2005 Annual Report
See a year of Big Cat Rescue in Action click SLIDESHOW
Big Cat Rescue’s Mission Statement:
To provide the best home we can for the animals in our care and to reduce the number of cats that suffer the fate of abuse, abandonment or extinction by teaching people about the plight of the cats, both in the wild and in captivity, and how they can help through their behavior and support of better laws to protect the cats.
In 2005 the IRS reported that there are 964,000 registered charities in the U.S. Only 81 of them qualify for and display the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards seal. Big Cat Rescue is one of them. This seal confirms that the organization meets all 23 of the Standards for Charity Accountability. We have become so well known in the area, that our volunteers complain about wearing our logos in public because everyone loves us so much they just have to stop us and tell us so. Howie Baskin helped a Girl Scout troop organize our first Golf Tournament which netted 15,000.00. Invested in undercover surveillance equipment to shed light on the dirty truth behind the exhibition and exploitation of exotic cats.
We added more whole prey to our cats’ weekly diets and switched over to a prepared diet created by Natural Balance that improves their health via vitamin supplements. Faith the baby bobcat was upgraded to a much larger and more challenging Cat-a-tat where she had to learn to “out-fox” her food. Later, after completing her survival training, she was released onto 17,000 acres of pristine bobcat habitat. President Jamie Veronica, and the interns track her weekly to insure that she is thriving on her own. We had to turn away 85 big cats that were no longer wanted by their owners but we rescued Snorkle the tiger from a circus owner and brought in tigers: India, Nyla, King, Princess and Narak from the circus. Rescued three baby mountain lions who were orphaned by a hunter in Idaho. Their names are Artemis, Ares and Orion and they were neutered and spayed this year so that they can always stay together.
Staff and Volunteer Training
Jamie Veronica got licensed by the state to be able to pick up injured or escaped wildlife. In the past it had to be brought to us by someone who was so licensed . Cathy Mayeski and Jen Rusczcyk completed the Clicker Training Expo in CA and now have 57 of our cats in the Operant Conditioning program. Jen organized and developed the Enrichment program making it one of the best in the country. Jamie Veronica took the Intern Program to the next level and manages their housing, group activities and scheduling. The Volunteer Committee re-wrote the Volunteer Program and the Intern Program and have updated ALL of our volunteers level of certification through testing. Some of our members attended the EARS training. (Emergency Animal Rescue Service) Hired green shirt Sharon Marszal to work filling orders for the gift shop and sent her to eBay training classes. Read books on Non Profit Marketing, Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Flash to perfect our skills in these areas.
Our Education Director, Kathryn Quaas, is partnering with the Florida Aquarium to promote several joint efforts for schools and summer camps. We did legislative presentations to Stetson Law University on three occasions this year promoting a register to vote drive. The Fur Ball CD of games, puzzles, screensavers and more were given to the 500 attendees with 300 extra being used as rewards for children who answer questions correctly during her presentations and field trips.
Howard began working with the Greenfund Network to create a joint venture in schools where kids turn in ink cartridges for recycling in bags that tell about Big Cat Rescue so that both their school and the sanctuary can benefit from the program. Some kids may not care about raising money for scholarships, but they do care about saving tigers and this is a way to inspire them to keep these cartridges out of the landfills.
Filmed the rescue of three orphaned baby cougars with David Hurd Productions for use on the Animal Planet’s new series that will be aired repeatedly, and thus help educate people about what is happening to their precious wildlife in the name of sport. Six local libraries now stock our video, The Big Cat Picture in their documentary sections.
The portion of our web site that is devoted to education aimed at children through learning games has grown in leaps and bounds. We added hundreds and hundreds of puzzles, free wallpapers, free screensavers and other educational activities that feature photos and drawings of the cats along with our message that “Exotic Animals Don’t Make Good Pets!” Began compiling worksheets and coloring pages for a educational handbook for students next year. Added FCAT lesson plans to our Teacher’s Resource area. Used the Google grant to broadcast the availability of these teaching aids to students, their parents and teachers. We participated in a study with Odd Cast that resulted in us being awarded 100,000 free streams for our Virtual Hosts.
Founder, Carole Baskin was unanimously elected to serve on the Board of the Humane USA Political Action Committee. She was also appointed to the steering committee of the Florida Chapter of Humane USA. We enlisted the Florida Animal Control Association to help us approach the State of Florida in an effort to change the rules to better protect the animals and the public. We were joined by HSUS and Humane USA in this endeavor and have asked the National Fraternity of Police Officers to join us as well. Carole was also appointed by Commissioner Brian Blair to serve on the Animal Advisory Committee and was elected secretary. In November she was unanimously nominated to serve as Chair of the Animal Advisory Committee. We attended the Tampa Bay Partnership’s Tampa Bay Day in Tallahassee and met with 25% of the state’s legislators to ask for better animal protection laws.
We began promoting our Legislative portion of our web site that is dedicated to educating the public and legislators about animal welfare bills. 1,111,647 pages of bills were viewed by visitors. We rallied support for the Federal bills to stop canned hunts with an aggressive online letter campaign to get people to ask their senators and representatives to co-sponsor this bill that would make it illegal to transport exotic animals across state lines for the purpose of injuring or killing them. We promoted hundreds of bills at the state and federal level. In just the first year we were responsible for 20,969 letters being sent to congress on behalf of the animals.
We launched our first online petitions and gathered 494 signatures on one to ban breeding and sale of exotic cats and 1878 signatures on 10 things we want legislators to know which includes the banning and breeding of exotic cats. We also launched our first online polls to see how people feel about issues such as animals in the circus, bobcats and cougars being hunted, exotic animal pets and more. Response has been terrific and we are finding that roughly 85% of the public loves animals and want better laws to protect them and 90% do not want to see big cats being made to perform.
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Attended AZA’s Legislative session and Taking Action for Animals in Washington, DC. Met with our Senators and Congressmen in D.C. and here locally to discuss the exotic animal issues. County Administrator, Pat Bean and Animal Services Director, Bill Armstrong both toured and interacted with the cats, learning about how we use operant conditioning for emergency preparedness. We hosted tours for Hillsborough County Commissioners: Kathy Castor, Ronda Storms, Jim Norman, Ken Hagan, and for aids to Brian Blair and Mark Sharp. We also toured Pinellas County Commissioners: Ronnie Duncan and Karen Seel. We introduced these commissioners and State Representatives Kim Berfield and aids for Kevin Ambler along with team players for gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis so that they have a better understanding of why Florida needs laws to prevent the private ownership of dangerous exotic pets.
Requested that we be appointed to the state’s Captive Wildlife Committee but were denied as the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission decided to comprise the committee of exotic pet owners. State Legislators made it known later that the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission “had better fix this exotic animal problem or the legislature was going to get involved and FWCC was not going to like it.” Began working on a memo with the help of former gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride’s law firm that affirms a County’s right to impose laws that do regulate exotic animal ownership as long as those laws do not single out exotic pet from other provisions that would apply to all. In the past the Counties often thought they were helpless in the face of the constitutional amendment that had granted the Fish and Game agency the ability to act outside of the legislative process that all other states enjoy.
Fundraising and Marketing
We had our first ever $10,000.00 day of tours and private tours in December. Implemented our first direct mail campaign at Christmas with a request to support the three orphaned cougars. We doubled the price of the Fur Ball tickets from 55.00 and 75.00 to 100.00 and 150.00 and raised a net of $60,000.00 (up from 40,465 last year) with only 500 attendees. This enabled everyone to have a better time because there were no lines and our volunteers found it much easier to deal with 500 people at check out as opposed to 850 like we had last year at lower prices. We discovered last year that at 55.00 we were just breaking even and for people for whom that was a lot of money we found that they did not spend money in the auctions so we had to evaluate whether the Fur Ball was a donor thank you party or a fundraiser and deciding it was the latter made the agonizing decision to double the price.
Opened an online store on eBay to reach a broader market with our logo’s items and unique offerings. We tried MagFundraising.com for the first time and raised almost 3000.00 in magazine subscription commissions. Our volunteers raised $3000.00 wrapping books at Borders Books. Invested in Telosa’s Donor Management software. We were given the front and back page of the Tampa Tribune’s Commentary section and have been on several national programs including CNN, Fox, Animal Atlas on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.
We purchased a second terminal for our Point of Sale system due to the overlap of tours beginning and ending in the gift shop. In Jan our web site was averaging 170,000 hits per day and by the end of the year was reaching more than 300,000 hits per day with a surge to 744,000 hits per day thanks to a Google Adwords grant for unlimited advertising for three months. Cox radio gave us more than 100 on air spots to advertise the Valentine’s Day wedding at Big Cat Rescue and gave us 300 more free advertising spots on air for our golf tournament on two stations. They also donated 300 spots for the Fur Ball.
Jamie Veronica’s photos have been used in Biodiversity Magazine by Tropical Conservancy, and we created a Stock Photo portion of our website where featured artists donate their work and we sell the images online. We set up Cafe Press and Zazzle sites to sell her images to raise money for the cats. We were asked to apply for the WEDU’s charity awards for our fundraising and marketing achievements. The ink recycling program with Greenfund Network has succeeded far beyond our initial goals thanks to marketing the envelopes through our newsletter with now has a circulation of more than 35,000 homes. We are candidates for the Webby Awards with the winner to be announced in 2006.
We created several video productions that tell viewers what we do including Orange Sky by Jamie Veronica and the Two Minute Tour by David Hurd. In addition to this we created several new interactive slideshows including one called Born To Be Free that contrasts life in cages to life in the wild. We started our first automatic direct deductions for banks and credit cards and a program with Albertson’s where participating card carriers can have part of their purchases donated to us. We created our first Big Cat Travel site that allows people to get the best Priceline prices on airfare, car and hotel rental, cruises and event tickets with the commissions paid to Big Cat Rescue. Carole lost 17 more pounds with Matol and set up www.Matol-Diet.com so that others can lose weight, build their own home business and the commissions go to the cats as well. Volunteer Beth Stewart created and marketed a calendar of our sanctuary called Saving Big Cats. This calendar was available at Amazon.com, Borders.com and BarnesAndNoble.com and we sold a number on site and on line as well. The calendar was produced by TideMark Productions and featured photos of our cats for every month and their personal rescue stories.
With the help of Teasdale Worldwide Howard Baskin created our first formal Corporate Sponsorship program, both in general and for the Fur Ball. We held special kid’s tours after Thanksgiving and Christmas and were packed and got a lot of good press coverage for doing something for the kids. We were in the press 48 times in 2005 and many of these were interviews with Scott Lope. We were in Glamour Magazine twice, on CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Inside Edition and were instrumental in providing background information for Parade Magazines’ piece on the exotic pet trade and for ABC’s Prime Time that should air next year. We have a PSA that was made jointly with the Girl Scouts of America that is airing nationally to encourage young people to get involved and do something good in their community. We ended the year with money in the bank to begin building our Big Cat Lodge.
Completed two more tiger Cat-a-tats for the circus tigers in case of emergency. New Cat-a-tats were built for cougars; Mack and Cleo along with hurricane proof dens for each of them. Cages were reshaped and room additions built for Caracals; Rusty & Sassy and Cachinga & Cachanga. The same was done for the Serval; Alpha, Bobcats; Alex & Windsong and Banshee. In addition many of the cats got hammocks, swinging platforms, secondary dens just to play in and Alex & Windsong got a new fort. Tonga was moved and his old roofless cage was turned into a temporary playground for the three orphaned cougars.
The E-Center was whimsically painted to look like a leopard and the Cabins were painted by volunteer Julie Hanan to look like a tiger. Butterfly gardens were added by Kathryn Quaas and the kids of summer camp to the Cabin area. We moved the cavies off the tour route to a much larger enclosure and tore down the old otter cages that they had lived in on the lake. The area was cleared so that there is a beautiful view of the lake and the tigers and lions beyond now.
Brought in a new Intern home that is a 4BR/2BA and Vern built a deck that is perfect for socializing after a long day of cat chores. Cleared all Brazilian Peppers from the back forty and built a road around the cell tower to make the back parcel more accessible. This area required heavy clearing and then bush hogging of dog fennel and some fill over the concrete to turn it into a lovely park like area. Stood falling wall back up. Weeded and planted ferns at the beach. Began massive clean up of Styrofoam from lake banks. Bought a new shed for the two new golf carts and a new riding mower. Added lots of filing cabinets and storage cabinets to the gift shop and office. The fenced waiting area had a cola machine, waterfall and lots of landscaping and mulching added to create a nice place for guests to wait for their tours. Donor recognition signs were added to this area.
Bought three more acres for alternate access and parking and cleared the land of dog fennel so that we can keep it mowed. Took on debt for the first time in our history with the purchase of this land. Began negotiations with Outback and the County on building a multi use Education and Conference Center called the Big Cat Lodge. Unveiled the new conceptual drawings of this improvement created by Collman and Karsky with help from Genesis at the Fur Ball. Applied for a Planned Development for this additional 3 acres to give us cross access, parking and 6 more residences for interns and volunteers.
We invited other animal welfare groups to use our Legislative tools in customized banners on their web sites so that they could encourage their visitors to write their representatives about important animal welfare issues. We hosted the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk for 600 walkers who raised 50,000 for Alzheimer’s victims. Worked with PAKT to help them negotiate a deal with the circus and AZA for promoting responsible, life time care for animals who have had to work for a living. Continued to help ACT by driving the Spay Day trailer each month so that 100-160 cats per month can be spayed.
Charities that we donated to this year in the form of Free Passes to our sanctuary: 100 passes to No More Homeless Pets Adopt-a-thon 30 passes and gift certificate for a Big Cat Expedition to Florida Voices for Animals, Donated a Big Cat Expedition, a Feeding Tour and more to Animal Coalition of Tampa for their Some Enchanted Evening fundraiser and the same again to their Stride For Strays walk-a-thon. Donated the use of our facility to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay for their Volunteer Appreciation party and to National Humane Society for their volunteer and donor recognition party at Christmas. Donated an Expedition and Two for One Passes to SPOT and worked with them to create a segment on Pinellas County’s Public Access Channel. Hosted a party for a team of Florida Panther protectors.
We raised 1250.00 each for EARS and HSUS to aid the animal victims of Katrina and 1000.00 each for conservation programs to save the margay in Brazil, to help start an eco tourism lodge in Guyana and to assist Lewa in Africa.
Gave a private tour to Toronto Blue Jay’s Shea Hillenbrand. Customized a golf cart for hurricane use by creating a cat-proof cage to drop down over the carriage so that we can access any part of the property in the event of a cat being loose.
In a year when tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes ravaged the globe and other sanctuaries, even good ones, found themselves considering the euthanasia of their animals rather than let them starve due to the drop in donations we were able to thrive. We are thankful to our staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this possible and to all of our donors and visitors who kept our cats fed in these worst of times.
The saddest news is that we now have to turn away nearly 100 exotic cats every year, because we cannot afford to take in all of them that are being bred and sold into the entertainment, pet and zoo industries. The most common victims are Lions, Tigers, Cougars, Servals, Caracals and Bobcats. We are now devoting more time to raising awareness and trying to get laws enacted that will protect these magnificent creatures from man.
The mission has evolved from just saving the cats that ended up in places like fur farms, hunting ranches and auctions, to making a difference on a global scale. People who come here and spend time with our cats are transformed. I hear, over and over again, how people feel like their lives were changed forever by knowing these animals on such a personal level. Many times I have heard visitors say, “I looked into that cat’s eyes, and I saw God!” For many of them, it is the first time that they have ever felt that they were intimately connected with the rest of creation. It is a wake up call that we are all ONE.
It is my dream to integrate the beauty and majesty of the great cats with the inner awakening we can enhance in our visitors. By making people more aware, we can make the world a better place.
Our Officers and Board of Directors
President Jamie Veronica (not compensated by BCR)
Vice President & BOD Cathy Mayeski (not compensated by BCR)
Secty/ Treasurer Vernon C. Stairs (not compensated by BCR)
Director and Coordinator Brian Czarnik (not compensated by BCR)
od work of Big Cat Rescue.
These members met for monthly board meetings at the dates and places below:
1/15/2005, 2/19/2005, 3/16/2005, 4/30/2005, 6/4/2005, 7/2/2005, 8/4/2005, 10/4/2005, 11/3/2005, and 12/3/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 1/15/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 2/19/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 3/16/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 4/30/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 6/4/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 7/2/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 8/4/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 10/4/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL: 11/3/2005
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 12/3/2005
Operations Manager Scott Lope (compensated but not a member of the board)
Gift Shop Manager Cynthia Montayre (compensated but not a member of the board)
Administrative Sharon Marszal (compensated but not a member of the board)
Financial Info: 2005 990 2005 Audited Financials
If your charity doesn’t make this information accessible on line, perhaps you should ask why. We are proud of the way we have utilized your donations and think you should know how your money has been spent.