Exotic animals from kangaroos to kinkajous are sold as easily as online underwear through web-based “pet-stores”, internet “marketplaces”, and classified ads, generating a revenue of $2 BILLION each year in the US and $20 BILLION worldwide- making revenues second only to the illegal drug and gun trade. The exotic animal ownership market is propelled by legislation that allows “exotics”, for short, to be kept in private hands in many states. This legislation, of course, varies from state to state ranging from ease in obtaining exotic animal ownership to flat-out prohibiting the ownership of exotics. Scarily many states have large loopholes in their regulation, such as requiring that the exotic animal keeper claim ownership of the animal prior to a certain year or requiring a permit. Classification of these exotic pets as mere property according to most legislation that permits their ownership gives these exotics no more rights than a picnic table. Not only is this disgustingly unfair to the creatures who are stolen from their wild homes and forced to be caged and alienated for the rest of their lives, but it also poses a health risk to everyone in the United States.

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. 5/6 diseases considered a “top threat” to national security according to the Center for Disease Control are zoonotic. Approximately 50 million people worldwide have been infected with a zoonotic disease and ~85,000 have died from them since 2000.

Why are we more afraid of zoonotic disease transmission from these exotic animals than from your own household pets? Because they bring in NEW diseases. Your domesticated dog that has been bred to be what it is today was not trekking the wilderness of Africa where few humans has been before and getting exposed to diseases we have never even heard of. Take, for instance, bird flu. Asian bird flu reached us here in the West from eagles that were smuggled aboard a plane to Europe. Not fair to for those who had to die for someone’s illegal act, not fair to the eagles who never got to fly freely again.

Now let’s stop being selfish and talking about our health, and let’s focus on the animals. Do you know why they are being purchased or, in some cases, smuggled? The reasons are sick: to be someone’s pet, to be a circus act, to serve captive in a zoo (not all zoos do this, though), to be used for someone’s economic benefit (i.e. so that you and your kids can take pictures with a tiger cub and pay a nice penny for it!!!), and to be KILLED for their fur! (There are many other reasons now mentioned, but these are big ones because they are the biggest money makers.)

So where does Big Cat Rescue tie into all of this? Big Cat Rescue is part of the solution, as it serves as the haven for exotic cats such as lions, tigers, bobcats, ocelots, cougars, and many more that have been saved from the terrible life of being someone’s pet, toy, or coat. Situated in Tampa, Florida, Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary, defined as a place that does not buy, sell, trade, breed, and provides no public contact with animals. The sanctuary is nestled within beautiful trees and looks as much as a home in the jungle to these beauties as a safeguarded heaven look. In fact, these wild cats remain protected by this 501(c) charity for the remainder of their lives. Furthermore, Big Cat Rescue is force of education. They don’t want to take in more cats- they’d rather see all of them free in the wild. They thus teach about conservation and about fighting the illegal trade.

Big Cat Rescue is the WORLD’S LARGEST accredited sanctuary with the MOST DIVERSE collection of rescued exotic cats. There are more than 100 exotic cats representing 14 species and subspecies. The facility consists of 55 acres of lushness, with each cat separated by nonabrasive but very withstanding fencing. Only cats that have a unique history with one another, and thus may offer one another emotional support, remain housed together.

More to come on Big Cat Rescue, heart-shattering stories from big cats at the rescue, and ways you can help!

Until then, Stay Wild,

Gabby Wild