Jill Carnegie bought her first cougar from an ad in the back of a “Field and Stream” magazine. Little did she know more than three decades later she would have about 46 lions and tigers, three bears and a menagerie of animals to care for and the calls keep coming in requesting she take more. She’s not alone.
Tammy Quist was working in advertising and went to a photo shoot where a guy had a tiger — she didn’t realize that anyone could own a tiger and knowing that prompted her to open The Wildcat Sanctuary, where she gets about 30 calls a month from people and agencies looking for big cat homes.
Big cat advocate Jeff Kozlowski of the Rock Springs-based Big Dad’s Big Cat Rescue and Education Center took in a tiger from a privately-owned zoo in 2003 and has since provided housing for others big cats that have been neglected or turned away. For him, the calls keep coming — even after Sauk County’s legal advisor filed suit Sept. 15 hoping to force him to move the lions, tigers and leopards from his property. Kozlowski and his attorney have until Oct. 30 to respond to six complaints, which include violations of county animal control ordinances and the threat to public welfare because the cages are not strong enough, among others.
In addition to compelling Kozlowski to move the animals, the county’s legal advisor Todd Liebman asks the court to impose a forfeiture between $50 and $200 a day for the time he says Kozlowski failed to obey a previous county order to correct problems.
If Kozlowski fails to move the animals, the court should authorize Sauk County to arrange for their transportation and housing, and charge the costs back to Kozlowski, court documents show.
Kozlowski says he knows there is a great need for animal homes and there is nowhere for his cats to go if he is forced to shut down.
The problem, said Carnegie, who founded Valley of the Kings Sanctuary & Retreat in Sharon, Wis., is people can too easily purchase exotic animals and have no idea what they are getting into. There are weeks when she gets dozen of inquiries from people looking for a place to get rid of their unwanted “pets.” Kozlowski said he has turned away about 60 cats in the last five to six months.