Summer 2017 ~ Annual Update & Appeal Letter
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When I saved a bobcat kitten from certain death in 1992 and named her Windsong, I had no idea what I was doing …nor what the future would hold. It seems almost impossible, but this November will be 25 years since that first exotic cat stole my heart and set me on the path to my destiny.
Fast forward to today. I’m proud to say we’ve rescued over 250 exotic cats, shut down every exotic cat fur farm in America, advocated fiercely for strong laws to protect big cats, rehabilitated more than 45 wild native Florida bobcats, and educated millions of people about the plight of captive big cats kept as pets, bred for cub-petting schemes, and exploited at roadside zoos, fairs and circus acts.
It hasn’t been easy and it wouldn’t have happened at all without our amazing volunteers, interns, staff and donors like you! In fact it’s been a twenty-five-year rollercoaster of tears, fears, joy, perseverance, grief, gratitude, sweat, heartbreak and hope. And determination that the Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR 1818) becomes federal law and ends the suffering of so many captive big cats in this country.
It’s been a very busy year. Since last summer, we have rescued 16 exotic cats! It was a huge financial commitment but the right decision to make because we knew our sanctuary would be able to provide them with the vet care, nutrition and respect they had been denied in their earlier situations. Thank you to everyone who has donated or will be donating toward the lifetime care of these cats! We never forget that it is your generous donations that allow us to say YES when we are asked to rescue exotic cats in desperate need.
Last October we welcomed six cats – 4 young bobcats and 2 elderly cougars – from a failed sanctuary in South Dakota that lost its USDA license. Sassy cougar, who is about 18 years old and has been bounced around to four different facilities, can’t tell us how she lost the tips of her ears to frostbite. But Sassy, like the others rescued with her, are finally at their forever home.
Then in November, we participated in the largest coordinated rescue of big cats in U.S. history when we took in 5 tigers from a shuttered breeding facility in Colorado that had a collection of 75 tigers. One of the tigers, Priya, required emergency surgery upon arriving at our sanctuary to remove her infected uterus. The surgery was successful but Priya struggled to heal; it turned out she had contracted a nasty bacterial infection at her prior facility. But our amazing volunteer vets would not give up on her and she slowly healed. Thanks to their heroic efforts, Priya is now a healthy, happy tigress!
In March we rescued two bobcats seized during a secret raid on a zoo in Alabama by local animal control officers. Big Cat Rescuers were onsite with nets and carriers and had to enter the bobcats’ dilapidated cage to capture them. The zoo owner was arrested and later pleaded guilty to 14 counts of animal cruelty. We are so thankful you helped us save Sioux and Lakota!
And in June the Ohio Department of Agriculture asked if we would take in two caracals named Cyrus and Chaos and a young serval named Zucari. They had been owned and surrendered by an illegal hybrid cat breeder. Having had to say sad goodbyes to the sanctuary’s only caracals Rusty and Sassy this past year, we couldn’t help but think they were up in heaven orchestrating the rescue of Cyrus and Chaos and helping them find their way to Big Cat Rescue to live out their lives here in peace and dignity too. All three cats are settling in really well and starting to realize they are safe and will be spoiled by our keepers for the rest of their lives.
This year we also rescued three wild native Florida bobcats in need of rehabilitation, including orphaned kitten Nova who is the first resident of our amazing new rehab area! Thank you for donating last year to help build this incredible new space with huge 230-foot-long enclosures where bobcats can heal, grow up and learn to hunt. Nova has grown up quickly and will be released soon. We can’t wait to watch her sprint to her freedom!
The saddest days at the sanctuary are those when a cat has reached the end of their journey. Every goodbye is difficult but we are comforted knowing we provided our cats with a peaceful refuge and treated them with love and dignity during their time with us. This past year we lost several elderly cats, including 3 of the sanctuary’s most beloved and iconic cats – Little Feather bobcat, Jumanji black leopard and, just recently, TJ tiger. We know they were also loved and will be missed by you!
Little Feather was bred at a game farm and was just five days old when she arrived to our sanctuary; she spent the next 23 years gazing at us with those big oval eyes. Jumanji spent his entire 20 years at Big Cat Rescue; he was born here before we understood privately held exotic cats have no conservation purpose and breeding cats for lifetimes in cages is cruel. And TJ was used to speed breed cubs at a cruel Florida breeding facility. No tiger has ever adored splashing in the water more than our TJ! They are all finally free now.
We are so very grateful for your ongoing financial support of our cats. YOU made it possible for Big Cat Rescue to exist for 25 years! We have three crucial funding needs this year. We must replace our old 1998 van; it is no longer reliable for rescuing and transporting cats. And our Windsong Memorial Hospital needs two critical pieces of equipment for our biggest cats: dental x-ray and large animal anesthesia machines. The total cost is over $85,000. Can we count on your gift this year to help us raise these funds?
For our 25th anniversary, we are excited that the SHARE Foundation will match dollar for dollar the first $25,000 in donations, so your donation will go twice as far! And 100% of your donation will be used to take care of our cats. Thank you for being an important part of our journey these last 25 years!
For the cats,
Founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue