Indiana exotic feline facility holds fundraiser

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By William Fouts
Monday, 15 January 2007

Did you know there is no such animal as a black panther? One in four leopards and cheetahs are born black. Humans mistakenly refer to them as panthers.

A serval can leap 10 feet straight up and snatch a low flying bird right out of the air. Cougars are the only wild cats that purr like domestic housecats.

Sadly, far too many of these extraordinary animals are caged, neglected and abused by humans. Fortunately, there is an organization right here in Indiana dedicated to rescuing these exotic felines.

“We’re a retirement home for unwanted cats,” said Joe Boenitz of Noblesville who volunteers at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Ind.

The EFRC located in Clay County approximately 92 miles southeast of Hamilton County and just south of Interstate 70 is home to nearly 200 exotic cats from all over the United States. Nearly 70 people filled the auditorium at the Cool Creek Park Nature Center Saturday afternoon to learn more about the EFRC’s mission and the cats who live there.

Some of the EFRC’s residents come from nearby. Bobcats still roam Indiana’s forests. Development of rural areas is shrinking their habitats.

“I saw one right over here on 161st Street,” Boenitz said.

There are a few breeders in Indiana more intent on money than the welfare of the cats they sell.

“They breed these cats and will sell them to anybody who comes off the street,” Boenitz said.

Many have been rescued from individuals who thought they had the skills and facilities to care for exotic pets. Others have come from circuses and carnivals.

“I’m flat against any animal act with circuses,” said Jean Herrberg, EFRC’s assistant director. “My basis is, they’re on the road. That’s their business. They are on the road most of the year…and those animals have to be in very small areas.”

The EFRC was founded in 1991 and covers over 100 acres. It is one of the largest exotic cat rescue centers in the United States. Rescued cats can roam through natural surroundings, receive medical care in the center’s clinic and live out their lives free from harm.

The EFRC is a nonprofit organization. Its annual budget is approximately $350,000 per year, Herrberg said. It takes 3,000 pounds of meat each day to feed the center’s lucky residents. Many cats are malnourished and in need of medical attention when they arrive at the center.

Much of the center’s funds come from admissions to the EFRC which is open for tours. The rest comes from donations.

A fundraiser to benefit the EFRC will be held noon to 3 p.m. Jan. 27 at Paint Pals Pottery & Crafts, 14550 Clay Terrace Boulevard in Carmel. For a donation of $15, visitors will have an opportunity to meet a baby tiger from the EFRC.

More information about the EFRC is available at its Web site or at

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