2014 Annual Report
This is a playlist of our most recent videos and an easy way to see what we have been doing at Big Cat Rescue.
With your help we are winning in the battle for compassion! Up until 2003 the number of requests for rescues we had to turn down due to lack of space or funds had roughly doubled each year, to 312 that year. We feared it would double again to over 500 in 2004. Instead, it has steadily declined since then thanks to the passage of a federal bill and several state bills that restrict the ownership of exotic cats. This year there were 62 big cats who came to our attention as being abandoned. We were able to take in 7 wildcats plus 2 rehab bobcats. We offered to take 16 of the cats if their owners would contract to never own another exotic cat. The cats we did not take were those whose owners refused.
There is no point to our taking in cats just so an owner can go buy another cute cub to use and discard.
Rescued 9 exotic cats, including Kimba, Zeus, Keisha & Kali the tigers, Mickey the cougar, Sheena the serval, and Ariel the bobcat. We rescued Ivan the native bobcat, who had lost both front legs in an illegal trap, but he was too badly injured to survive. We also rescued Cypress the bobcat but she too was too badly crushed from her tangle with a car to survive.
Newborn kittens who are brought to Animal Control are routinely killed because with their immature immune systems they do not survive in the shelter environment. So we began a foster kitten program with our interns as the fosters. We have saved more than 170 kittens from being killed. We raise them until they are 2 pounds and healthy, then bring them to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to be fixed and adopted out. See some very cute kitten video here: http://youtu.be/4yMMudueBow and see cute cats meeting the vet here: http://youtu.be/lfXyynkYmfc.
By the end of this year, we have 97 exotic cats and 83 of them are over the age of 12; 74 of those are over the age of 15; and 32 of those are over the age of 20. This is well beyond how long they are designed to live in the wild and much older than most zoo cats. This is a testament to the excellent animal care we provide, but we are dealing with many more age related illnesses and are losing more of our big cat friends every year.
Sadly we had to say “goodbye” to these great friends:
Flavio Tiger 25, Sasha Lion 20, Precious Bobcat 21, Banjo Bearcat 23, Cleo Serval 17, Nyla Leopard 19, Mr E Leopard Cat 14, China Doll Tiger 19, Amazing Grace Ocelot 22, Kimba Tiger 20, Thing Bearcat 14, TrickE Leopard Cat 13, Shere Khan Tiger 19, Cody Cougar 18, Rambo Jungle Cat 15 and Canyon Sandcat 14.
We never gave up on Little Feather the Bobcat after her stroke: http://bigcatrescue.org/little-feather/
Windsong Memorial Hospital
Thanks to the generous donation of an X-ray machine, followed by many donors chipping in to fund a proper building for it, the Windsong Memorial Hospital broke ground in 2014 and should be ready for its first big patient by the mid January 2015.
Award Winning Sanctuary
Top Rated Non Profit at Great Non Profits
We have received this award every year since they started awarding it in 2010 due to the many great reviews we get from visitors and donors each year.
We again received Charity Navigator’s highest four star rating.
2014 WEDU Be More Relevant Award winner for best nonprofit video
2014 Viator Top Rated Partner Award for consistently rating four stars or higher
2014 Origin Magazine listed Big Cat Rescue in their Top 25 Animal Non Profits
2014 Give Day Tampa Bay winner of $22,500 in prize money and winner of the most donors on that day.
2014 Recognized at Charity Navigator’s top rated charity of any kind for Tampabay area and #5 in animal charities in the nation.
2014 Named a Catster Hero
Our Education Director announced that she would be going to Peru to help ADI with the circus issue there, so we hired a new Education Director, Jennifer Leon, and will be focusing more on educating adults who can take action to save big cats before it is too late.
BigCatRescue.org gets about 2.6 million unique visitors per year with 2,653,703 in 2014. Our website is primarily an educational tool and according to Alexa we are ranked 152,097 worldwide and 36,741 most visited website in the U.S. in 2014 which was a doubling of our site’s popularity over 2013. We have 877 other sites linking to us.
Some of the pages that were the most popular were:
#2 Why it’s wrong to buy big cats had 386,628 visitors
#4 Why it’s wrong to breed Savannah Cat hybrids had183,095 visitors
#5 Why it’s wrong to breed white tigers had 169,104 visitors
#8 Why it’s wrong to breed ligers had 130,927 visitors
Our web site addresses local and global concerns about environment and has over 10,069 pages of information, movie clips, sounds, safe interactive online games with a conservation theme and photos. In any given week the visitors will be from more than 200 countries outside of the U.S.
The information provided has helped wildlife rehabilitators identify animals and obtain proper care instruction and helped officials in smuggling cases to identify rare species of exotic cats being illegally traded. Those are just a few of the ways that we know the site has had an impact this year.
We gave 180 outreach and field trip tours this year.
The steady increase in legislation banning private ownership represents recognition by our society that private ownership leads to widespread abuse. Social values evolve. It took decades to ban slavery in England and for women to win the right to vote in America. Those ideas started out as “radical” and were held by a small minority. Gradually more and more people understood and agreed until they became a part of our value system that we take for granted today.
The same trend is happening with private ownership of exotics. Gradually more and more people are realizing that this simply leads to widespread abuse of these animals. The best evidence of this is the accelerating trend in state laws. Just since 2005 nine more states have passed some level of ban. Internationally 40 countries have banned or restricted the utilization of big cats in circuses. It is time for the U.S. & South Africa to do the same!
We invited our on site guests to call their Senators and Representatives asking them to support the Big Cats and Public Safety Act this year.
Through our CatLaws.com site, powered by Voter Voice, 10,940 of our 77,077 supporters sent 69,615 messages to 886 recipients. While we wish that more than 14% of animal lovers on our mailing list would take the time to speak up for the animals, the ones who did were awesome. The 3 most popular letters sent were these:
1. Letters in favor of the Big Cats and Public Safety Act, which would ban the private possession of big cats and ban cub handling.
2. Letters opposing the exhibition of exotic cats and their cubs at fairs.
3. Letters opposing the use of tiger cubs as swimming and pay to play props.
Some of the wins from these campaigns were:
1. 123 Senators and Representatives joined the 3 bill sponsors by co sponsoring the Big Cats and Public Safety Act (HR1998 & S1381)
2. New York banned photos with big cats and their cubs.
Imagine what we could have accomplished if just 25% of our mailing list were to take action for the animals? This is an easy, no cost way for us to have a huge impact collectively. If you have not yet been active in taking action when we send alerts asking you to email a legislator, regulator or venue hosting an abusive animal exhibit, please make 2015 the year you join in. You CAN make a difference – the many supporters who do send these emails have proven it!
The most vivid example is our having gotten owners of over 200 malls to agree not to allow cub petting exhibits, saving all those cubs from a miserable life on the road and being sleep deprived as they are handled or restrained for photo opportunities hour after hour. You can make ending big cat abuse part of the legacy of your life with just a few emails each year.
Big Cat iBooks and eBooks
LaWanna Mitchell is an amazing woman. She started out as a volunteer and became a remote contractor for us years ago. She lives in Missouri, out in the country with her horses, and I get emails from her telling me that she just spent the last two hours, up on a step ladder with a blow dryer trying to melt the ice off her antenna because she doesn’t want to lose another day of working online. On those days when she is just completely snowed in, she just can’t stop working and has taught herself how to build books in iBooks for iTunes and for Amazon.
She has a number of books published there now, including titles such as China Doll Loves Pumpkins, The Elusive Sand Cat, Meet JoJo, The Black Footed Cat, Shaquille’s Shattered Dreams, What Do You See?, The Tigrina or Oncila, and the first of a two part series called Big Cat Care – How to Start a Sanctuary.
This book is for those running a sanctuary who want to learn from our experience, or for those who have already made the mistake of supporting the pet trade so that the animal in your care does not suffer even more after being ripped from his mother. With more than 30 years experience, with every sort of exotic cat, I can assure you that there is nothing you can do to raise up an exotic cat to be a house pet. It just isn’t possible. No matter how young you neuter or spay the cats, both male and female, ALWAYS spray when they become adults.
Look for all of the titles above as More by Big Cat Rescue when you check out, Big Cat Care – How to Start a Sanctuary by me, Carole Baskin, in iTunes
Wins for the Big Cats in 2014
New York Assembly bans public contact with big cats AND their cubs. “The purpose of this bill is to protect animal caretakers, those interacting with wild animals, bystanders, and the animals themselves by preventing direct contact between wild animals and members of the public,” the legislation reads. What is even more encouraging to animal lovers is the justification for the law:
“In New York and throughout the United States, several roadside zoo exhibitors and traveling menageries allow members of the public to hold, take photos with, and otherwise interact with wild animals in roadside zoos, fairgrounds, malls and other public areas. This activity severely harms the welfare of the animals, endangers the public, and is a heavy burden on law enforcement.
This activity also requires an ongoing supply of young animals. Infant animals are prematurely separated from their mothers to be groomed for human handling, often die due to constant handling and travel, and are even subjected to abusive training and painful declawing or deranging procedures in a futile attempt to make them safe for public contact once they mature. After the animals grow too big for handling, they are held on leashes with no protective barriers. Often they are dumped and sent to substandard facilities.
There is no safe or humane result when direct contact with wild animals is allowed. Other states, including Kansas; Mississippi, and Arizona, have strengthened existing laws to address public contact
NJ: Stafford Township is making it pretty clear it doesn’t want to deal with another “Rocky the Bobcat” situation in the future. The township council adopted an ordinance that would ban new exotic animals within the boundaries of the municipality. Residents who can prove they already owned exotics before the effective date of the ordinance are grandfathered.
Mexico bans wild animals in performing acts.
Citi joined Porsche and PetsMart in the growing list of influential corporations that have banned the use of wild animals at their events and in their advertising. Big Cat Rescue had contacted these organization and explained to them why it is so bad to use big cats cubs for photos and ego props and they took immediate action after hearing from our supporters.
WVA: Gov. Tomblin has signed a bill into law to prohibit the private possession of dangerous wild animals. Introduced by Del. Randy Swartzmiller (D-1), HB 4393 passed the House by a vote of 72 to 23, and the Senate by a 22 to 11 vote. There remain only five states with little to no restrictions on the private possession of dangerous wild animals—Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
CA: Los Angeles bans bullhooks, which may only apply to elephants, but the circus can’t make elephants perform without the threat of injury, so hopefully this means that the circus won’t be coming to LA any more with their abusive lion and tiger acts either.
UK: Announced its soon-to-be official ban on ALL wild animals in circuses, joining other European nations like Austria, Greece, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ban is intended to be fully instituted starting in December 2015. Prior to the all-country ban announcement, over 200 UK local authorities had placed bans on animal circuses with over two-thirds banning all performing animals, according to Animal Defenders International. An official date for the legislation still needs to be passed but the government is confident that it will. When it does, anyone who breaks the law after December 2015 will receive a heavy $8,000 fine, according to the BBC.
No Animals Harmed in Noah
Darren Aronofsky says no live animals were used and that he opted to use all computer-generated imagery to create the animals on Noah’s Ark, instead of using captive exotics.
Tiger Exploiter Denied Permit
In our August 2013 Advocat e-newsletter, we asked you to let government officials in Ventura County, California know they should not approve a permit request by tiger merchant Irena Hauser, who owns 5 white tigers, to house them in a residential area of Malibu. Hauser exploits the tigers in the movie industry and transports them for filming purposes. In 2014 the Ventura County Planning Commissioners rejected Hauser’s request for a permit.
Fundraising and Marketing
We continue to be very happy with Zerve as our ticket retailer. In 2013 they sold 12,752 tickets that netted the sanctuary $435,323.00. In 2014 Zerve sold 18,553 tickets that netted the sanctuary $712,093.00. The increase was due to selling more of the higher priced tours, ticket price increases and Zerve reducing their fees.
Big Cat Rescue was reported favorably in the news 257 times in 2014. Some of our national press has included shows on CNN, MSNBC, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery and the History Channel in addition to such publications as USA Today, National Geographic and the New York Post and major media coverage in several other countries as well. Big Cat Rescue has been in the press in 42+ states including AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, GA, FL, HI, IA, ID, IO, IN, IL, KY, LA, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, NC, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, VA, VT, WA, WI & WV and dozens of programs of national or international coverage or in countries other than the U.S.
YouTube and Discovery’s Revision 3 continue to send us a lot of traffic. Thanks to this partnership and cross promotions with Animal Planet, we are experiencing more than 1.6 million views of our YouTube videos per MONTH! By 2014 year end we had 499 videos with 189,285 subscribers and 92,730,916 views.
YouTube Mini Clip Site: DailyBigCat was launched Nov. 20, 2010 to provide a channel for the mini clips we upload directly from our iPhones. By year end this site had 520 videos, 7,707 subscribers and 1,319,063 views.
Facebook: We surpassed 899,704 fans on Face Book
Google +: This is a new social site for us in 2013 and we have already reached 282,286 fans on this new venue.
A huge shout out to everyone who has donated items from our Amazon wishlist and who has chosen Big Cat Rescue as their charity of choice in https://smile.amazon.com/
Got Roku? If you do, then you have more than 600 episodes of Big Cat TV waiting for you for FREE in the Channel Store! Series include our best videos from each year going back to 2007. Big Cat Vets, Cat Chat Show, and Big Cat Rescuers, our weekly big cat reality show.
Final financial numbers are at this link.
Big Cat Rescue has an Endowment Fund to provide a secure future for the cats. The Fund resides at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. Periodically the Community Foundation offers a matching program where the nonprofit sets a fundraising goal and when 75% of the goal is reached, the Community Foundation provides the remaining 25%, which effectively is a 33% match of the funds provided by donors. We set our most ambitious goal ever, $400,000, which is the maximum allowed. We had three years to reach the $300,000 that represents our 75% target, but thanks to our generous donors reached the goal in 9 months and received the $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation in 2013.
We continued to build our affinity credit card program with Capitol One under which you can choose one of our beautiful cats for your credit card image and 1% of all of your purchases is donated to Big Cat Rescue at no cost to you.
To build awareness of our federal bill we were the top level Diamond Sponsor for the Taking Action for Animals Conference in Washington, DC in June, 2014 where more than 2,000 animal activists converged to learn more about legislation to protect animals.
Saving Wild Places for Wild Cats
In 2014 Big Cat Rescue donated $15,000.00 to conservation programs.
$900 to Walk for Lions in Kenya (from our March for Lions event)
$7,000 to Campaign Against Canned Hunting in S. Africa (from our March for Lions event)
$1,000 to Build a Boma via Nat Geo initiative in S. Africa (from our March for Lions event)
$1,100 to Animal Defenders International
$5,000 Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation
Helping Other Animal Groups
1. Saving Lions. March 15th’s March for Lions may have just seemed like one heck of a party, but thanks to everyone who came and fundraised for the event, we were able to net $10,000 and we wanted to spend it on ways to help lions outside our gates. The movers and shakers behind the Global March for Lions were Chris and Bev Mercer of CannedLion.org. Any time we need the truth on what is happening in Africa regarding lions, we always turn to Chris and Bev. They have been the leading force against lion hunting and pay to play schemes that pimp out lion cubs, only to sell them into canned hunts as easy targets. They would never ask for help, but this event made it possible for us to contribute $7,000. to their continued efforts to ban lion hunting. Chris said this is the equivalent of a small fortune in his world and that he will put it to good use in protecting lions.
2. We were impressed with Nat Geo’s Cause an Uproar campaign and donated $1,000. to their BuildABoma.org project. This will build two bomas to help protect lions from being killed for harming livestock.
3. We have long been impressed by Animal Defenders International because they are a small organization that has been winning huge victories for animals. What really brought them up on our radar was the amazing work they have done in the past few years to ban circus acts that use wild animals in 40 + countries. If you saw Blackfish and thought, “big cats need a movie like that,” then you have to see Lion Ark. We saw it and were so enamored that we sent $1,100. to help with their efforts to free all big cats from circuses.
4. Before the March for Lions even began we sent the early money we raised, in the amount of $900. to Walking for Lions to be a major sponsor for the cycling event from Kenya to Botswana to raise awareness of the plight of lions. So, thanks to your generosity we are raising awareness, supporting boots on the ground, giving locals a way to live with lions, rescuing lions from circuses and letting everyone know that when you pay to play with a cub, the cub is always the one who pays with his loss of life and liberty.
5. Big Cat Rescue was recruited to offer our expertise, guidance and funding in the expansion of facilities to house jaguars who are rescued from being killed and sent to the Belize Zoo. The zoo does not breed their cats, but cannot release the jaguars either because there are too many in the area and they get in trouble with people.
6. Created 22 Intranet sites, which are sort of a sanctuary-in-a-box site, for other sanctuaries to use. These came complete with every training video, training manual, chart and idea that we use to run Big Cat Rescue. We do this for free for sanctuaries that do not breed, buy, sell, trade nor allow contact w/ wild animals.
7. We were a sponsor for Animal Coalition of Tampa’s Stride for Strays, as we are every year and donated countless tickets to other animal rescue groups to use in their fundraisers.
We are so pleased to provide assistance to organizations that are saving big cats (and little cats) across the globe!
Then and Now
Below are the 2013 audited financial statements of Revenue and Expense for the past five years. Visit http://bigcatrescue.org/about/finances/ to get copies of our 990’s and Audited Statements. We pride ourselves in keeping our fundraising and administrative total expenses below 20%. Because our tour revenue exceeds our fundraising and administrative costs, 100% of donations go to Program Expense.
The majority of the increase in Program Expense in 2012-2013 was the cost of lawsuits we filed in furtherance of our mission against what we believe to be one of the most notorious exploiters of tiger cubs. We won a million dollar judgment against this breeder/exhbitor for violations of our copyright and trademark in 2013. He filed bankruptcy personally and on behalf of his zoo. However, by consent agreement his personal debt to us is not to be dismissed in bankruptcy, and the zoo bankruptcy has been dismissed. So currently we are working through the process of seeking to recover our judgment against whatever assets we can. Without the generous support of our donors we could not have sustained this successful effort. Thank you!
Who We Are
Officers and Members of the Board of Directors in 2013 and meetings (2/23, 7/9, 9/24 & 12/17):
CEO and Founder Carole Baskin (not compensated by BCR for her role as Director)
President and Chairman of the Board Jamie Veronica (not compensated by BCR for her role as a Director)
Secretary & Treasurer Howard Baskin (not compensated by BCR for his role as a Director)
Director Mary Lou Geis (not compensated by BCR)
Pamela Rodriguez (not compensated by BCR)
Darren Kipnis (not compensated by BCR)
Keith Lawless (not compensated by BCR)
Kim Mahoney (not compensated by BCR)
Vince Pavese (not compensated by BCR)
These members met for regular board meetings at the sanctuary. The board met 4 times in 2014.
Paid Staff and Contractors:
CEO and Staff Manager: Carole Baskin
President, Editor & Creative Director: Jamie Veronica
Operations Manager & Volunteer Coordinator: Gale Ingham
Videographer and Social Networking: Afton Tasler
Director of Donor Appreciation: Jeff Kremer
Gift Shop Manager: Honey Wayton
Project Manager: Chelsea Feeny
Education Director: Jennifer Leon
Cage Builder and Maintenance: Vernon Stairs
Cage Building Apprentice and Maintenance: Scott Haller
Cage Building Apprentice and Maintenance Part Time: Chuck Stairs
Grounds Keeper, part time: Jarred Smalley
Bookkeeper: Barbara Stairs
Assistant Bookkeeper: Katie Nikic
CFO: Howard Baskin
Public Relations: Susan Bass
Web and Social Media: LaWanna Mitchell
All of our animal care is done by volunteers or by staff who also volunteer time before & after work.
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.
Interesting breakdown of volunteers: We have 89 volunteers; 69 women and 20 men. The youngest 18 years old, the oldest 76 years old.
Between January 1, 2012 and September 1, 2014 Big Cat Rescue provided $428,774. in scholarships to provide housing, transportation, utilities, food, training and entertainment to 102 interns arriving in Tampa, FL from 12 countries and 23 states. We added six more acres to the sanctuary by buying property on the south side for more intern housing. This brought our staff and intern housing units to 8 and we bought a new, 7 bedroom home, bringing that total number to nine. One of these units cannot be used yet, due to a life estate by the seller.
Staff and Volunteer Training
Several of our staff attended the Safe Capture Course, as we do any time they are in Florida.
Continued turning our volunteer training classes into video classes.
Get our Financial Reports: See our IRS 990 and audited financial statement for Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org/finances/
See the last 10 years in annual reports: