Big Cat Rescue

Lions, and tigers, and Bulls! Oh, my!

#USF American Marketing Association hosts informational event about Big Cat Rescue: a nonprofit sanctuary located in #Tampa, Fla.

BY REBECCA FORMAN

TAMPA — On the night of April 11, 2011, more than 100 guests gathered in the Marshall Center to learn about Big Cat Rescue. This nonprofit organization is one of the world’s largest accredited sanctuaries for exotic cats. The main purpose of the event was to spread awareness to the University of South Florida community.

Big Cat Rescue began in 1992. The sanctuary houses more than 100 exotic cats. These cats have been abused, abandoned, retired from performing acts, or saved from being slaughtered for fur coats.

Many of these big cats are victims of the pet trade. The exotic pet trade is a $2 billion industry in our country and second only to the illegal gun and drug trade. Jeff Kremer, director of donor appreciation for Big Cat Rescue, spoke at the event.

“The biggest surprise for most people when they come here is realizing in approximately half the country you can have all these cats in private ownership.”

Most guests are surprised to find out that many states do not prohibit sale or private ownership, or have weak laws that enable breeders to thrive. Kremer believes ignorance keeps this business running, but continues to have faith in the public.

“My belief and a passion that drives me along is there have to be more good people in the world than bad. If we just empower them, we’ll make good decisions.”

Kremer believes the USF population alone can make a difference for these animals and came into the event with a mission.

“Our mission is three fold: educate the public, help effect positive change in the regulations and laws and rescue animals. This is a big part of that.”

College students are often on a limited budget, but there are still many ways students can help.

“Social media is huge for us – going to Facebook, going to Twitter, liking us on Facebook; Catlaws.com is where it all connects.”

Guests can visit the Big Cat Rescue website and fill in a letter to send to legislation to support better laws for the animals.

Big Cat Rescue receives no government support. They only have eight full time staff members. The sanctuary relies on donations made from corporations and the public. They do not have funds for advertising, so it is up to the public to spread the word.

Another way USF students can help is to volunteer. Becky Ivan found Big Cat Rescue after she returned from volunteering in Africa.

“I’m a keeper. I’m trained to clean from bobcats and lynx, up to cougars. I also feed the small cats. I’m also a tour guide and I coordinate the tours on the weekend.”

She feels it is important to go on the tour, even if you’re not interested in a career in animals.

“Hearing a tour and spreading the word is just a really great way to get involved.”

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