Melissa holds a bachelor's degree in biology and is a plant and animal enthusiast with multiple pets.
While Carole Baskin's rivalry with Joe Exotic has been made notorious by the Netflix docu-series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, she has been well-known to exotic pet owners (mainly owners of non-domesticated cats) for many years. In fact, Baskin has been scrutinized by other alternative pet owners for lying and disparaging them. A megalomaniac is someone who is obsessed with their own power, which is Carole Baskin to a T. When it comes to her supposed campaign of ending the exotic animal trade, these 10 facts will reveal why Baskin truly is a person of questionable integrity and a megalomaniac.
Surprising Facts About Carole Baskin
- Carole has a 20-year plan to eliminate zoos.
- She dismisses her critics as animal abusers.
- She thinks the safety rules don't apply to her.
- She was denied AZA accreditation.
- She paid for negative online comments.
- She had a misleading website called "911 Animal Abuse."
- She posted her critic's address.
- She calls exotic pet owners "ugly and uneducated."
- She sent letters to pet owners' neighbors.
- She tries to take cats from their owners.
1. Carole's 20-Year Plan to Eliminate Zoos
In 2006, Big Cat Rescue created a descriptive plan that illustrated their goals by year to end the existence of exotic cats in captivity. It highlights the sheer confidence and arrogance of its author. In the plan she proclaims:
- Big Cat Rescue will have its own influential Animal Planet show in 2006.
- All zoos will no longer exhibit big cats by 2013.
- Exotic cats will have mostly died out in captivity by 2025, except in a few "tightly run and closely watched sanctuaries" (like Big Cat Rescue).
As damaging as Big Cat Rescue has been to pet owners, these predictions are hilariously far off. That said, it does provide a peek into the mindset of Baskin (and how she views her followers and the general public as effortlessly manipulable pawns). Baskin is probably aware that this document makes her look questionable, which is why she has devoted a section of Big Cat Rescue’s page to put it in a more favorable context (as she does with many discoveries about her past).
Zoos no longer display exotic cats.
Most of the cats displaced by the closing of zoos will now have died out.
— From Carole Baskin's plan to end zoos
Baskin likely regrets this plan's release to the public. Baskin isn’t stupid. She realizes the need to focus on animal "abusers" that most people detest (circuses, private exotic cat owners, people who display cubs) and rarely mention accredited zoos, which she clearly stands against, as her plan is to force them to stop displaying cats.
If she can feign a non-spiteful attitude towards major zoos that still stand as culturally acceptable by the majority, then her claims would be more trustworthy. I'm sure her goals have nothing to do with her sanctuary monopolizing America’s exotic cat population. Right?
2. Dismissing Her Critics as Animal Abusers
According to Big Cat Rescue’s philosophy, if you have a pet that isn’t domesticated, including breeds like Bengal cats, you are abusive. Since there are no grey areas in her philosophy, she must see a lot of people as "abusers."
Many of her critics are animal owners, who do not feel they are abusers. Amazingly, she can’t understand that people who are not animal exploiters can recognize her controversial behavior.
Juan Garcia runs a Facebook page and website that questions the sanctuary's ethics. After Garcia posted a link to his website Big Cat Rescue Watch.com in a Facebook conversation, he received this fallacious reply:
“Juan Garcia currently owns, breeds, and sells exotic cats. He also supports those who exploit animals like www.TigerCubAbuse.com and www.TigerCubAbuse2.com. He thinks the cub pay to play schemes are okay. He thinks it is okay to have a pet tiger or lion. Since Juan and others like him have no legitimate argument for misusing big cats and their babies and no real platform or audience of their own they stoop to spouting garbage on our reviews in a lame attempt to shift the focus from the wrong THEY are doing. They mistakenly think if they twist ancient things and even outright lie people will forget about the real issue which is THEM ABUSING ANIMALS…”
Garcia owns no exotic pets, but he does have a pet dog. It’s one thing to assume a critic is an exotic pet owner, but it takes a giant leap to accuse someone of breeding, owning, and selling exotic cats. The accusations appear to be a lie. What kind of person would disparage Juan simply to manipulate his followers into dismissing him as a villainous, mustache-twirling tiger cub abuser.
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3. Safety Rules Don't Apply to Her
After making many claims that private owners should be eliminated due to their violations of public safety rules, she played off an incident where she was reported for releasing leopards into an enclosure that did not have a roof, which is a requirement by the Florida Wildlife Commission. One of her excuses, however, was that those particular leopards could not climb because they had been declawed, which was a result of her own actions.
4. She Was Denied AZA Accreditation
Although Baskin’s "20-year plan" has obviously failed thus far, and the facility no longer overtly puts their anti-zoo agenda on display (opting instead to focus on private owners and non-accredited "roadside zoos"), past events can help gain some insight into why she has an issue with even the larger, well-respected zoos that are involved with conservation efforts and education.
In the year 2000, Baskin applied for membership to the highly-regarded Association of Zoos and Aquariums (formerly known as the American Zoological Association) for Big Cat Rescue (formerly known as Wildlife on Easy Street) but was denied certification due to a lack of trained zoological professionals and a lack of a formal veterinary program. She was also denied accreditation because her business involved members of the public coming into direct contact with the cats. Many speculate that this is what led Baskin to develop a vendetta against all zoos.
5. She Paid for Online Comments
Big Cat Rescue has had plenty of success prompting people to hate owners of non-domesticated animals. One method they've used was to pay for online comments. This tactic was pretty devious.
Big Cat Rescue offered to pay people to comment on stories of big cats to make other cat owners look bad online. Their listings read:
“Earn up to $5.00 US for posting a comment on a big cat news story!
We will pay $2.00 per post, as evidenced by a screen shot of your good post on news and popular blog sites when the topic of exotic cats are discussed.” (Here is the original statement. Since it was taken down, you can only find it on archive websites.)
Despite marketing success and a thriving Youtube page, Baskin even sought to flood comment sections with disingenuous and biased comments made by her followers to drown out the legitimate, unpaid commenters. While Baskin criticizes many exotic pet owners as "cronies," at least they are expressing how they actually feel without economic gain as a partial motivation.
6. Her Misleading Website 911 Animal Abuse
Carole Baskin has been operating a website with the title "911 Animal Abuse" for years. The webpage lists all of her critics, while fallaciously suggesting they are committing animal abuse.
The site has listed Zuzana Kukol (a private big cat owner who takes excellent care of her animals but opposes Baskin's push to ban her from doing what she loves), the AZA-accredited Toronto Zoo (for displaying white lions), and even Linda Sue (an animal lover, advocate, and rabbit rescuer who run Rabbits In Need Inc. and opposes Big Cat Rescue's use of live rabbits to feed their cats). The purpose of the site appears to be to disparage these people and make them look bad when their names come up in the Google search.
7. She Posted Her Critic's Address
In addition to listing animal advocate Linda Sue on her 911 Animal Abuse website, she maliciously posted her address and contact information on the page as well, and it remains there to this day. Is Baskin hoping to incite harassment against Ms. Malie? Harassment by Carole when you do something she doesn't agree with seems to not be an uncommon occurrence.
Perhaps this is why even one of the jurors on Joe Maldonado-Passage's trial even had no sympathy for Carole, according to this article:
"If there’s anything Kristin and some viewers of Tiger King have in common, it’s a lack of sympathy for Maldonado-Passage’s target Baskin.
“She wasn’t a complete victim in the whole thing,” Kristin argued, saying that Baskin antagonized the defendant, even during testimony."
8. Exotic Pet Owners are "Ugly and Uneducated"
In a paper entitled “Who Are Exotic Pet Owners,” Carole Baskin revels in her perceived talents, physical attributes, and financial success. She displays clear bias when she writes:
“There is a stereotype and as someone who grew up being described as a beautiful blonde (who would, of course, be stereotyped as dumb) I disdain stereotyping more than most, but if there is anything at which I excel, it is recognizing a pattern. Despite my lack of formal education I score at the genius level in IQ tests because the tests do not measure what you know, but rather measure one's ability to recognize a pattern”
“What is almost universally shared by those who keep wild animals as pets, or props and even most of those who operate private zoos and sanctuaries is that they are uneducated, poor, unattractive, hot tempered, attention seekers….men [who are exotic pet owners] are usually slovenly, womanizing, have a criminal history or leanings, and are dependent on drugs or alcohol to manage their depression. Whereas women are most often blonde, fat, have low self esteem, are childless or estranged from their families, and prone to rages of jealousy.”
Reptile owners are not exempt from this label:
“If you meet an exotic pet owner without a boa around their neck…within two minutes they have pulled out a dog-eared photo album of all of their pictures of them restraining animals…”
Baskin’s damning psychological assessment of exotic pet owners is as follows:
“Abusing their animals and their families cannot give them a lasting sense of power. That is why they are often unmarried and estranged from their families. Their families can break free from them, but the animals are kept chained and caged, the way they might well have kept the people in their lives were it not an offense that could land them in jail.”
It is no secret that many people with depression, insecurities, or mental illness turn to animals for comfort. It might be easy for most people to scoff at the concept of owning an exotic animal, because it is so unusual, but we should be embracing people’s differences.
Baskin is clearly inciting her followers to look down on lower income exotic animal owners (excluding herself). She thinks that they should just accept the fact that they are dumb and unsuccessful and let the elites handle the animals.
9. She Sent Letters to Pet Owner's Neighbors
Baskin is very dissatisfied that places aside from her facility possess exotic felines and other exotic animals, such that, in 2007 she sent disparaging letters to 1,500 neighbors of these pet owners in an effort to stir an antagonistic response against them. In these letters, she described these licensed animal owners as cruel, claiming they were endangering the public. Clearly, she was the initial provoker. Her actions reveal why exotic pet owners have stood up against her facility and legislative efforts.
10. She Tries to Take Cats From Their Owners
Carole Baskin’s persistent efforts to acquire a controversial, privately owned tiger at a gas station appears to be more of a display of chest beating than helping a captive animal in need. Tony the tiger’s enclosure at the Tiger Truck stop in Louisiana wasn't the largest, most luxurious, expensive tiger cage around, but it was far from "inhumane." Activists that decried the tiger's enclosure often made videos that did not show the tiger's grassy play area and private pool. But most importantly, Tony was elderly and was content in the only home he’d known since he was six months old.
Baskin's complaints that the tiger was bothered by hearing vehicles at the gas station were just unsubstantiated speculation that were akin to telling dog owners who live in cities that they shouldn't have their pets.
According to Baskin on Big Cat Rescue’s site:
“The narrow mission of Big Cat Rescue is to provide a good home for the limited number of cats that the sanctuary can afford to take in. But, can only save a small percentage of those in need. The sanctuary must turn away over 100 cats each year.”
If that were true, why did Big Cat Rescue declare that they had an enclosure sitting empty that was…
“shaded by trees, full of grass, tree trunks, two caves, one set in a hill, and a pool with constant circulation of spring water. This overlooks a lake, skirted by cattails and frequented by Mallard ducks and swans. Tony will have all of this to himself…”
Why was Big Cat Rescue reserving enclosure space for a tiger that had a home, while, according to Baskin, numerous felines with nowhere else to turn are denied sanctuary? Does this seem like an intelligent use of the rescue’s resources?
Tony's owner, Michael Sandlin, had surprising success amidst the criticism in getting legislation passed to exempt him from the state’s "wild animal" ban, despite persistent efforts from activists.
Tony passed away peacefully in 2017 from kidney failure at the age of 17.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.