road. When asked to identify what the cat looked like, as most people don’t have any idea what a bobcat looks like, she said, “Well…it looks like a bobcat.”
Jamie asked what a bobcat looked like to Sandy and she said it had a six inch long tail and was half the size of a German Shepherd dog. Before driving 4 hours, round trip, Jamie asked for a cell phone photo, but the woman was too busy with her mother and the hospital. She said her husband had taken some video, but Jamie wasn’t sure they would be willing to pay the data transfer rate to send it. I queried our database and found 103 people in Port Charlotte. I emailed and asked if any of them would drive to the approximated address of Ogden Street, and tell me if there was really a bobcat there.
Over the next few hours, 11 people responded, and several drove to the scene. All but two said there was no bobcat to be seen. Meanwhile the caller did get a photo and did send the video, but we were already on our way. Two of the people we emailed said they saw the bobcat and that they were certain they could wrestle him into a carrier, but Jamie convinced them not to try as the bobcat could hurt them or run off and be impossible for us to find and help.
Two hours seemed like two days, but Jamie used the time to prepare our interns for what was to come. I’m always surprised that after dealing with bobcats, and knowing how mean they can be, that when we say we need volunteers to help rescue one in the wild, they are so eager and fearless to help. Even when answering the question, “what’s the worst you’ve ever been hurt rescuing a bobcat” by saying, “I haven’t had to peel one off my face yet,” they are still keen to give it a shot.
As we pulled up on the scene, Sandy’s husband was dutifully keeping an eye on the bobcat. He brought us up to speed with important facts like how long the cat had been sitting there (5 hours by this time) how close he had been able to get without the cat running (about 10 feet) and he gave us the low down on bobcats in the area, and how they get along with the domestic cats. He and I both held flashlights on the bobcat’s face, so that Jamie, Martin and Devin could circle around behind him and on the side that was open to the road.
The last thing you ever want to do in a bobcat rescue is chase the wounded cat into the path of another car.
The bobcat was on a dry patch of ground, surrounded by the cold water and knee high saw grass. Jamie asked me to make little sounds with my feet, each time he tensed as if he was going to bolt, to divert his attention away from the approaching captors.
He looked pretty washed up; like he had given up and was just waiting to die. He smelled like he had been dead for three days. It was gaggingly wretched to breathe the air surrounding him. Despite that though, you could tell that if he could make a break for it, he was going to give it a try. That’s when Jamie, Devin and Martin had frozen in mid step.
In a motion too quick for me to see, and just a fraction of a second too quick for the bobcat to respond, Jamie’s net was down over him. He leapt against it and thrashed wildly, but Devin and Martin came down with their nets with amazing accuracy and speed.
In the carrier. Not yet.
But Jamie had described how it would need to go, and ran the interns through it one more time to make sure they knew where their nets had to be, and what to do if he managed to slip free during the transfer from the net to the carrier. Given the fact that he looked to be covered in mange, and thoroughly chewed up by some animal, she warned them again not to touch him; no matter what.
You would think the team had done this together for years; it went so smoothly! The husband and wife who had originally called in the incident were now both standing there and nearly broke into applause over the successful capture. Now for the two hour drive back to Big Cat Rescue where Dr. Justin would be done with Mrs. Claws and waiting for the bobcat who was soon to be named Poseidon.
The Vet Examines Poseidon Bobcat
X-rays didn’t show any broken bones. As suspected, the bobcat was covered in mange and had been beaten up by another animal. His face is oozing from the mange infestation. He has a BB under the skin, indicating someone shot at him. He has a belly full of bones, and he may have trouble passing them, as he is so dehydrated.
His face and elbow have been bitten pretty badly. We have to treat the handling of him, as if he has rabies, since we don’t know what bit him.
He’s getting 400 ML of sub q fluids, treatment for the parasites, a long acting antibiotic and pain meds. 6 injections. No broken bones. Poseidon is recovering in our office because the hospital is full.
Poseidon Bobcat Has Died Feb 19, 2016
Sadly Poseidon Bobcat passed away last night sometime between 12-4 AM. Yesterday he seemed to be turning the corner and ate about 3 oz of food, then in the early evening he crashed. We tried fluids, and different medications, but nothing helped. He became unresponsive and could not regulate his body temperature and so he was put on a heating pad. At least he passed away in a safe place comfortable and in his sleep. We will be sending him out to a specialist for a necropsy. We suspect several things including neurological disease, sepsis from his skin infection, and poisoning. Thank you to everyone who helped bring him in and provide him with such special care during his final days.
Poseidon bobcat update Feb 18, 2016
He’s moving from one side of the cage to the other, with considerable effort, and has drank on his own, but still isn’t eating. We are having to give him injections for pain and antibiotics.
Poseidon bobcat update Feb 17, 2016:
Poseidon is alive this morning and already looking a LOT better than he did last night. He is sitting up and drinking on his own.
It’s a heart-warming rescue of three adult tigers from Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO), a San Antonio, Texas sanctuary that went bankrupt in 2010.
In 2003, Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) took in 24 tigers that had been living at a New Jersey facility that was shut down by the state. After declaring bankruptcy in 2010, WAO contacted the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and other organizations for help in placing these tigers and the rest of their big cats at other sanctuaries.
WAO struggled for over a year to find permanent homes for all of their cats because it is hard to place a big cat who will cost $10,000 per year in food and vet care.
Amazingly, an anonymous donor couple who had known these tigers as cubs fortuitously stepped in to fund the ongoing care of three lucky tigers who are coming to Big Cat Rescue. Your donation today helps us continue our work to end the trade in big cats and makes it possible for us to rescue others and provide permanent care to more than 100+ big cats who call Big Cat Rescue home.
A couple who had fallen in love with several tiger cubs back in 1996 began an amazing journey 15 years later to find out what happened to them after the facility had been shut down. In 2003 24 tigers had been sent to a sanctuary in TX which then shuttered its doors in 2010.
By comparing stripe patterns on the old cub photos to the adult cats it was determined that the 6 of the 7 of the tigers were a match or partial match to the old cub photos. As the TX facility was struggling to find homes for the last of their many tigers they were elated that this couple stepped in to help arrange permanent placement at Big Cat Rescue for three of them and at another good facility for the other four. These anonymous donors have taken on the Lion’s share of this commitment, but we need your help to raise the funds for transportation and for cage enlargements.
The photos below are NOT where the tigers are now. It is where they were in 2003. They are posted here to let you know what these tigers have endured. You can help bring them to the safety of a forever home at Big Cat Rescue now.
Saved in 2003 from this, but homeless again in 2011
Saved in 2003 from this, but in need of a new home again
Help get them to a forever home at Big Cat Rescue
Note that the Big Cat Rescue logo is on the screen to show that we supplied the images, but the images of abuse were not filmed at the sanctuary. They were filmed under cover, in malls or at facilities where we rescued cats.
How Most Tigers Live in America
Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know about Tigers
It took 2 million years for the tiger to evolve into the biggest and most majestic cat in the world. In 1900 there were 100,000 tigers in the wild (India, SE Asia and Russia) and none in the United States. In 2010 there are only 3,000 remaining in the wild and an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 in the U.S. All the U.S. tigers are bred here and held here in captivity.
Accredited zoos have 236 pure bred tigers in the Species Survival Plan. They also have a few tigers that are cross bred between two subspecies, like Bengal bred to Siberian. These are referred to as “generic” and have no conservation value. Less than 100 tigers are estimated to be used in circuses. A few hundred are in true sanctuaries. The rest, representing the vast majority of tigers in the U.S., are owned by Exhibitors who exploit them for profit, Breeders who make money selling them, or private individuals who have them as “pets.”
Commercial use generic tigers are never reintroduced into the wild because they are not pure bred and they can’t hunt. They are typically not accepted by zoos because they are not pure bred.
For reasons discussed below, the vast majority live in small, concrete and chain link prison cells in conditions that most people would readily perceive as deplorable. Many die prematurely of disease, neglect, starvation, being put down when no longer wanted, or shot in a cage for money.
The photos on the following page and at the end of this document are not the exception, the few “bad apple” owners. They are the rule throughout our nation. This should be an embarrassment to every American.
Up until the 1960s breeding exotic cats was primarily in the hands of zoos and a small number of related breeders focused on preserving the species. In 1972 Siegfried and Roy began their tiger act in Las Vegas. It ran for almost 6,000 performances, ending in 2003 when one of Roy’s tigers bit him in the neck. In the span of 30 years their act popularized the notion that tigers could be trained and white tigers were a rare and special breed. Along with other tiger acts and tigers used in advertising and as celebrity ornaments, the idea of exotic pet ownership took hold with people believing you could buy and care for these cats and they would become your household pets.
As popularity and demand increased, the supply in the form of backyard breeders multiplied as they became purpose driven Breeding Farms.
They breed generic tigers that are used for pay to play sessions where the public pays to pet or pose with a baby tiger. USDA regulations only permit this petting for one month, when the cats are 8-12 weeks old. Once they are too old to use they are usually discarded into the pet trade, warehoused in tiny, barren cells, or may disappear into the black market for tiger parts.
In the wild, a mother tiger breeds about every three years. It takes that long to raise and train a litter of cubs. Breeders now take the baby tigers away from their mothers when they are only a few days old; the mothers are bred again as many as 3 times each year. This takes a huge toll on breeding females and makes an equally harmful impact on the cubs. Tigers are genetically geared to be — and to have — the fiercest and most protective and loyal mothers in the world. After ten years of breeding 20 to 30 litters, the mothers are discarded and often die of breast cancer.
In 1998 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) decided it was too much bother to deal with every back yard breeder who wanted a permit to sell tigers, so they created a “generic” tiger loophole. Tigers, including generic ones, are still considered “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. Normally people who want to buy, sell or transport an endangered species across state lines must register and report on their activities.
Exempting the generic tiger from these requirements means only AZA accredited zoos who breed pure subspecies are registered and have to report. FWS has no idea where the thousands of generic tigers are and has no way to know if they are going into the highly profitable illegal trade in their parts and “derivatives” like tiger bone wine and alleged medicinals.
It was the worst move the U.S. has ever made for tigers. Now the problem is of epidemic proportions with as many as 8,000 tigers languishing in tiny, filthy cages and daily dropping off the radar as there is no one monitoring what happens to them.
Laws that can’t be enforced:
It is impractical to have enough inspectors to properly monitor all these tigers. In the relatively few cases where the agencies do try to enforce the laws, the process typically involves years of citations and then years of court battle. Meanwhile, the tigers spend a major portion of their lives in squalid conditions while that is happening.
Even if there were better laws and unlimited enforcement resources, the problem is that if the agencies closed down all the abusers, there would no place for the tigers to go. The few true sanctuaries have limited capacity, are frequently at capacity, and in some cases may have already taken in more tigers than they may be able to support long term.
Law enforcement agents have an incentive not to shut down a breeding mill or a roadside zoo because they don’t have a place for the tigers to go. They don’t want to go into a facility and euthanize 25 tigers and explain to the community on the evening news just how this happened and why they can’t do anything to stop it.
There are currently 348 facilities in this country that hold USDA licenses to use big cats for commercial purposes (breeding, selling or exhibiting) and there is no public record of what happens to any of them.
White Tiger Myth:
There is no such species as the Royal White Bengal Tiger. That name was invented by exhibitors to sell these cats as a rare endangered species that had to be preserved for future generations.
In the wild if two tigers, both with the specific recessive white gene, gave birth to a cub there is a 1 in 10,000 chance it will be white. It will not survive in the wild because it has no ability to camouflage itself and is genetically inferior to its brothers and sisters.
In the 1970s in a zoo in South Dakota there was a litter with a white cub. That litter was bought by a dealer and sold to a breeder who began inbreeding them (brother to sister, father to daughter, etc.) to produce more white cubs which he sold throughout the country to other breeders. This inbreeding which has been going on for 40 years continues today with their offspring because of the demand for white tiger cubs. They have sold for as much as $50,000. The $30,000 ad below is from the June 2011 of Animal Finders Guide.
Some breeders believe that if they continue the inbreeding they will be able to produce a cub that is pure white (no color and no stripes) that will be worth $100,000.
Animal Finders Guide
Snow Tiger for Sale
In contrast, once the normal golden cubs are too big to exploit in “pay to play” exhibits, they are sold for under $1000 or even given away.
Giving Away Tiger Cubs
Giving Away Tiger Cubs
Because the white gene is so recessive, when two white tigers are bred, most of the offspring are unwanted golden tigers.
Breeders have experienced mortality rates as high as 80% because the gene is a deleterious mutation co-linked to other mutations that cause immune deficiency, scoliosis of the spine, cleft palates, club feet, and impaired vision.
All white tigers have crossed eyes, whether it shows or not, because the gene that causes the white coat always causes the optic nerve to be wired to the wrong side of the brain. That is one reason white tigers are such a favorite in tiger acts. They are far more dependent on their masters because they can’t see clearly and their reaction time is diminished due to their genetic impairments. Only 1 in 30 of the white cats can consistently perform.
So the next time you see a tiger perform, keep in mind that for every white tiger you see there may hundreds of tigers who were discarded or died to make that one performing white tiger possible.
Tiger Cubs at Mall
Some exhibitors offer to let you pet a tiger cub for a fee. This happens at the “park”, “reserve”, “preserve”, “zoo” or “sanctuary” (not a real sanctuary), or whatever they call the permanent facility where the animals are kept. Other exhibitors have a mobile exhibit that may go out to venues for a day or travel almost constantly setting up in malls and fairs. The cubs are taken from their mothers soon after birth, a torment to both cub and mother, and then carted around to strange settings to be groped by strangers hour after hour. One such exhibitor had 23 cubs die in 2010. How many other cubs died in the hands of such exhibitors is not tracked.
As noted above, federal regulations only permit cub petting for 4 weeks (from 8 to 12 weeks of age). Florida law allows contact up to 25 pounds. Exhibitors have been known extend the display time by underfeeding or giving pills to cause diarrhea, which keeps the cub as small as possible but can lead to permanent health issues. When used for “photo ops”, the repeated close camera flashes can injure their eyes.
Once the cubs are too old or too big for petting, they are sold, given away, returned to the breeder if they were leased, and almost all spend the rest of their lives, up to 20 years, in miserable conditions. One exhibitor who has both a park and a retail store in a shopping center for cub petting has admitted privately that it requires 200 cubs per year to operate his petting business. He recently stated publicly he has 67 tigers at his facility. Where did the rest go?
Other exhibitors display full grown tigers, again either at their facility or offsite. When offsite, the cats typically are confined to a small wheeled wagon where they can do little more than stand up and turn around, pace, or lie down all day long, often in a hot parking lot.
Exhibitor education is doing more harm than good:
In order to justify their tax exempt status, exhibitors say educating the public about wildlife conservation is one of their goals.
There is no evidence that people who hear these exhibitors talk about conservation take any action that supports preservation of the tiger in the wild. R.L.Tilson, in a research report on private ownership of tigers, reported that, “During the 2002 Tiger SSP Master Plan meeting, there was a consensus among the participants that handling tigers in public places…promotes private ownership and a false sense of security in handling big cats….”
Exhibiting cute cubs gives the impression that these cats do make good pets even when exhibitors say they do not. The message the exhibitors end up conveying is that you should not own a tiger unless you are “special” like they are. The same people “teaching” that tigers should not be pets often sell them or even give them away once they are too big to use for petting.
Many of these facilities are in remote locations, but some are in residential neighborhoods. These operations frequently inappropriately call themselves “sanctuaries” or “rescues” but are dangerous for humans as well as the cats and substandard by any measure, especially cage sizes.
Federal regulations do not even have a minimum cage size. They just have language about being able to make “postural movements.” The only citation for cages being too small known to those we consulted was a woman in Florida who put more than 68 tigers in small cages in one trailer. Unlike federal regulations, Florida law at least defines a minimum cage size: two tigers can be kept for their entire lives in a 10′ by 20′ concrete and chain link box with nothing to do but pace until they are exhausted and then lie down on a concrete floor. And Florida’s law is the most generous we found. A tiger in the wild roams from 9 square miles (Bengal) up to 400 square miles (Siberian) every year. A tiny barren cell is no life for these majestic creatures.
6. Pet Owners:
In many states tigers can be owned as pets. Individuals, often well intentioned and frequently misled by the breeders, acquire a cub a few weeks or months old. New owners are told to have the tiger de-clawed and sometimes defanged. Some sellers will do it themselves without vet supervision. In all cases it is painful and frequently it is done improperly and causes lifelong health problems.
The cat is almost fully grown physically at 3 years old, at which point it is at least 10 times stronger than its owner. The tiger, who cannot be trained NOT to be a tiger, becomes a threat to the owner, his family and neighbors. Enclosures have to be enlarged and strengthened, the tiger may be taunted by neighborhood kids, vet treatment is difficult, repeated tranquilization can affect the cats’ kidneys, and the cost to properly feed and provide medical care can be $10,000 per year. At this point if the owner no longer wants the cat, there are few options. There are no shelters or adoption facilities as there are for domestic cats, and zoos won’t accept it because it is a hybrid. A few lucky ones end up in one of the few good sanctuaries. The rest end up in bad places or dead.
7. Illegal Trade in Tiger Parts and Derivatives:
The illegal trade in exotic animals is second only to the drug trade in the U.S. A live adult tiger can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. It is worth $5,000 dead. The internet sites that advertise tiger parts are called “Dead Zoos”. The tiger’s head, paws, skin, bones, eyes and other parts as well as its meat are sold into the black market. Independent dealers collect up to 10 animals at a time, deliver them to a slaughter house/ taxidermist where they are shot in the cages they arrive in and subsequently dismembered. It takes multiple shots to complete the kill because they will shoot the tiger in the chest to avoid bullet holes in the head.
8. Canned Hunts:
Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that another outlet for unwanted tigers is canned hunts. This is where they are fenced into a corner of a ranch and hunters who pay up to $25,000 are guaranteed to be able to shoot a tiger. The cats are kept hungry before the shoot and because they were raised by humans they will approach you for food which makes it easier to kill them. In one video of a lion canned hunt, the lioness is drawn into close range by luring her with her own cubs, then shot leaving the cubs motherless. More advanced variations of canned hunts where remote controlled guns that can be focused and fired from your computer in the convenience of your home or office have taken place.
In the 1990s a few people familiar with the abuse began to form sanctuaries for these cats: places that would provide a suitable place for them to live out their lives, free from abuse and without the obligation to perform or breed and to have enough food and proper medical care.
True sanctuaries accept cats from private owners that can no longer care for them, from circuses when they are too old to perform, as well as tigers rescued in emergency situations when state or county wildlife agencies are left with the cats when a breeder or exhibitor is shut down and the cats are left without a home.
True sanctuaries can only take a limited number of the big cats who need to be rescued. The rest live at substandard facilities or die.
Unfortunately there are no qualifications needed to name or advertise oneself as a sanctuary so most who claim to be sanctuaries are Breeders and Exhibitors that have renamed themselves as sanctuaries to encourage fundraising by selling the story, when in fact their purpose is to generate additional revenue with no obligation to improve the conditions or lives of the cats. Having IRS status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit does not mean a facility is a sanctuary.
Before getting involved with a sanctuary you should research it and if possible go visit in person. If you find a place that breeds, buys, sells, exhibits off site, features cubs (especially white ones), lets you handle them, has animals perform, has cramped enclosures and/or is short staffed, you are in a roadside zoo at best and a breeding facility at worst. Please do not support those facilities.
An accredited sanctuary takes on an enormous financial burden when it accepts a tiger because it commits to provide for a cat for the rest of its life. They are all privately operated nonprofit organizations and exist without government subsidy.
Their ability to take in tigers is a function of their private fundraising. They need your help.
10. WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
A. Become a Big Cat Rescue “Advocat”.
Big Cat Rescue, an accredited sanctuary in Tampa, FL, is a leader in advocacy for tigers and other big cats. They have a very sophisticated online system that monitors laws related to big cats and makes it very easy for you to add your voice. It identifies your representatives for you and provides a template that you can edit and quickly send an email urging better laws or regulations.
Big Cat Rescue also identifies malls, fairs and other venues that permit abusive displays like the cub petting. When a venue is identified, often Big Cat Rescue sends an alert to their Advocats asking them to email that venue objecting to the exhibit. Even if you are not in that geographic market, the volume of emails shows the venue that many members of the general public, i.e. their customers, oppose this abuse. While the exhibit may draw visitors who are not aware of the suffering that these exhibits inflict, the emails show that the venue is offending other customers, which is bad business. Dozens of venues have agreed to cancel these exhibits or not have them in the future after receiving thousands of emails from people like you who care.
Big Cat Rescue also emails a monthly newsletter with updates about events at the sanctuary and advocacy issues. They do not rent, sell or trade your email address to anyone else. This is a great way to help that takes little time and no cost. Over 50,000 people who care about big cats are now Advocats. To sign up, visit bigcatrescue.org/advocat.
B. Periodically Visit CatLaws.com
CatLaws.com is the website where Big Cat Rescue’s system tracks relevant laws and current venue abuse and other issues where your voice can make a difference. Visit the site periodically to see if there are any issues you have not already acted on.
C. When You See an Exhibit or Unaccredited Zoo
Be sensitive to your own patronage of places that add to the problem. When you see a cub or adult tiger exhibit, voice your objections to the management of the venue. Nothing is as powerful as real customers saying I won’t shop here anymore. If you do see a traveling exhibit, particularly one with cubs, report it to info@BigCatRescue.org. When you want to visit an animal facility, make sure it is an accredited zoo or real sanctuary, not a road side zoo or pseudo sanctuary where your patronage just adds to the problem.
D. Call and fax your legislator
When there is a current bill, call your legislator and fax a personal letter. This takes more of your time than the email you sent from CatLaws.com, but if you can make the time, it is far more effective! The reason is that so few people do it. For every person who takes the time to call or fax, the legislator’s staff assumes many, many more feel that way simply because it does take effort that most people won’t make. One day when the Founder of Big Cat Rescue was in the reception area of one of her legislators before an appointment, one of staff ended a call and turned to the other staff person and said “that is the 12th call I’ve gotten today on that issue – people must really be worked up about it!” It takes very few phone calls or non-form letter faxes to make a big impression. If a bill is not ready for immediate vote, you want to ask your legislator to “co-sponsor” the bill. That means they sign on in advance committing to vote for it. If the vote is imminent and your legislator is not a co-sponsor, you want to ask them to vote for the bill.
Canned Hunting Bill. At this writing, the current bill that needs your support is H.R. 2210, The Sportsmanship in Hunting Act of 2011. It would end the horrible practice of “canned” hunting, including Internet hunting, where animals raised in captivity are shot like targets in a carnival booth. To help, read more at http://bigcatrescue.org/2011/hr-2210/ and ask your Representative to co-sponsor this bill.
E. Vote for Legislators who Support Animal Protection Legislation
At election time, support candidates who care about animals. You can see incumbents’ voting records on animal issues in the “scorecard” maintained by the Humane Society Legislative Fund www.hslf.org/humanescorecard/. Preventing cruelty to animals should not be a partisan issue. It should be an American issue.
F. Financially Support a Sanctuary
As discussed above, sanctuaries struggle for financial resources to support the tigers and other exotic cats they take in. You can donate to Big Cat Rescue at BigCatRescue.org. In addition to excellent care for rescued animals, they stand out as a leader in the advocacy work that can stop the abuse and therefore stop the flow of animals needing to be rescued. There are a limited number of other true sanctuaries that you can support. Just be wary of places that call themselves sanctuaries but are really “pseudo” sanctuaries that breed, buy, sell, or exhibit offsite. One resource to research them is the Global Federation of Sanctuaries, the most recognized accrediting body. See www.sanctuaryfederation.org.
G. Tell Your Friends
There is power in numbers! Please share this information with people you know. Ask them at least to join as Advocats and to avoid patronizing abusive venues, which takes little effort. Urge them to take the more proactive steps above and donate if they can.
We should not let our society be defined by a group of inhumane, greedy breeders and exhibitors. We are a better people, we owe it to ourselves to take care of animals that did not choose to be born into captivity in the United States and then be brutalized by their owners.
and it certainly is appropriate for a cougar who was born into the pet trade in 1995 in Texas, was shipped to New York and then traveled to a rescue center in South Florida before taking the last road trip, at the age of 18, to her forever home at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa.
This folder of images will be updated as they come in from the Big Cat Rescue team.
From a former volunteer:
Hello! Here is some basic information about Reise the cougar and the information I have gathered from my time at SFWRC.
Reise (pronounced rise-uh) is a Texan cougar who had been at South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for 15 years. She is believed to be around 18-19 years of age. She was confiscated in New York from a drug dealer where she was kept in a small apartment having been fed domestic cat food and extremely undernourished with worms. Her illegal owner was only fined $500, which goes to show how under enforced big cat regulations can be.
She was brought to SFWRC where she began a long recovery after suffering years of abuse. Unfortunately, she was badly de-clawed as a cub by her original breeder. Reise had surgery to fix a lame front paw. The nail was growing back into the paw and trying to invade bone. Dr. Mormane, a veterinarian, generously donated his time to fix Reise’s foot for free.
Several toes had the same issue, but one of them was very bad. As Dr. Mornane began stitching, they discovered that there’s no padding left on Reise’s toe on her front right paw. That meant any more trimming and she’ll bone on bone.
Dr. Mormane ruled that from now on, her nails will have to be filed. Dr. Mornane had generously agreed to fly in every 3-4 months to take care of this himself. Reise’s paw has healed tremendously from what it once was. After the surgery (which, had Dr. Mormane not paid for himself, would have cost the sanctuary over $300), Reise’s demeanor immediately changed as she became more playful and active.
One of the most vocal cats at the sanctuary, Reise is capable of making a plethora of different noises to signal her different moods. One of my favorites is her signature “greeting” squeak that she repeatedly shows off throughout the day. She is very friendly and I discovered a few months ago that she likes frozen ice balls to swat around. I’d wanted to try bloodcicles with her, but I had no idea where to get blood, haha.
Reise is generally a very even tempered cat. For whatever reason, she prefers men over women. She also loves to roll around on her back when she’s in a playful mood, which is most of the time. You’ll notice she has very cute black dots on her nose and a very stocky, cougar-like frame. At SFWRC, she spent a lot of time up on her perch lounging around. She is very bright and attentive to her surroundings. If a bird flies too close to her enclosure, she’s sure to stalk it. To my knowledge, she’s never consumed a live animal.
I began volunteering at SFWRC almost exactly a year ago. Seeing as I lived about an hour north, I came down to help around once or twice a month. I enjoyed helping to clean the enclosures- hosing down poop and such (always from the outside, SFWRC was protected contact with touching allowed through the cage and only behind the animal’s face), feed the animals, change their water, get to know their individual personalities, and create enrichment ideas. Each animal reacted differently to different EEDs.
Watching them be curious and explore new “inventions” was probably my favorite aspect of helping out the cats. Exotic pet education was also a HUGE principle of the sanctuary. In May, two dedicated volunteers helped me organize a tour of SFWRC with fifteen kids from our school. We gave them a tour of the animals and educated them about the animal’s histories, what it takes to take care of a big cat (basically facts that would deter them from ever considering it), and most importantly, the exotic pet trade.
I always knew the enclosures could do much better, IE larger and more naturalistic with environmental enrichment devices. Dirk did, everybody did.
The message of the sanctuary was that big cats don’t belong in captivity, but if they have to be (due to irresponsible exotic pet owners), we would like to give them a safe home, free from abuse. Dirk’s goal was to relocate to somewhere more spacious, like northern Florida, and expand the cats’ enclosures.
Generally, the sanctuary flew under the public radar because it never advertised things like “Come play with the kitties!” because that was totally against the idea of the sanctuary. Because the sanctuary wasn’t a publicity stunt, it also meant it was constantly under financial siege. SFWRC relied solely on volunteers. All the credit goes to those volunteers who were there full time and always took care of the cats, they kept the sanctuary running for as long as it did.
From the time I volunteered there to the time it was closed, SFWRC housed one Siberian tiger, one African lion, one Java macaque, one Rhesus macaque, one serval/caracal mix, one Bengal tiger, two FL panthers, two cougars, and two leopards (although I believe that one of the leopards, Spotty, had to have some jaguar in him, due to his stocky appearance, wide face, and larger, darker rosettes with multiple dots in side them).
All of these cats/monkeys were older animals. Alex, the African lion, passed away in February from old age (he was nearly thirty, an incredible feat for a captive lion!). He was confiscated from an unfit owner in Berea, KY where he was saved from being euthanized. Benny, the Java macaque, also passed away from old age (at around 30 years).
Sinbad, the Siberian tiger, tragically passed away in March from a rattlesnake bite. Sinbad came from a private owner who could not take care of him. He was only six when he passed.
Nicky, a leopard, came from an alligator wrestling tourist attraction where she was carted around to children’s parties in a tiny crate on Hwy 41.
Spotty, the other leopard (or possible jaguar mix?) was confiscated from a Palm Beach dealer who used him as a “guard dog” for a construction site. He was constantly teased and poked with brooms, causing him to be extremely aggressive to this day. He is believed to be around 20 years of age.
As you already know, Jojo came from an illegal breeder who purposefully crossbred two distinct species before arriving at SFWRC, creating a medical mess.
Khrishna, the Bengal tiger, is around 6 years old. He was confiscated at 1.5 years of age from Parrot Jungle Island where he was leased to a movie production company.
Nola, a sweet cougar with feline distemper and cerebellar hypoplasia, was confiscated from a woman walking her on a leash at Miami Beach. When officers asked her for her license, she pulled out her driver’s license…
Anyway, I’m sorry this message has been so long, there is just so much to say for all these animals. As sad as it is to say goodbye to them, I am extremely excited, optimistic, and happy for all of them as they will enjoy the type of habitats and natural stimulation they deserve. I can’t wait for the day when I can visit BCR and the other facilities to see how the cats are doing.
Water bowl in Reise cougar’s cage at SFWRC the day of the rescue
In 2003 John Babb of Berea, Kentucky shipped an 8 week old serval kitten to a woman in Ohio, who named her Sheena. (The breeder’s website boasts that he is still selling serval kittens to pet owners in the U.S. for $6,000 and abroad for $9,000.)
Fast forward 11 years…
After Terry Thompson released 56 lions, tigers and bears in OH the state decided to ban the private possession of big cats, but grandfathered in the existing animals as long as the owners would build a safe cage, register the animal and provide insurance or a bond, in case their animal escaped and hurt someone.
Sheena’s owner was willing to register her, and apparently kept her in a dog run, but was unwilling to provide insurance. She decided instead to turn Sheena over to the state of OH.
To our knowledge she is the first exotic cat to be surrendered to the Ohio authorities. The ban became law in 2012 and the exotic pet exploiters predicted that hundreds or thousands of big cats would be dumped on the state, but that hasn’t happened.
People who really love their animals will do the minimal things asked of them by law to keep them. Sheena wasn’t that lucky…
Or maybe she was even luckier because when the state of OH called and asked if we would provide a permanent home for her we knew that YOU would help us do that. Please let Sheena know that she is loved and welcome at Big Cat Rescue by donating to her care.
Sheena Serval arrives at the airport.
Sheena Serval arrives with attitude intact. (Thanks for that observation Kiz)
She’s late so it is the middle of the night, but Big Cat Rescuers won’t leave until she is safely loaded and on her way to her forever home at Big Cat Rescue.
Since it is midnight, Sheena will spend the night in the Cat Hospital and be released as soon as it is daylight.
We weigh her in the carrier and then will weigh the carrier after her release into her new Cat-a-Tat to get a good weight on her.
Big Cat Rescuers, including the vet, are all happy to have Sheena Serval arrive. Photos by Jamie Veronica.
A woman in NY was battling cancer, her sister had run off leaving her with her three children ages 6-17 and her home was in foreclosure…. She also had five servals living in her basement!
She would never be able to rent an apartment to keep her five servals and was left no choice but to try and find them a new home. After careful consideration we decided that we were able to rescue the 5 servals and immediately went into action. All the servals currently at the sanctuary live alone which they prefer as they’re solitary by nature, so in order to house 5 servals in one enclosure we had to get creative. We joined two existing enclosures together which made one huge 3000 sq ft space that the servals could roam around in and enjoy.
On top of joining the enclosures together, we added platforms, den boxes, hideaway areas and we were told they had a waterfall as kittens and loved it, so we also added a pool! We received the import permits, loaded the van with carriers and equipment then started on the long drive to New York while others finished preparing the enclosure.
We arrived in Cohoes New York, just north of Albany to a typical residential neighborhood, the 5 servals had been kept in the basement of the house which had been converted into a living room and except for a few escapes over the years including an incident where one of the owners was bit and in hospital for a week, they’d never spent any time outside. There were 4 males, Santino, Doodles, Zoul and Zimba and 1 female Zouletta, all 5 had been declawed and were between the ages of 12 and 14 years.
All the servals except for Doodles are related and had been purchased from a pet store in Latham NY, Doodles was added to the serval pack at a later date and ironically belonged to a man in Florida who’s wife told him to choose between her and the cat!
It was a kind of a bizarre and an uneasy experience to walk into the basement area and see the 5 servals hanging out in front of the fire, by the TV and on top of the hot tub! It is hard to imagine that these cats spent much time out of their concrete floored cell because the furniture and hot tub cover were not chewed and these five love to chew! But most of all it was just sad to see these 5 wild cats in such cramped unnatural conditions. The owners obviously loved the cats and had planned on them being a part of their life, they’d constructed a caged area with a drain in the floor so they could clean more easily and shut them off into the area when they had company or weren’t in the house. The cats weren’t living in filthy conditions, it was obvious they’d been fed as they all looked overweight, the owners recounted stories of them playing on pool tables and with their air hockey game, but it didn’t change the fact that their ignorance had led to the cats living on concrete in these dungeon like settings for over a decade….
Of course life has lots of surprises and circumstances change and the owners are now unable to afford or house the servals any longer…
So the rescue began…
With the help of the owners we managed to get four of the five servals into the carriers quite easily, but Doodles wasn’t impressed with these strangers invading his territory and wouldn’t go into the carrier even after we tried using food to lure him in, so he had to be netted.
Sedating cats is always the last resort, certain cats can react badly to the drugs, so we never do this unless it’s absolutely necessary…
With all 5 servals safely loaded into the BCR van and the last tearful goodbyes said, we began our long drive back to Tampa, we drove straight through the night and over 20 hours later arrived back at the sanctuary!
More staff members were waiting to help unload the cats, we weighed all the servals on the way to their new enclosure, they weighed between 31 and 42lbs, ideally they should have weighed between 20 and 30lbs.
We lined the carriers up and prepared them so we could simply unlatch the doors when we were out of the enclosure. Santino, easily recognizable with his old injury of a broken ear was the first to emerge from the carriers and explore. One by one the other servals finally began to follow his lead and introduced themselves to the outside world and their new home.
The only way we can continue to rescue cats in need like Santino, Doodles, Zimba, Zoul and Zouletta is through your support. Stay tuned for future updates on all 6 servals and how they’re adapting to life at Big Cat Rescue. You can help us change the way people treat big cats by donating at the top right of the page.
These are a few of the photos from the rescue of five servals who had been kept in a NY basement for more than 12 years.