SECRETARY, TREASURER, ADVISORY BOARD CHAIRMAN AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Howard Baskin is a retired management consultant who worked with early stage and fast growing companies in the areas of strategic planning, finance and operations. He spent 11 years at Citicorp in various assignments, most recently as Director of Strategic Planning for the Commercial Real Estate Division. After leaving Citicorp in 1991 he was an equity participant and general manager in three companies, one of which he co-founded. He now devotes full time to Big Cat Rescue and serves on the Audit Committee.
Other civic activities include serving three years on the Board of Directors of the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce and serving as first Chairman of its Performance Oversight and Monitoring Committee and member of it External Relations Committee. He also is a past member of The Rotary Club of Tampa, serving as Chairman of the Community Service Committee and on the Board of Directors.
Howard received his B.S. cum laude from Union College, Schenectady, NY in 1972, his J.D. cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 1978 and his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1980.
Howard Baskin admits that a few homeless cats have won his heart over the years, but saving abandoned and abused lions, lynxes, and leopards was by no means his dream, let alone his passion. When it came to giving to animal causes, he might write a modest check to the Humane Society of the United States. His world was finance and marketing.
Yet there’s no denying that a stroll where he works at the 45-acre Big Cat Rescue, a nonprofit educational sanctuary in Tampa, one of the largest in the world devoted to the big cats, leaves him inspired.
This is where Bengal tigers, African lions, snow leopards, bobcats, and other exotic cats recline gracefully on tree limbs, stretch languidly in their dens, or splash playfully in ponds amid shady oaks and palmettos. In all, there are 140 feline residents with permanent homes here. “Looking at these animals and realizing that I’ve been able to make a difference in the quality of their lives and securing their future is wonderful,” he says.
Baskin, 57, isn’t one of the cats’ caregivers, but he uses his financial acumen to ensure they live a healthful life. With a Harvard M.B.A. and a law degree, he spent the first 11 years of his career at Citicorp, rising to become director of strategic planning for the commercial real-estate division in New York. “Working in a small business had always been my plan, but I kept getting interesting jobs at the bank,” he recalls.
Finally, in 1991, he left Citi to work as a management consultant for a succession of small companies. Eight years later, he opted for a less stressful pace, consulting part time and freeing up time for tennis and leisurely rounds of golf. But something was missing.
And in 2003, just a few years into his semiretired bachelor life, he did an about-face. Before he knew it, he had ramped up to 60-hour workweeks at the sanctuary and agreed to take charge of its finances free. Sure, Baskin is fond of the cats, but it was another love that inspired him. His wife, Carole, whom he met in 2002 and married in 2004, founded the 15-year-old sanctuary and is ceo.
“I kind of married into this transition, although it was of course my choice, not a requirement,” Baskin says. “I fell in love with her. One thing that drew me to her was her passion for the mission and the excitement of working for a cause, not just living.”
Take Nikita, for example. The 6-year-old lioness spent her first year living on a concrete slab, chained to a wall by a drug dealer in Nashville. She was discovered in a raid and arrived at Big Cat five years ago with sores on her elbows the size of tennis balls.
Purrfect fit. Not all of the cats were abused. Some were abandoned by owners who could no longer afford to care for them. Others were retired from circus acts, rescued from fur farms, or obtained from roadside zoos that had fallen on hard times. Baskin came well prepared to bolster the sanctuary’s shaky financial underpinnings. The small firms where he used to work ran the gamut from a bridge builder to a foundry to an audiovisual firm. They were businesses where finances were in disarray when he arrived. Someone had to figure out how to get things organized and create systematic controls.
Visitors who take educational tours of Big Cat have doubled since 2003, to 26,000 last year. Revenues from contributions rose 50 percent in 2006 alone. The annual Fur Ball, the chief fundraiser, brought in an estimated $100,000 in October, up from $17,000 five years ago. Carole has had time to advocate for laws to crack down on illegal animal dealers and implement humane care standards for the cats.
Although Baskin would like to spend a bit more time on the golf course, there’s little other downside. His full-time consulting income, which often topped six figures, had already been trimmed, and he had a thrifty lifestyle, enough savings, and growing retirement funds.
“I don’t take a traditional salary, but, in reality, I get a double payback. I not only get to do something for the cats,” he says as he watches Nikita devour her afternoon “bloodsicle” snack. “I feel like I am contributing to the world. More importantly, I get to make Carole happy. That’s my No. 1 goal.” Spoken like a true newlywed.
PRESIDENT, VOLUNTEER COMMITTEE, BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Jamie Veronica is President of Big Cat Rescue, a member of the Board of Directors, and Chair of the Volunteer Committee. She has served in these capacities for well over ten years. She spent many years developing a sponsorship program whose financial success continues to contribute largely toward meeting our annual budget.
Jamie runs everything involved with the administrative side of the volunteer program including processing promotion applications, running hour reports, follow up with volunteers regarding their hours or classes, keeping the coordinators up to date on volunteers in need of training, keeping our policies and training classes up to date so that our people and animals are safe, coordinates rescues, runs our online gift shop and eBay store, manages the foster kitten program, including scheduling veterinary care, manages enclosure maintenance, coordinates our fundraising events and special online efforts.
An award-winning photographer, Jamie is the staff photographer and publishes our quarterly Big Cat Times newspaper, distributed to over 80,000 readers. She creates all of our print and web advertisements, billboards, brochures, books, donor plaques and signage. She manages all of the discount offers and reciprocal agreements with other attractions. She designed and initially implemented the sanctuary’s worldwide Internship Program.
Jamie is also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and manages the sanctuary’s bobcat rehab program. She has successfully raised, rehabilitated and released many wild Florida bobcats and leads expeditions into the release sites to track and camera trap wild bobcat populations. She oversees and handles all rescues, veterinary procedures, transfer of animals on the property, and regulatory compliance issues. Jamie Carole’s daughter, Vernon and Barbara’s grand daughter and is married to Dr. Justin Boorstein, DVM.
See Jamie and Dr. Justin’s wild life here: https://vimeo.com/41566377
Bred for profit, the animals are often cruelly deformed by inbreeding.
July 28, 2010
by Ravi SomaiyaAlmost all of America’s 7,000 tigers are born and raised here. Reports from tiger farms suggest there are many unscrupulous breeders, and activists allege that the trade is cruel. What’s clear is that tigers are often kept in small pens, people die when safety is lax, and the cats are hideously inbred to produce valuable white cubs.The trade is not illegal, though a recent law bans the sale or trade of big cats across state lines for the pet trade. But breeders exploit a patchwork of state-by-state rules, and loopholes, to continue to sell cubs. People who rescue unwanted or mistreated tigers estimate that the number of breeders might be in the hundreds. Several alleged traders contacted by NEWSWEEK refused to be interviewed, perhaps because in recent years many operations have been shut down by authorities.
One of the biggest, Savage Kingdom, in Florida, was closed by the Department of Agriculture in 2006. Several accidents had occurred there. In 2001 a handyman named Vincent Lowe went into a cage to repair a dangerously worn-down gate. Colleagues had to watch as a 318-pound male tiger, Tijik, “ripped out [his] throat,” according to the USDA report. They could not rescue him for fear of being attacked themselves.
The tiger was eventually shot by Savage Kingdom’s octogenarian owner, Robert Baudy, who had been in the tiger trade for many decades—he’d even been on The Ed Sullivan Show promoting his animals. “He was from an era before animal welfare,” says Jamie Veronica, who is with the charity Big Cat Rescue and went into the farm after it was closed to try to remove and resettle dozens of tigers (all were eventually moved safely). “When he started out, people just saw animals as a commodity, a way to make money.” The USDA report blamed Baudy for safety failures that led to Lowe’s death. He could not be reached for comment at a number listed for him.Baudy specialized in white tigers, which sell for up to $20,000 per cub. But white tigers are rare genetic mutations, not a different species. According to the San Diego Zoo, every American white tiger is descended from a single father. New cubs must be inbred further. For every healthy, valuable cub, it is thought that many are born with ailments like shortened tendons, club foot, kidney problems, malformed backbones, contorted necks, and twisted faces.
Emily McCormack, a zoologist at Turpentine Creek, a refuge in Arkansas that rescues unwanted or abused big cats, has taken in several deformed cubs. “People don’t want these tigers because they don’t look perfect,” she says. “Who’s to say how many have been born with deformities that have been killed instead of rescued?” Activists also campaign against so-called white-tiger-conservation programs, whose very descriptions, says McCormack, are misleading: “They will never be returned to the wild. They don’t really exist in the wild.”
Siegfried & Roy, the illusionist duo, are famous for their white tigers. They claim on their Web site that they have 38. “For more than 20 years,” they say, “we have been entrusted with the care and preservation of the Royal White Tigers.” A spokesperson for the two did not return calls for comment about their breeding program. A statement from the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which houses many of Siegfried & Roy’s white tigers in an attraction called the Secret Garden, did not directly address the possibility that the program may have bred deformed cubs. It did say that “breeding is done responsibly under strict genetic management.” The Mirage did not respond to NEWSWEEK’s request for more information.
3 Very CUTE bobcat KITTENS are given a second chance at life after being adopted by a domestic cat !
With a gun in one hand and a sack of bobcat kittens in the other, an Alabama hunter proudly plopped the newborns down on the counter and asked the veterinary assistant to raise them up for him so he could give them to his kids as pets.
The vet tech was stunned, but quickly recomposed herself to tell the hunter she would do it for him so as to rescue the babies from such an awful fate. She immediately began scouring the Internet for an expert in rehab and release. When she called Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue it was agreed that the kittens would come to Florida, be raised for re-release back to the wild and the paperwork began.
It took three days to secure the Florida import permit and time was of the essence. The only kitten formula available to the clinic was one that often causes serious dehydration in bobcat kittens. The second more critical factor was that their eyes would be opening any day and if they were to ever live free it was imperative that they not bond to humans. They never make good pets, but the bonding that takes place during the nursing stage could make them fearless of people and that would get them into trouble as adults.
While Big Cat Rescue President and resident Rehabber, Jamie Veronica, hit the road to begin a 24 hour road trip to rescue the baby bobcats, Big Cat Rescue put out a call to all of the Tampa animal based charities and on all of their social networks that they needed a nursing mother cat who had kittens of her own. Jack Talman of FosteringIsCool.com found a mother cat but her kittens were too old and she was going into heat so there was concern that she may not have milk nor interest for new babies.
Big Cat Rescuer, Merrill Kramer, called on Rick Chaboudy, CEO of Suncoast Animal League in Palm Harbor, FL and he said he thought he had a good candidate. Her name was Bobbi because of her half tail and she had given birth to 6 kittens of her own and then adopted two more. He found foster parents for all but two of the kittens and brought Bobbi and her brood over to see what she thought of diversifying her family.
Introductions like these can be very scary because the mother cat can be overly protective of her own kittens and fatally strike out at the new comers. President, Jamie Veronica, has had a considerable amount of experience in this area though and had taken every precaution to make sure it went as well as it possibly could. Bobbi turned out to be a dream come true for three little orphaned bobcats though. She immediately pulled them in close to nurse and began to bathe them. The little bobcat babies were so startled that they hissed at her!
She ignored their resistance and just kept on loving on them. Once they figured out that this strange smelling “bobcat” mom had the real deal to offer at her breasts, they were in love too.
has his owner fearing a deadly disease. The owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics says his king of the jungle is not acting like himself.
API files complaint against Tiger Ridge Exotics 2006
By DAN DEARTH
STONY RIDGE — The owner of a roadside zoo in Stony Ridge says a complaint that was filed last month by an animal rights group asserting his animals are a danger to the public is hogwash.
The Animal Protection Institute filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture against Kenny Hetrick, owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics, 5359 Fremont Pike, saying Hetrick recklessly endangers visitors by exposing them to grizzly bears, lions and tigers.
Nicole Paquette, API spokeswoman, said two of her group’s inspectors recently visited Tiger Ridge Exotics and witnessed Hetrick open cage doors without providing a buffer between the animals and visitors.
“These animals present public safety and health threats,” Paquette said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
In addition, Paquette said Hetrick allowed the inspectors to enter into a cage where a lynx was kept. The lynx, she said, bit Hetrick’s arm and caused an open wound.
“We’re not asking these facilities be shut down,” she said. “We want these facilities to provide proper animal care. These animals shouldn’t be kept in captivity.”
Hetrick said the lynx never bit him. Claiming it did is just API’s way of pushing a misguided agenda.
“They’re trying to make the public believe that dozens of people have been killed by tigers,” Hetrick said. “I’m not going to let the animals get out. That would be the end of me.”
To show the API is using dishonest methods, Hetrick said the investigators that Paquette mentioned claimed to be German exchange students when they visited his property.
The investigators also maintained that Hetrick kept a panther in his basement. The only problem with that story, Hetrick said, is that he doesn’t have a basement.
As to Hetrick endangering visitors, he said the API failed to mention that he has electric fences skirting the inside perimeter of the cages. The animals know better than to go near the cage or risk getting shocked.
“I’ve done this for 35 years and no one’s ever been scratched … and no one’s ever going to be,” Hetrick said. “(API is) not looking for anything good. They’re only looking for the negative.”
Hetrick, who has state and federal licenses to keep exotic animals, said the USDA recently sent an inspector to his property to investigate API’s complaint and found nothing wrong.
The USDA, however, refused to confirm Hetrick’s claim, saying Tuesday that a Freedom of Information Act request has to be filed first. An answer would be available in about a month.
Actress’ tiger that mauled caretaker came from notorious Colton
10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, December 5, 2007
By SANDRA STOKLEY
The Press-Enterprise The tiger that mauled a caretaker this week at actress Tippi Hedren’s Shambala Preserve in Acton was one of the exotic cats relocated from Tiger Rescue, a notorious Colton sanctuary shut by state authorities in 2003.Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film “The Birds,” made the announcement Wednesday in an interview on KFI Radio. Harlan Boll, a Hedren spokesman, confirmed it.
Tiger Rescue operator John Weinhart was convicted in 2005 of multiple animal-cruelty counts after state Department of Fish and Game agents and local officials raided his Glen Avon compound in Riverside County in April 2003, and found the rotting and mummified remains of at least 30 exotic cats strewn about the property.
The Colton facility was shut after state officials found that the dozens of exotic felines housed there — most of them tigers — were being cared for improperly.
The big cats were relocated to sanctuaries around the United States.
The cat involved in this week’s incident was one of three juvenile tigers confiscated in late 2002, during the early stages of the investigation.
Hedren took in the three young tigers and named them after her grandchildren — Alexander, Stella and Dakota — the children of Hedren’s daughter, actress Melanie Griffith.
“There have been no problems with the cats since then,” Boll said.
Chris Orr, who has worked at Shambala for 9 ½ years, was mauled as he was cleaning Alexander’s compound about 2 p.m. Monday, Boll said.
Orr was grabbed by the back of the neck and dragged about 100 feet. Alexander dropped Orr when co-worker Jesus Torres yelled. Torres then dragged Orr to safety.
Orr remains in intensive care at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, where his condition has been upgraded from critical to stable.
Boll said Orr suffered severe scratches to his arm and leg but that no vital organs were damaged.