The Hard Way to Easy Street

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Although these exotic felines now live on Easy Street –  12802 Easy Street to be precise – it was a life of hard knocks that brought them to the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary in Tampa, Florida. The 120 animals that reside here all arrived for different reasons, but abandonment and abuse are common threads. Some were performing animals that came to the sanctuary instead of being ‘retired.’ Others were rescued from the fur trade. Many more were abandoned when their owners realized that large wildcats make for dangerous, and expensive, pets.

One of the sanctuary’s recent rescues, a wild bobcat on the losing end of an automobile encounter, has become a bit of a sensation. When no local vets or specialists would even attempt to help the animal, Big Cat Rescue (‘BCR’) made the five hour round-trip drive needed to bring the cat to its facilities. With a crushed pelvis and ruptured spleen, the prognosis for ‘Skip’ was dire. But BCR pressed ahead anyway, paying for expensive surgery, in the hope that he could be returned to the wild, one-day.

Skip. Photo courtesy of Big Cat Rescue

Several months have passed since the original accident, and over that time Skip has developed a dedicated following. He even has a Facebook page of 232 members who call themselves ‘Skipaholics’ in reference to their addiction to the live video feeds from inside his cage. But on March 4, the Skipaholics received some unwelcomed news. Skip will not likely recover enough to be released. His pelvis was too badly damaged. Although his mobility is good and he has healed well, he may be unable to pass food caught in the wild. Skip, while saved from certain death, will probably spend the rest of his days in captivity.

And so Skip joins the ranks of the other cats living on Easy Street. But caring for an animal that can live up to 25 years is no small burden. The initial rescue cost, which in Skip’s case might exceed $7,500, is only a small fraction of the commitment BCR has taken on in rescuing this one animal. Without donations and admission fees from a supporting public, such rescues and continuing care are not possible.

That realization has changed the way we think about our travels. In recent months we’ve visited a turtle hospital, a lemur center, and, of course, the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary. All of these places have one thing in common: their primary mission is to help animals, not display them. And so it occurred to us that zoos are kind of irrelevant as travel destinations. Sure they’re convenient for seeing an array of animals at one location, but better options exist. There are animal sanctuaries, hospitals and rescue facilities doing good work all across the country. And many, like BCR, can only do those good works because of volunteers, visitors, and donors. So instead of patronizing institutions whose primary mission is to collect and display critters, we’re going to direct our dollars toward the places dedicated to helping them.

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3 Comments on “The Hard Way to Easy Street”

  1. Suzy March 18, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    I don’t really like zoos for the reasons you describe. It feels like the animals are always so depressed and unhappy, but rescues and sanctuaries seem like a nice alternative and you are doing good in the process.

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    • Brian March 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      Hi Suzy,
      That’s the conclusion we came to. We don’t go out of our way to visit zoos, but will occasionally drop in if there is one in the area. But recently we’ve been hitting more specialized places whose primary mission is help and rescue. With so many of those places around, we don’t really see the need for zoos at all. In fact, a zoo that is breeding animals, or buying them from breeders, may be part of the problem. I don’t think we want to contribute to that problem by patronizing such places.

      Like

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  1. Better Animal Encounters at the Alaska Raptor Center | Everywhere Once - January 3, 2014

    […] real difference between the places we visit that bill themselves as “animal hospitals” or “rescue centers” and ordinary zoos. But that difference in stated mission – for rescuing animals on the one […]

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