Accurate and Informative Information
The mission of Big Cat Rescue is to end the exploitation and abuse of wild cats in captivity. In order to do this it is very important that each guest be given a factual and pertinent tour to encourage the maximum number of guests taking action by calling their legislators. The Tour Guide should combine interesting facts and rescue stories in a ratio that will result in maximum impact. Personal anecdotes about the cats should be kept to a minimum in comparison with the educational aspects of the tour in order to further our mission.
Big Cat Rescue offers private tours of the sanctuary to donors of $500 or more. Donation amounts and number of guests per tour are indicated within our cat sponsorship levels. These tours give Big Cat Rescuers the opportunity to educate the donor about the mission of the sanctuary as well as the plight of the cats both in the wild and in captivity.
Private Tours are an hour to an hour and a half walking tour of the sanctuary. Private Tours may be guided by yellow level Keepers or Partners as well as Level 2 Interns after having completed the Tour Tour Guide Certification process.
Tour Guide Policies
Inclement Weather, Cancellation Policies, and Black Out Dates
Prior to the Start of the Tour Notify Guests of the Following
Rules for Tour Guests:
Certified Service Dogs
Certified Service Dogs cannot be refused from any tour by law. Service Dogs are permitted to go anywhere that the public can go as long as they are not posing a direct threat to the safety of the public. If a Service Dog poses a threat to the public the dog can be removed from the property, however a particular incident cannot be applied to banning of future Service Dogs. While we cannot turn away a guest with a Service Dog we do not promote that such an opportunity is available.
Management of Hostile Guests
If a guest becomes disruptive or hostile the volunteer, intern, or staff member has several options. The tour guide may announce to the tour that due to the person’s conduct the entire tour group must return to the gift shop or the nearest access gate to the parking lot to escort the guest off property after which the tour will resume. The tour guide may call on the radio for a Coordinator Check and specify the location, which is code alerting the coordinator that there is a disruptive guest. The coordinator may then escort the guest off the property. Depending on the severity of the disruption and the instincts of the volunteer, intern, staff member, or coordinator, 911 should be called. If 911 is called from a land line, after dialing, the phone may be left unattended off the receiver so the caller can get back to the disruptive guest or situation. Police will automatically be dispatched to the location even if the caller does not speak to the operator. If 911 is called from a cell phone, the caller must give the operator the address to which the police should be dispatched to. The disruptive guest should be notified that the police have been called (even if they have not, it may be a good tool to use to get the guest off the property) then the guest should be escorted to their car and asked to leave the property. In any instance of a disruptive guest, the tour guide should begin walking their group back to the gift shop or nearest access gate to the parking lot. Standing in one place and continuing the confrontation should be avoided. If police are called to the property and the disruptive guest is refusing to be escorted back to the gift shop or the parking lot, gift shop staff or volunteers should request the location of the disturbance on the radio and then escort the police to the location.
Tour guides are responsible for choosing a route that ensures the following; Guests see a representative collection of species, they learn our mission, and tours are completed within 1 ½ hours. Upon completion of the tour guests should end up at the gift shop.
The below list of topics should be covered during the course of the tour. Tour guides should make sure that these subjects are covered in detail to educate the guests about both our mission and the plight of these animals. Specific individual names, organizations or companies should not be directly named during the tour. For example use the word circus instead of Ringling Bros., zoo instead of Lowry Park, and trainer instead of Siegfried and Roy etc. Some guests video portions of the tour and naming specific individuals or organizations could result in slander complaints.
www.BigCatRescue.org is a valuable source of information for species facts, individual bios, and current actions. Helpful links for cat facts and individual cat stories; Cat Facts: http://bigcatrescue.org/photos-and-facts/
Cat Bios: http://bigcatrescue.org/catbio/
Talking Points In Depth
The Circus: Usually talked about at lions or tigers. If you guys don’t know, the circus is not a very good place for animals. They live in a cage the size of their body, with just enough room for him to stand up and sit down. They don’t have trees to climb, or grass, or a place to hide, or any toys. They live in that cage all day, except for the time they are performing. When they are on stage, the animals have to do things that are dangerous and scary for them, like jump through hoops of fire. Would you guys want to do that? Ok, well they don’t either. So please don’t go to the circus if you love animals, because when you pay to go to the circus, they use that money to keep using and training those animals.
Fur Farms: Have any of you seen the movie “101 Dalmations”? Do you remember what the mean lady was going to do with those puppies? That’s right, she was going to make them into fur coats. Well, that’s what was going to happen to this cat. We think the fur looks much better on her/him, don’t you? Plus they need their fur to stay warm and to stay hidden—it’s their camouflage. People don’t need to wear animal fur, because they can wear jackets made of cloth.
White Tigers: You might have heard some myths or stories about the white tiger. One is that this is a snow tiger, or that it’s a very rare species of tiger. Neither of those is true. It is actually a Bengal tiger, the kind that live in the Indian jungle. You remember that we talked about camouflage before? Ok, well do white tigers have camouflage for the jungle? (“No.”) That’s right, it doesn’t snow there. So white tigers in the wild don’t actually live to adulthood, because they can’t hide from their prey or from other animals that might want to fight them. They are not supposed to exist. But people think they are beautiful, so they took one white cub out of the wild in 1952, and all the others you see today are descended from that one cat. They only way to get the white coloring is to do something called inbreeding, which means that the tigers having cubs are related to each other; they are in the same family. When you do that, you get cubs that are sick or have deformities in their faces. They can only live in cages, because they don’t have any camouflage. So it’s kind of a sad thing to keep making these cats that can only live in cages and have health problems all their lives.
Breeding: Our cats don’t have cubs here. They have been spayed or neutered if they have a mate to prevent them from being able to have cubs. The reason why we don’t have cubs here is because we don’t think it’s fair to breed them for life in a cage. They can never go back into the wild. They would have to be at Big Cat Rescue for the rest of their lives. While it’s very nice here, it can’t compare to what they would have in the wild. For them, living in this cage is like you living in your closet at home, with no computer, TV, books or phone. Wouldn’t that be pretty boring? Yes, that’s exactly why we don’t breed cubs here.
Tour End Speech and Call to Action
All tours should end with an End Speech and Call to Action. A personal connection between the guides and the guests is important and that is why the most important part of the tour will come directly from you. The message should be accurate and delivered with both passion and a sincere call to action. At the end of your tour, there are two staged areas that provide guests with a visual of how privately owned big cats may be kept in the U.S.
Transport Cage: Here at Big Cat Rescue, we use a transport cage to shift larger cats from their enclosure to the hospital. Circuses use these cages for housing and transportation. Exhibitors also use these types of cages to display full-grown tigers in parking lots. These cats can do little more than stand up and turn around, or lie down all day long.
Memorial Area: The walled area we use to display our memorial plaques also accurately depicts the minimum acceptable cage size two adult tigers or lions if Florida. Such cages are often floored with cement. This is an opportunity to discuss how the current laws to protect big cats are inadequate, inhumane, and vary state by state. The only solution is a federal bill.
(Point and move towards the memorial area/ Florida cage size example)
Florida does specify how big the cage has to be and has one of the more generous state laws. In Florida you can keep two 500 pound tigers in a 10 x 24 foot space like this memorial plaque area, slightly bigger than a parking spot, on a concrete slab. This would be like keeping your domestic cat in a three foot long dog carrier their entire life. (Use hands to show three feet.)
Does anyone have any questions before we go inside?
More information on presenting an effective Call to Action is in the Issues & Actions: Speaking with Guests & The Big Cat Public Safety Act class.
Conclusion of Tour:
Explain to the guests that all gift shop sales (*Available online only during COVID precautions) directly benefit the cats, in particular, the sponsorship kits.
Be sure to let your guests know that they can download the Big Cat Rescue app for free by searching Big Cat Rescue on iTunes or Google Play.
Assist guests with taking action by making the Call of the Wild.
Be available to answer guest questions.
Private Tour Certification
Completion of the Tour Guide Class and Certification is required for advancement through the volunteer and intern program. Volunteer guided tours for volunteers and interns will be offered to assist with this process at a minimum of once monthly. Trainee level volunteers are required to observe 2 guided tours before advancing to yellow level Keeper or Partner. Yellow level Keepers and Partners are required to observe 1 guided tour and be observed guiding 3 tours prior to promotion to green level Senior Keeper or Senior Partner. Level 1 Interns are required to observe 3 guided tours during their internship. Level 2 Interns are required to be observed guiding 3 tours during their internship.
Using the Big Cat Rescue App – *Will be discontinued at the end of 2021
When the app opens, choose Cats & Issues List.
If the cat walks away and people begin to get bored with the story, you can look around for the next cat. Repeat steps one, two and three. As you get to know the stories and the timing, you will be able to start to move your guests toward the next cat as the story is winding down. This takes some practice to make the entire tour interesting and without lags in audio.
If you are walking a long way with no cats, like from tigers to the Kitten Cabana, or if no cats are available, you can play some of the issues at the bottom of the list of cat names. You should tell the guests what you are doing though so they aren’t confused when they start hearing about cats that aren’t in front of them. You could say, “I don’t see any cats for a couple minutes, so I’d like to share a story with you.”
After playing an Issue, you will need to scroll back up to get back to Cats.
The tour guide’s primary job will be spotting cats, playing their stories, and keeping the tour moving along. It will take you a few test runs to walk the property and see how many cats come up and how many stories you can play and still be back in the Gift Shop in 90 minutes.
It takes some practice. It may seem like the stories take a long time to play, but it is the first time for the guest to ever hear them, and natural for you to feel a little strange. If you have a personal experience with a cat here that you want to share with your tour, that is OK, but please do not repeat stories you heard from others. The purpose of the automated tour is to make sure that the tours are factual and a lot can get lost in the translation when told from person to person.
Print out Tour Guide Certification
Class Teacher is not required for this class.
QUIZ AT LINK