Secrets of our Success
Most people perceive our sanctuary as successful. If this is the kind of place you want to have then these are our tips for success.
Begin with the end in mind.
If you can see it, you can be it. I spend a lot of time on my bike, when I first wake up and right before I go to sleep, envisioning what I want our refuge to be. By nature, I am more of a doer than a dreamer, but have learned the value in visualization as a means to an end. In my mind I see the front gate and mentally walk through the entire park seeing what is there now and watching it evolve before my eyes into what I want it to become. I play through these scenes over and over and don’t move on until I see it exactly like I want it. Then I go on to the bigger issues like cub petting, white tiger inbreeding, poaching, hunting, exploitation and all the other abuses that man inflicts on animals and visualize the changes that will be made to make our society more kind and responsible. I envision the ways that we will bring about these changes in every detail that I can imagine.
Be worthy of following.
One person cannot change the world without leading others by their example. Spend some time thinking about what you are really out to achieve. Is it your goal to have a job that pays you to breed, sell and play with wild animal babies? If so, you are only out to satisfy your own ego and will never make a change for the better. People like you, may seek your company, but you won’t leave any lasting legacy and certainly will have not left this world in any better condition than when you arrived.
If your ultimate goal is to stop suffering, to save the environment and all the species that inhabit it, then you are the kind of person people will want to follow. We are a people of followers. Very few have what it takes to lead the way, but if you have a worthy goal and the desire to pursue it, others will join with you and be motivated by your passion.
Develop a mission statement.
It may sound like a silly thing to do, but it has proved invaluable in the continuance of our mission. You have already thought about what your end goals are, so now write them down. Work with the people who you know will be involved to give everyone a chance to develop the overall mission statement. This can be revised along the way as others join and as you fine tune your goals.
All the ideas should be written down and then boiled down to the basics that you can then make every decision by. It should be short and simple. It should be something that is so true of what you seek that everyone can remember it without having to look it up. One of the key phrases in our mission statement is to “lead by example”. With every situation that comes up from how will we care for the animals, to how we deal with worker conflicts to how we will budget our money can be resolved by asking, “Is this decision in keeping with our mission statement to lead by example.” It makes a lot of seemingly difficult and complex situations crystal clear in just one easy question.
Abundance mentality vs scarcity mentality.
The abundance mentality says that there is enough for everyone and we all do better by sharing. The scarcity mentality says that if I help you there might not be enough left for me. Both are self fulfilling prophecies. We used to have to scrimp and save for every little purchase but we still helped out everyone we could along the way. We frequently donate to other cat (wild and domestic) rescue groups in sharing donated items that we don’t use, food, manpower, information, training, access to resources and money. Nothing ever goes to waste, as there is always someone in need. No matter how much time and effort we put into others we never come away feeling that we were the losers. The more we give, the more we have to give. It’s a universal, natural law. Try it and you will be amazed.
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
When we first came home with 56 cats from a fur farm we didn’t know much about caring for wild cats. Two years later, I was often criticized for having written a 100 page book about how to do it, because there were scores of people out there, with decades more experience who had never written a book about it. The book is available for free online http://bigcatrescue.org/cat-care/
The reason we wrote it is because we couldn’t find any evidence that anyone ever had before. We didn’t want any animal to ever suffer due to a lack of advice available to the caregiver and have documented everything from the beginning. You will learn more than you ever wanted to know about animals as you live with them from day to day. If you share what you learn you can do so much for so many more animals. The pompous criticism you may receive along the way pales by comparison to all the good you will do.
Learn from the best.
Read every book you can find on animal care, enrichment, health care and human management. If you are reading this publication it is a good sign that you want to know more and raise your standard of care to a higher level. People who really care about the welfare of animals will take the time to talk with you if your goal is a better life for all animals. There are so many resources available online, at the library and in magazines that there is no excuse not to know the best diets, vitamins and husbandry standards. Always set your goals just a little higher than you think you can reach and you will be astounded at what you can accomplish.
Educate yourself and your supporters.
We can’t save them all. The only way to stop the hundreds of animals from being abused and abandoned is to change the laws. Find out all you can about the judicial process and get involved. You can keep abreast of the laws that are pending by frequently visiting our page at CatLaws.com
Read about the problems that animals face in the wild and the human issues that deal with the crisis of shrinking habitats and prey. The more you understand the global issues the better you can educate those around you. Know your animals, where they are from, what their instincts are in the wild and what their populations in nature and in captivity are. Learn the difference between people who are breeding to exploit the animals and those who are really saving them in the wild. Make your alliances with the people who are really going to make a difference.
Train your volunteers and staff. There are lots of conferences and classes that you can attend and bring home ideas to your group. The TAGS have some great ones. We have formulated very detailed standard operating procedures and have posted it online for anyone to emulate at ZooCollege.com. We have fine-tuned our volunteer program to where it now has several levels of achievement: Trainees, Partners (Jr. & Sr.), Keepers (Jr. & Sr.) and Staff (paid and unpaid). Each level carries more responsibility and more privilege.
We have formal training classes with awards for things like Team Spirit and the Positive Attitude Winners Society (PAWS). At these meetings we offer classes on emergency animal care, animal handling, animal husbandry, how to give an educational tour and how to deal with human emergencies. We have drills to practice for escaped animals, injured guests, fires etc. so that we are always prepared. We help our workers be the best they can be in their chosen field.
People want to be on a winning team and they are ultimately good and just and want to make their lives count. If you are taking the high road people will recognize it and will help you along the way. We only allow visitors on guided tours. This gives us the opportunity to teach them about the plights these animals face and to show them how they can make a difference. Our supporters donate an average of over $80.00 per person and that shows the level of commitment that can be achieved by educating your audience.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
This became a cliche because of the truth in the statement. We pay up to a $3.00 per pound for the best and safest meat possible and we feed over 500 pounds a day. We feed all our cats seven days a week. We de-worm everyone monthly and quarterly with alternating medications. Older, arthritic cats get Glucosamine supplements daily and we have a daily chart where our caregivers write down anything unusual that they notice throughout the day. Our vets come out at least twice a week and walk through just to see if anyone needs attention. All of these precautions are expensive, but what we save in emergency health care is far greater. You can see how to contact all of our suppliers on our web site at the Feed Cats page.
Stay true to your mission.
It is easy to get off track and bogged down in the baggage that you never meant to carry. We are an exotic cat sanctuary because we love cats and know cats and are willing to sacrifice our all to protect cats. Most sanctuaries deal with native animals in rehab and release or exotic pet animals that have been abandoned so they can’t be too selective when there is an animal in need, but it’s very hard to know all you need to know about a wide array of species.
Our ultimate goal is to promote responsibility to the point that refuges don’t need to exist, but until that day comes we can do better for the animals by staying within our area of expertise. Groups such as The Global Federation of Sanctuaries are organized in such a manner that groups can refer animals in need to the place most suitable. If you have a certain area of knowledge make the most of it and try to work with other reliable organizations for the animals’ welfare. Be the kind of place that anyone would feel comfortable sending an animal.
We are all in this together and we are the future. Let’s make it one worth living. By: Founder, Carole Baskin