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Big Cat Rescue: Animal Sanctuary of Tampa, FL

Big Cat Rescue is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational sanctuary located in Tampa, FL. It is home to over 80 big cats representing over 30 species. The Animal Sanctuary of Tampa was founded in 1992 as a Registered Florida Non-Profit Corporation by Carole Baskin and has been accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries since 1996.

The main purpose of the sanctuary is to provide a permanent home for exotic cats that have been abandoned, abused, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts.

Big Cat Rescue's mission is to end the abuse of big cats through education, legislation, and public awareness. Their goal is to ensure that no big captive cat suffers at the hands of unqualified owners.

A Long History

The rescue center started with the Baskins' own three tigers, plus a black leopard, bobcat, and other animals they acquired while working with a local animal trainer. It operated as a private menagerie until January 1992, when it was opened to the public and began operating as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Wildlife on Easy Street. In 1999, after Carole Baskin divorced her husband, she took over management of the sanctuary and adopted its current name.

Big Cat Rescue Founder Carole Baskin

Carole Baskin founded big Cat Rescue in 1992. Carole Baskin is a conservationist and the CEO of Big Cat Rescue. At that time, it was called Wildlife on Easy Street, but it was quickly renamed to Big Cat Rescue as no other species were ever kept there except big cats.

In 2003, Big Cat Rescue moved to a larger facility near Tampa to allow for more expansion. In 2014, the sanctuary opened a new education center at their current location so they could provide better care for their cats and better serve their visitors.

A jaguar at the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa Florida

Big Cat Rescue Overall picture

The animals at Big Cat Rescue are housed in natural settings and encouraged to exhibit their natural behaviors. They receive the best possible care for us to ensure that they live as close to their natural lifestyles as possible.

They have many employees dedicated to providing the cats with the highest quality of life through enrichment, stimulating activities, and excellent medical care.

Many of the animals at the rescue center are graduates of the Billie Baskin Center for Great Apes. Established in 2010, the Center provides sanctuary and rehabilitation to chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and siamangs who have been retired from biomedical research laboratories.

How they Rescue and Care for Big Cats

They do not breed, buy, sell or trade cats or allow cub petting to raise money at the sanctuary. Instead, they rely on donations from compassionate individuals worldwide, and they operate solely on those donations.

The cats reach the Center from various situations, but they all have one thing in common: they desperately need help. The cats that reside here are provided with veterinary care, nutritious food, and safe shelter. But just as important, they are given a second chance at life and love.

Big Cat Rescue staff educate the public about big cat issues (see the Big Cat Facts page for more information), promote animal welfare and conservation issues through Animal Ambassador Programs, and rescue and provide a permanent home for unwanted exotic cats worldwide through the Sanctuary program.

How they House Orphaned Cats

When they get an injured or orphaned cat, they treat it like a wild animal for as long as possible. The idea is to minimize human contact so that the cats do not become dependent on their human caretakers or have any difficulty being released back into the wild. The only people allowed in the enclosures are interns who volunteer their time, students in their accredited internship program, and their professional staff. Everyone else sees the cats from outside their enclosures.

The Big Cat Rescue Tour

This Tampa attraction offers tours of their sanctuary so that you can meet these beautiful creatures and learn more about them. Tours are available on select days throughout the year and must be reserved in advance. They also offer special tours, such as Behind-the-Scenes Tours and Photography Tours, and Virtual Tours, where you can experience a tour anywhere at any time!

All tours include an educational information session led by an experienced guide who provides an overview of each species found at Big Cat Rescue, along with stories about their individual histories and personalities.

Does Big Cat Rescue in Tampa charge an entry fee?

The only way to fully appreciate the unmatched magnificence of big cats is to see them up close. Now you can at Big Cat Rescue.

Fees vary depending on what type of tour you choose (day tours, night tours, children's tours, and feeding tours, among others), but they generally range from $29 to $125 each. To reserve your spot on the Big Cat Rescue tour, visit the website or call the organization.

As the sanctuary grows, Big Cat Rescue is expanding its educational programs to include rehabilitation and conservation research for wild cats worldwide. Don't miss your chance to come face-to-face with some of the most magnificent creatures on Earth. Interested in learning about becoming a resident in Florida or moving there? Read more.

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