lions sasha


hear big cats



DOB 5/12/94

Rescued 10/21/07

DOD 1/7/14

Lioness Sasha

Sasha has been declawed (and very badly, at that) and defanged so she struggles to eat.

We provide a soft diet for her, but without her teeth it is hard to hold the food and even hard to contain her tongue.

You will often see her with her tongue hanging out as a result.

A Lion Pride of a Different Stripe

hear big catsIt took the combined efforts of USDA, undercover agents and concerned citizens seven years to shut down Diana McCourt (aka Cziraky) and her Siberian Tiger Foundation. It wasn’t until her landlords, Donnalynn and Christian Laver were able to evict her from the property that Knox County was able to seize the six cats who had been used for years as props in Diana McCourt’s “tiger training” scheme.

By the end of the ordeal eye witnesses said that the cats were starving and they still have inadequate shelter from the elements.

Joseph the lion and Nikita the tiger, his best friendEven though McCourt lost her USDA license to operate the tiger-tamer camp in 2000, and permanently in 2006, she still continued to charge people to come into her back yard in Gambier, OH and pet the adult lions and tigers.

The cats would often be chained down so that people could touch them or have their photos made with the cats.

To make the cats more pliable McCourt had their teeth and claws removed. (Joseph still has his canine teeth) Despite the abusive violations to their bodies and mobility, the USDA investigation included eight allegations of attacks on visitors in an 8 month period.

In May of 2007 Diana McCourt emailed Carole Baskin asking if she could move her operation to Tampa and bring her cats to Big Cat Rescue.  Our response was that her cats were welcome here but her brand of animal abuse was not.  By August McCourt had been evicted and Knox County was awarded custody of the four tigers and two lions.  Dean Vickers, the State Director for the Ohio branch of the HSUS contacted Big Cat Rescue and asked if we could take the cats, but six more big cats increases our annual budget by $45,000.00.

Sasha the lioness was used as a prop by the Siberian Tiger FoundationWhen Sarabi, our lioness died, her half acre enclosure was opened up so that Nikita our only other lioness could have the run of both half acre enclosures.  This large enclosure has an open roof and is only suitable for lions because they don’t climb, or very old, declawed tigers, who would be unable to climb.  Taking on two lions, age 9 and 13, who have a 20 year life expectancy means a cost of $15,000.00 annually and $150,000.00 in the long run.  Lions often end up in canned hunts, especially males who are coveted as wall trophies, so we felt certain our donors would help us rescue these two cats.  Our board convened and agreed that the lions would be rescued as soon as we could make travel arrangements for them.

Nikita and Simba the tigers who make up Joseph's prideCalling with the good news, that at least the lions would be spared, we were told by the landlord, who has been caring for the cats since evicting Diana McCourt, that the male tiger, Nikita, would be heartbroken that his best friend in the world, Joseph the lion, would be leaving.  As the conversation unfolded it appears that for the last 13 years, two tigers and two lions have shared a cage.  (Joseph only coming along in the past 9 yrs)  Instead of being elated for the lions, we now felt sick that they would be separated from the only pride (albeit tigers) they had ever known.  And thinking about how they would feel, of course, led to thinking about how the tigers left behind would feel.

We appealed to our supporters, asking if they would be willing to help us rescue all four cats who have lived together and the response was an overwhelming, “YES!”

Joseph the lion shares his dinner with Nikita the male tigerOn Oct. 19th Big Cat Rescue’s President Jamie Veronica, VP Cathy Neumann, Operations Manager Scott Lope and Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wynn, DVM flew to Columbus, OH to rendezvous with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) staff and a driver and vet tech from the Animal Sanctuary of the United States (ASUS) at the Columbus Zoo at 6 am on the morning of the 20th.  From there the entourage drove an hour to the Gambier, OH facility and met with the property owner and the Knox County Animal Control Officer, Rich Reed who had been granted possession of the six cats.

Within just a few hours all of the cats were safely loaded and on the way to Florida where they arrived at 6 am the morning of the 21st.  While the weary drivers slept, the Big Cat Rescue team unloaded Nikita, Simba, Sasha and Joseph into their new enclosure, which is a little more than half an acre of lakeside living with high grass, cave like dens and hills from which they can survey their new kingdom.

Joseph the lion sucks his thumb because of emotional scars from being taken from his mother too youngWe let you know that the rescue would cost us $34,000.00* and 294 of you responded.  As of 11/16/07 $29,435.00 has been raised to save these four cats. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to help rescue the last two cats and IFAW paid to transport all six cats to their final destinations. That saved us $4,000.00! We are now only $565.00 short of what this rescue will cost us in the first year. Thank you everyone who has helped so far!  If you haven’t helped yet, keep in mind that your donations are tax deductible and that these cats rely entirely on your generosity.

See slideshow of photos taken 9/26/07 in Ohio: Siberian Tiger Foundation


The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) agreed to help rescue and place the last two cats, Sierra and Ekaterina who are now at Wildcat Sanctuary.

Sierra the white tiger lives with Ekaterina and still needs a home too! Ekaterina the tigress lives with Sierra the white tiger and still needs a home too!
Sierra the white tigress Ekaterina the tigress

Should there be any surplus in the donations made to this rescue they will be used for the continued care of the cats.

Tributes to Sasha Lioness

Lynda Licht Mar 1, 2014
Sasha, for me you were the one cat that continually reminded me that what we do and why we are doing it is so important to end the abuse. You are a testament to survival and forgiveness, for I think you did acknowledge our hard work to undo the harm and bad memories in your own way. I loved to see you come loping up eagerly at dinnertime and to hear your low unique roar in answer to Joseph. Love you big girl…be at peace.

Big Cat Education Jan 14, 2014
Sasha was perhaps the saddest cat I’ve ever known, due to her abuse at the hands of humans. I hope her life here made up for that in some small way, but I guess I will never know. I am relieved she has been released from her suffering, although we and Joseph will miss her very much.

Desmond. Fowles Jan 11, 2014
God saw you getting tired
And a cure was not to be
So he put his arms around you
And whispered “Come to Me ”
A golden heart stopped beating
Hard working paws at rest
God broke our hearts to prove to us
He only takes the best
(adapted but very appropriate )
BCR gave Sasha over 6 years of wonderful retirement with her mate Joseph. The very best years of her live. She probably gave us soo much more.

Regina Rinaldi Jan 10, 2014
Oh Sasha my Shushee. I always sung your praises about how beautiful you were. We definitely had to earn your trust, but once we gained it we were golden in your book. I, too, have a piece of the horrible collar embedded in your neck.
I always thought you were the cutest when you would canoodle with Joseph. You will be missed and forever loved. The outback has changed forever.

Unknown Jan 10, 2014
I still wear a small piece of the leather collar you arrived with, embedded in your neck, now around my neck as a remembrance of you and what your life stood for. Once you trusted enough to let it be cut off, you never looked back. Your life at BCR with your love Joseph was on your terms. We were the lucky ones, the ones who got to earn your trust, your respect. You’ll always be in our hearts, you’ve changed so many lives in your short time with us. May you be restored to your former glory as a roaring lioness waiting for the king of your heart to join you one day in the future ♥

Unknown Jan 10, 2014
Sasha, I never got far enough to help with cleaning you and Joseph’s cage, but I did have the opportunity to see you many times, you were a beautiful girl and now there’s no more pain for you, your soul is free and just know that we all loved you as we do all the cats. Joseph will be taken good care of until you two meet again. RIP Sasha

Unknown Jan 9, 2014
Sasha, you were a cat that moved me in many ways. I want to apologise from the bottom of my heart for the way humans treated you at the start of your life but I hope your time at Big Cat Rescue restored your faith in mankind and showed you that there is love and good in the world. Rest in peace, I’ll never forget you.

Pam Rodriguez Jan 8, 2014
Yet another of our beautiful animals has passed Sasha had an awful start in life, but in her latter years she was able to do as she pleased.
Thank you once again to all who took great care of her. She will certainly be missed by all.

Unknown Jan 8, 2014
Beautiful sweet Sasha. I told you that morning how soft and golden your fur looked. Your were so peaceful looking and Joseph was vigilant as always, snarling as I walked by. I’m so sorry to see you go but glad that you went peacefully before you had to really suffer. You looked fantastic in the end. We will take great care of Joseph until he joins you in freedom. You will be missed by all who knew you.

Nanci Spires Jan 8, 2014
RIP Sasha! You were always such a tough girl. Freedom at last for you and there will be no more fences for you to attack!

Marie Schoubert Jan 8, 2014
I was so happy early in the morning when I saw you and Joseph laying down together under the sun. I gave you and your boy a treat and thought to myself, this is going to be a better day for all of us! I still don’t understand why you left? My heart hurts so bad Sasha. One thing I know for sure is that we are going to take very good care of Joseph. I will always love you and remember you Sasha. R.I.P. my love!

More Memorials at

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  1. I just looked at Diana McCourt's Facebook page. She really seems to think she took great care of her cats (I guess declawing and defanging is great care?) and says Big Cat Rescue "stole" them from her and put them in tiny enclosures. Seriously, this woman must really be something. 🙁

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