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How did CARE get started?

CARE has not always been the organization that it is today. In years past, the facility was used as a big cat boarding house for a traveling show. Over time, leadership wanted to take the organization in a new direction. With inspiration from our late mascot, Jake, CARE was created. Jake was the living example of the horrible things that a person could do to a big cat. He was declawed, malnourished, left for dead, and the prospect of his survival when he first arrived at the facility was slim at best.

CARE has started to put an end to these stories. We all share the same contempt towards those who continue to abuse big cats, and our organization is dedicated to fighting for their safe-keeping and survival.

In 2003 CARE received its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) determination from the IRS. On November 2, 2004, the facility received its USDA Class C license.

Where does CARE get its funding?

CARE receives financial support from different venues. These include corporate sponsorship, our adoption and sponsorship programs, fund-raising events, tours of the CARE facility, and (most importantly) private donations from people like you! Our ability to care for these animals relies 100% on the profound generosity of our supporters, and we deeply thank each and every one of you who have so selflessly given so that the animals can live in safety and comfort.

Please see our Appreciation page to learn more about the amazing supporters, interns, volunteers, partners and donors of CARE!

Are you open to the public?

Absolutely! Our goal is to educate the public about issues effecting big cats and other animals, in turn the public may become more active in our fight for big cat survival. Please visit our Tours section to learn more about coming out for a tour.

Where do the animals come from?

The cats and lemurs at CARE have come to us from a number of different places. Sadly, some of the cats have come from private owners and unethical entrepreneurs who oftentimes were abusive and neglectful to their cats. Some were born at the facility before CARE became a sanctuary. Others have come to us from zoos or sanctuaries that have had to close their doors.

How do you feed your Big Cats?

Most institutions feed their big cats a processed meat product. For the most part this contains quality meat with vitamins added for optimal feline health. Although this is appropriate, we have found feeding whole animals like cows, horses, deer and store bought chicken has great health benefits.

The animals that are used to feed the cats are donated to us by local farmers and owners. In all cases, the animals are either already deceased or are suffering from fatal or incurable injuries or diseases that would result in death or long-term suffering on their own. In cases where these animals are brought to us alive, they are quickly euthanized humanely. Our policy is to relieve any suffering immediately. These living animals arrive mainly due to colic, complications in birthing, broken legs or extreme emaciation due to old age. Each animal owner is asked a series of questions to assure the animal cannot be rehabilitated. In the cases where rehabilitation is possible, CARE has gone so far as finding permanent homes for the animals in need.

CARE has found it healthier for the animals to be fed what we call “holistically”, which means feeding the big cats the whole carcass. Our big cats are eating the way they naturally would in the wild. The multi-day process of feeding allows the digestive system to function how it was intended and promotes positive dental health (by eating bone, skin and hide), as well as giving the cats an opportunity to use claws, jaws and the muscles attached. Everyday CARE and other research institutions are learning more about the positive effects of holistic feeding.

How long does a Big Cat live?

When a big cat is in the wild it will live, on average, about 10 to 14 years. In most captive situations the cats will live 15 to 17 years. Here at CARE, however, the cats tend to live around 18 or 20 years (and some even longer!). We attribute this to the “holistic” feeding method that we implement and also to the great amount of loving interaction that we regularly give the cats.

Do we allow public contact with the cats or allow people to take photos with cubs

We are an educational facility (which is one of the main reasons that we are open to the public), but we are not a petting zoo or entertainment park. Our primary purpose is to provide a safe and healthy home to the animals in our care for the rest of their lives. Our rules and regulations were created to keep them, and our visitors, out of harm’s way. On our tours, we guarantee you will have a more intimate experience with our animals than you would get almost anywhere else, but not at the expense of your safety or the well-being of our residents. No exceptions.

Why are the cats in captivity instead of being put in the wild?

Every cat that CARE provides a home for was born and raised in captivy. Although all of their wild instincts are intact, they have never learned the proper skills that they would need to survive in the wild. To try and release them into the wild would mean certain death.

Through recent research and discovery, it has been found that cubs taken from captive-bred situations who are given intensive training over the course of years could be taught, by people, to hunt and live comfortably in the wild. Unfortunately, there are no “wild” places left in the world. Most of the conventional “wild” places are actually parks and reserves that are funded by local governments and are protected pieces of land. Like other big cats that live in the “wild”, if the cat raised in captivity and then released into a wild habitat were to escape its protective area it would most likely be killed by poachers or farmers protecting their families and animals. The animals trained in this release program are not afraid of people either, thus making them more dangerous if they ever escaped their protective area.

Ultimately, we at CARE wish that there was never a need for sanctuaries like ours. We are hard-pressed to understand how anyone could ever treat these animals with anything but respect, dignity, and love. So as long as there are abused and neglected big cats out there that need our rescue, then we will not stop our mission.

Has there ever been an escape at CARE?

A cat has never escaped from the CARE compound. CARE has strict safety measures and procedures in place to protect the cats and their human neighbors at all times.

Do CARE staff ever enter the enclosures with full grown big cats?

The answer is never. Our main goal is to keep the animals in our care safe, that also means not putting them in a position to hurt us therefore putting themselves in danger, their CAREtakers, and the organization. We must always remember that the animals we care for are large, strong, and unpredictable creatures. We love the residents of the facility deeply, and we are able to give them all the attention and love that they need behind the safety of strong fence. It is not necessary for us to enter the enclosures with them in order to take excellent care of them.

How can I help?

One of the easiest ways to help at CARE is to simply fill out our volunteer application form or make a donation. There are so many additional ways you can help as well, such as helping with our Wish List, Adopting or Sponsoring an AnimalPartnering with us or Creating a Fundraiser!  We always welcome assistance and support in any form!

Can big cats in captivity be domesticated?

First, let’s talk about what domestication is. Domestication is a change in a species at the genetic level through selective breeding to cultivate desirable appearance, behavior, or other traits. Domestication takes many, many generations to achieve and applies to the entire species. Once accomplished, that species can be vastly changed from what it once was. So, with that said, big cats in captivity are not domesticated – nor are they candidates for domestication largely due to their predatory nature. And honestly, why would we want them to be forever changed – they are perfect just the way they are.

The next question is if they are tamed. First, the term “tame” can apply to just individual animals, not the entire species. Tameness is usually defined as being tolerant, and even desiring, human presence and interaction. Some go so far as to say a tame animals will be submissive to people and will not threaten or injure their human companions. In that case, we prefer to say that CARE cats are “socialized”, meaning they are comfortable with humans and generally react very positively to human interaction.

Whether you use the word tame or socialized, it is not synonymous with “safe”. That is a distinction that many people fail to make. The most important thing to know is that a tame or socialized animal is still born with the same instincts that their wild cousins possess.

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We would not be able to accomplish what we do without YOU. We face many challenges daily in our work to provide a permanent sanctuary to our beloved animals. Your support helps ensure that their future in captivity will be brighter. Your participation makes a big difference. Thank you for sharing the CARE!

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