2009 Annual Report

2009 Annual Report

Big Cat Rescue is more than just a place that provides permanent care for big cats.  It is a movement;  a change in the tide of human perceptions and is the combined effort of more than 60,000 supporters.  If you are one of them, you are a Big Cat Rescuer and the following is the great work YOU did!  If you haven’t helped yet, you can do so now at the top right of the screen or here:  https://bigcatrescue.org/donate

Big Cat Rescue’s Mission Statement:

Big Cat Rescue’s dual mission is to provide the best home we can for the cats in our care and educate the public about the plight of these majestic animals, both in captivity and in the wild, to end abuse and avoid extinction.

We are Caring for Cats and Ending the Trade

Advances

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 we “only” had to turn away 50 big cats who were unwanted by their owners.  We offered to take all of the cats who were cougar size or smaller, if their owners would contract to never own another exotic cat, but they all refused.  We just do not have enough Senior Keeper staff to take on more lions or tigers.

By now everyone knows that communication and fundraising will be cell phone centric.  On April 30, 2009 we added mobile phone number collection to our contact forms and promoted this new request with the Animal Lover’s Dream Vacation Giveaway.

We upgraded all phones and Internet service at the sanctuary to FIOS which Increased upload / download speeds by 10 times enabling us to be much more efficient. This was necessary to handle the fact that so many more of our programs are hosted in the cloud, such as Raiser’s Edge, which we invested in, for donor management and online donations.   Another area in which we improved our efficiency was in opening accounts with SendOutCards.com and Enthusem.  Both sites are similar in that they provide a fast and easy way to send real cards from anywhere that you have an Internet connection, but we chose both because they have different aspects that work well for us.  SendOutCards.com has an easy to use interface and Enthusem gives us both a way to track who has responded to special codes that we print into the card and also provides us with an excellent card shop that our supporters can use without having to commit to a contract.

Animal Care

By the end of this year, 74 of our 120 cats are over the age of 15. 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. Even though we offered to rescue the 17 lesser cats who were in need of rescue in 2009, Sophia the cougar and Desiree the serval were the only ones to come here.

We renovated a mobile spay trailer that we had provided to local area feral cat groups, who now have their own clinic, into a mobile rescue trailer.  Vern stayed busy this year with all of the maintenance issues and with these cage improvements:

Added a room addition onto both of the rehab cages so that these cats can be shifted to a safe side with plenty of places to hide while their cages are cleaned.

Repaired Serengeti Serval’s cage, and most of the other servals cages that had rusted from the constant spraying. Katmandu & Kanawha Siberian Lynx’s cage  was repaired as was their den, repair of ponds in cougar cage and in most of the tiger cages, Anasazi and Will Bobcat’s den repair, replaced rusted wire on Natasha & Willow Siberian Lynx’s cage, repaired the damage done by a falling tree on Halelujah’s cage, fixed Bella’s doors and that of 18 more big cats.

Connected two serval cages with a tunnel and doors for Peaches and Lucky so that they can shift into new spaces easily. Built a new cage for Nikita lioness so she could be on the tour path in a big enclosure, and still give up her old cage to provide more room for Joseph’s Pride to spread out.  Built a concrete den for Precious Bobcat, installed a barricade around Nikita.

Installed more video surveillence cameras, resurfaced Easy Street , repaired leopard statue on land bridge that was installed to give people a moment to think a cat is loose and thus get a feel for what it means to have big cats in private hands, repaired wells, water lines, pulled down most of the remaining rotten pine stumps (30+ foot high)

We assisted in the rehabilitation of an orphaned baby bobcat in NC. Nina Fischesser,  Director, Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute Lees-McRae College, Banner Elk, NC had contacted us for advice in rehabbing and releasing an orphaned baby bobcat. Giviing cats a second chance at living free is the best part of our day!

On 3/12/09 we had another perfect USDA inspection.

We began working with Dr. Wynn’s CO colleague and a Florida Wildlife Commission epidemiologist on research involving FIV in bobcats and FL panthers.  We will begin testing all road kill for FIV, as well as testing bobcats who are reported frequenting human habitation if we can safely trap and release them without too much stress to them.

Though our main objective is cat care, we coulding ignore the plight of a duck and ducklings and plucked them from a busy S. Tampa shopping strip center along side six lane Dale Mabry Hwy.

Education

Our website is primarily an educational tool and according to Alexa we are ranked 178,011 worldwide and 77,380 most visited website in the U.S.  We have 466 other sites linking to us.

On March 26, 2009 Carole Baskin was a featured speaker at the 11th International Wildlife Law Conference held at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, FL.  With the collaboration of Big Cat Rescue’s President, Jamie Veronica a first time presentation was made on the pros and cons of eco tourism.  Later, 25 law students, alumni and faculty toured Big Cat Rescue with Carole as their guide.  This two hour tour focused on the plight of the cats and the danger to communities due to the lack of regulation and enforcement.  By coincidence, that same day, the Sheriff’s department called the sanctuary to ask who might have tigers in the area, because a retired deputy had called in a sighting of one alongside the Veteran’s Expressway.  No tiger was found, but Big Cat Rescue provided a list of big cat owners to the police since they cannot easily access that data from the FWC.

March 2, 2009 Big Cat Rescue was the featured story at Encyclopedia Britannica for the second time with Big Cat Bailout. Anita Wolff had contacted Jamie Veronica to ask for permission to use some of her photos and she suggested they contact Carole Baskin about some of the legislative work we are doing. Encyclopedia Britannica devotes an impressive section of their site as a source of information, a call for action, and a stimulus to thought regarding humanity’s relationship with the animals with whom we share our planet. They support worldwide efforts to ensure humane treatment of animals, develop the understanding of their nature, promote their survival, and protect and restore the environment. We are honored to be a part of the great work they are doing to educate, inform and enlighten.

June 1, 2009 NJ: The Palisades Park Library has always presented diverse programming, and in May, Carol Zaccagnini’s ESL class learned about Big Cat Rescue https://bigcatrescue.org a non-profit educational sanctuary in Tampa Florida that provides permanent homes to tigers, lions, leopards, cougars and other wild cats. The cats are retired performers, former pets, or have been rescued from abusive and neglectful situations as well as the fur trade.  Presentation by By AdvoCat Darlene M. De Santis – Tech Services, Palisades Park Library

3/5/09  Provided photos and video of snow leopards for an interactive touch screen kiosk that will be used in the Big Cat Falls exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo. The goal of the kiosk is to increase awareness of the leopards and to promote preservation efforts.

July 9, 2009:  Provided image of a bobcat in a tree for interpretive signage on kiosks that were installed at San Felasco County Park in Gainesville Florida.

Our iTunes podcast downloads continue to climb and are averaging about 380 downloads per day.

We offer about 220 outreach and field trips per year and have committed to offering 12 of them for free each year to lower income schools, but have already given 29 such free tours this year and expect that demand will continue to rise with the cost of transportation.  Even when we offer the tours for free, many schools cannot come because they cannot afford the $200.00 fee for their busses.  Our Education Department began writing grant proposals to raise the money needed for the buses.

Modified our Children’s DNA ID disks so that they can be used in MO as well as FL and distributed 140 via the Assemblies of God in Springfield, hundreds more at a hospital event in MO, and we are in negotiation with a member of the National Safety Council to have them distributed via their networks.

Worked with Species Survival Network to provide updated information the CITES Secretariat so that it can be distributed again to the 175 governments that are Parties to CITES.

The visitor count for our educational tours in April was the highest we have ever had in April (3054) up 25% from last year and beating the record for the April 2006 which was 2864. It even beat March’s 3030, the first time April was ever more than March.

Legislation/Education

Thanks to all of you who wrote letters, attended town hall meetings and met with your lawmakers, the world is a little kinder place. Many of the worst breeders, dealers and tiger-tamer-wanabees were finally shut down.  Most of these collectors were fined or shut down by USDA or the state, or both in some cases:

You can read the USDA reports and news stories at http://www.911AnimalAbuse.com

Better laws were passed:

38,888 letters were sent via our CatLaws.com site in 2009.  We now have 35,766 members registered to help us with email campaigns.  

Thanks to all of our supporters being more aware of exotic cat issues and doing something about it, the wild cats had a lot of wins in 2009.  Only bans on the possession of private ownership of wild animals are fully enforceable but any step forward in restricting ownership is helpful.  For more details go to BigCatBans.

These are listed in alphabetical order by state:

AL, Albertville now requires that all owners of exotic animals included in the ordinance must register provide proof of a minimum of $100,000 in liability insurance.

CA, South Tahoe bans the retail sale of cats and dogs to curb the resale of dogs and cats bred in mills.

FL, Clearwater:  This rule was first discovered to be on the books in 2009.  No animals, and in particular an animal which by its nature is wild and untamed, shall be kept, harbored, raised or permitted to run at large on any property either public or private within the city limits of the city by any person.  Unfortunately it has not been enforced.

FL, Deland 5/11/09:  Deland requires that all pet cats and dogs be sterilized.

FL, Ft. Pierce 4/11/09: Pet owners who don’t spay and neuter their cats and dogs must pay a $75 annual fee to register and license the animals.

FL, Lee County – Cape Coral 5/30/09: Lee County Animal Services is instituting a trap, neuter, and release program (or TNR) in hopes of controlling the feral cat population.

FL, Ormand Beach 5/24/09:  Mandatory sterilzation of pet cats and dogs to prevent shelter deaths.

HI 5/18/09: Animals can be shielded by temporary restraining orders and will receive greater protection from pet hoarders.

IN, Richmond 4/7/09: Council voted 6-3 in favor of the proposed changes that had to do with care, trapping, breeding, controlled colonies of cats and free roaming animals.

MI, Cadillac 4/8/09: The new taxidermy laws make taxidermists dispose of all animal waste in a type two landfill. They must also keep more detailed records of animals they work on and keep the records for six years. Permit and tag fees are also going up.

MI, Manchester Village: bans the owning or keeping of exotic animals in the community and was passed unanimously.

MI, Rosemont 4/9/09:  The city of Rosemont banned steel jawed traps.

OH, Perrysburg March 6, 2009:  It shall be unlawful for any person to keep, maintain, or have possession or control over any exotic animal.

OR March 25, 2009: bans future possession and breeding of exotic animals.

PA Lebanon City Council June 3, 2009: Bans snakes larger than 4 1/2 feet long, reptiles over ten pounds and ALL exotic animals must be kept in their cages.

SD 2/4/09:  Hunting Mountain Lions With Dogs Banned.

VT 8/28/09: Price Chopper pulled their sponsorship of the Champlain Valley Exposition when then learned that the fair was going to host a big cat act.

The Felid TAG (Taxon Advisory Group) publicly denounced the practice of keeping exotic cats as pets.

Australia, Adelaide Hills 5/28/09:  Owners will have to microchip and register cats and there will also be a limit of two cats per household.

Australia, Ipswich, Queensland, 6/7/09: Ipswich bans circus animals. The ipswitch City Council has ruled exotic circus animals are a relic of a cruel past.

British Columbia 3/17/09:  The tragic death two years ago of a woman killed by a caged tiger as children looked on helped spur the British Columbia government to implement new rules to ban dangerous pets says Environment Minister Barry Penner.  1,256 species that pose a serious threat to public safety, including leopards, lions, tigers, boa constrictors, pythons, monkeys, chimps and caimans have been banned.

Bahrain 4/11/09:  It is illegal to keep wild animals, like tigers and crocodiles

Bolivia, South America 6/2009: Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, signed Law 4040 — banning wild and domestic animals in traveling circuses throughout his country. This is the first national circus ban in South America and the world’s first ban on ALL circus acts.

South Africa 6/15/09:  “Canned” lion hunting – the commercial shooting of captive-bred lions for trophies – appears to have been finally canned itself by a Bloemfontein High Court decision that requires all captive cats to live free for two years before they can be slaughtered.

Thorold, Ontario 12/8/09: passed exotic pet law banning ownership of primates (including apes), tigers, leopards, panthers, cougars, most reptiles, dangerous snakes, elephants, marine mammals, venomous snakes and some other wildlife not native to Canada.

 

Fundraising and Marketing

April 9, 2009 began Twittering.

April 14, 2009 signed up with CapWiz to collect Cell phone numbers.   Live on 29th.

April 14, 2009 launched Animal Lover’s Dream Vacation Giveaway contest to collect cell numbers.

April 28, 2009 Local Directive began probono work to help us increase the benefit of our google AdWords Lisa H. Maier Local Direct: 727.347.6212 Main: 813.849.7888 www.localdirective.com

Big Cat Rescue was reported favorably in the news 81 times in 2009.   Some of the national press included shows on Animal Planet, Discovery and the History Channel in addition to such publications as National Geographic and the New York Post and major media coverage in several other countries as well.

The Fur Ball netted over $90,000.00!  Over 550 big cat supporters had a blast at the Fur Ball; dining, dancing, shopping in the Bargain Sale, tasting and voting in the cake contest, playing the Wheel of Fur-Tune casino table and bidding in the silent auction and live auctions. Spirited bidders in the live auction won exotic trips see lions in South Africa, the Greek Islands, Europe, China and Milan.  The Rolex watch donated by AvantGold was won by Jessica Allen who donated it back to the sanctuary to raffle again.

We had 26,154 visitors this year, compared to a comparably sized zoo that hosts 700,000 visitors annually.

Our website visitors dropped by about 5% to 1,650,136 but thanks to Lisa Maier and Mike Freedman of LocalDirective.com, who donates time to tweaking our AdWords campaign, our conversion to donors from that traffic increased by 31%.  Google awarded Big Cat Rescue a grant of $40,000 per month in free AdWords.

People who love animals love to share their photos and stories.  In 2008 Big Cat Rescue unleashed a Chat Big Cats community.   Members can post their own blogs, or join in our forums and contests. It is a YouTube/ MySpace styled community made up entirely of animal lovers. By year end there were 1,554 members and more than 6,500 videos, songs, photos and blogs posted to the site.  Get in on the action free at http://www.chatbigcats.com

YouTube.  We ended the year as the 6th most viewed Non Profit of all time and the 8th most subscribed Non Profit with 4,265 subscribers and 111,015 channel views.  By year end we had 200 videos posted on YouTube and other popular sites like google, Blip, MetaCafe, Revver and others. http://www.youtube.com/bigcatrescue

Our MySpace account now has 7,600 friends and our site has had 48,470 profile views. http://www.myspace.com/1BigCatRescue

We surpassed 6,000 fans on Face Book and enhanced our presence on Care2.org and many other such sites.  We now have 239 contacts in our LinkedIn presence here:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/BigCatRescue If you live in the Tampa bay area, look for Big Cat Rescue videos on Brighthouse Channel 340 in the Pet Performances section.  Some of your favorite videos, like Hope the baby bobcat are playing there right now.

Big Cat Rescue now has an Endowment Fund to provide a secure future for the cats. The Fund resides at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. Thanks to the generosity of our donors we were able to qualify for a 33% matching fund by raising $150,000.00.  The Community Foundation then donated $50,000.00 in matching funds. We are currently enrolled in a second round to raise an additional $75,000 which will qualify for another 33% match.  The purpose of the Endowment Fund is to generate income to provide for the cats in years to come.

We initiated a program with Capitol One so that you can choose one of our beautiful cats for your credit card image and 1% of all of your purchases will be donated to Big Cat Rescue at no cost to you.

Thanks to your votes Big Cat Rescue was awarded the People’s Choice Award by WEDU, our local PBS affiliate. More than 90 charities competed in a 16 county radius for this award.  This is the third year in a row that Big Cat Rescue has taken home this coveted prize.

Came in 4th for America’s Best Animal Shelter which was sponsored by Care2.org and AdoptAPet.com.

Saving Wild Places for Wild Cats

Big Cat Rescue continued working with the International Tiger Coalition, which is a group of 39 organizations committed to saving the tiger, based upon our unique ability to address the captive issues that imperil tigers in the wild.   The goal is 10,000 tigers in the wild in 10 years.  There are less than 3,000 in the wild currently and we are losing one per day due to poaching.  We persuaded ITC to keep US tiger farming issue as part of their mission to eradicate because legalized trade puts even more pressure on wild populations.

What makes this initiative unlike all of the past programs is two fold.  39 major conservation groups, including Big Cat Rescue, have joined forces with one common goal:  Save the tiger in the wild.  There have been other joint efforts, but none this large and never before has an entity as powerful as the World Bank been a committed partner in saving wild places for wild animals.

Clear Channel donated space on 12 of their digital billboards around town beginning on Feb. 25th.

Other

Our eastern wall has been slowly sinking over the past decade and a half.  Thanks to some help from our engineer friends and the brute force of the Kobelco we were able to raise and reinforce this 2000 feet of 8 foot high, concrete wall so that it stands straight and secure now.

August fenced in parking lot and now offer a Recycling Drop Off center.  Began leaving gates open to further educate visitors 7 days a week.

Helping Others

America’s injured veterans have found Big Cat Rescue a place of tranquility where they can surround themselves with beauty and grace;  a respite from all that they have endured protecting our country.  It started with one group and now they come to visit quite frequently.  It’s on the house and we provide lunch when we can as well by asking donors to contribute.  They have done their part in keeping Americans free and we are doing our part to fight for that same freedom for the big cats.

On June 12, 2009 Howard Baskin was awarded Citizen of the Year by the Upper Tampabay Chamber of Commerce for all of his volunteer efforts as a Chamber board member, committee member and for his board and committee duties provided to Rotary and his community involvement with children, the elderly, the disabled and Big Cat Rescue.

Then and Now  Our CFO, Howard Baskin, compiled a ten year snapshot of the sanctuary and its growth.  This is just a comparison between 1996 and 2009.

Wildlife on Easy Street to Big Cat Rescue 1996 2009
Visitors 85 24,734
Total Expenses $1,686,386 * $1,071,029
Total Income $0 $1,629,500
Total Net Assets $148,455 $3,381,038
Spent on Program Services 100% 83% **

*funded by Founder        ** 17% spent on Management and Fundraising combined

Officers and Members of the Board of Directors in 2009 and meetings:

CEO and Founder  Carole Baskin (not compensated by BCR)

President and Chairman of the Board Jamie Veronica

Vice President & BOD Cathy Neumann (not compensated by BCR)

Secretary Jen Ruszczyk (not compensated by BCR)

Treasurer Howard Baskin (not compensated by BCR)

Director Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM  (not compensated by BCR for her role as a Director)

These members met or plan to meet for monthly board meetings at the dates and places below:

Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 1/4/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 2/8/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 3/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 4/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 5/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 6/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 7/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 8/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 9/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 10/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL: 11/0/2009
Monthly board meeting, Tampa, FL; 12/0/2009

Paid Staff:

Operations Manager & Volunteer Coordinator Scott Lope

Staff Manager, Editor & Creative Director Jamie Veronica

Gift Shop & Guest Services  Honey Wayton

Intern Director & Data Management Chelsea Feeny

Education Director Dr. Beth Kamhi

Vernon Stairs Cage Builder and Maintenance

IT and Customer Service Jessica Allen

Videographer and Social Networking Chris Poole

Director of Donor Appreciation  Jeff Kremer began in Feb. 2009

LaWanna Mitchell is an independent contractor who works on web issues.

Debra Scott is an independent contractor to do CapWiz alerts.

All of our animal care is done by volunteers or by staff who also volunteer time before & after work.

Volunteers:

Big Cat Rescue had 90 volunteers in 2009 who clocked in 43,660 man-power hours in addition to staff, interns and Volunteer Committee member hours.  Roughly the equivalent workforce of 22 more full time staff.

2009 The S.A.V.E. award for Scratch’s Award 4 Volunteer Excellence.  The recipients were Susan Mitchel, Jarred Smalley, Joel Schoubert, Dr. Liz Wyn, Bill Lewis, Chelsea Feeney, Pam Rodriquez, Mary Lou Geis, Gale Ingham, Sharyn Beach, Andrew Gall and Terri Cooper.

The Volunteer of the Year Award is Big Cat Rescue’s most prestigious award.  It is also the hardest award to bestow as we have the best volunteers in the world and so many of them deserve our highest honors and praise.   This year’s winner was Mary Lou Geis.

Staff and Volunteer Training

We want to say a special thank you to four of our staff & volunteers who have just completed their 10th year of service to the cats:  Bill Lewis, Mary Lou Geis, Cathy Neumann and Scott Lope.

2009 Audited Statement
Coming Soon: Financial information that includes (i) total income in the past fiscal year, (ii) expenses in the same program, fund raising and administrative categories as in the financial statements, and (iii) ending net assets.

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