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What You Should Know About Big Cat Rescue and Carole Baskin

Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.

Unpaid worker at Big Cat Rescue

Unpaid worker at Big Cat Rescue

The Trouble With Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue is a large "non-profit" animal sanctuary in Tampa, Florida, renowned and acclaimed around the world for their work "rescuing" exotic cats from the pet trade, circuses, roadside zoos, and fur farms. They are also known for rehabilitating wild bobcats.

The Florida-based facility frequently receives large donations and has ample public support, and for many, it is one of the leading voices on the plight of exotic cats in captivity. The organization's successful Youtube channel has over a million followers and routinely releases videos of their resident cats' cutesy antics that also highlight how the rescue provides enrichment for the cats.

This is how Carole Baskin, Big Cat Rescue's founder, presents her facility.

The Truth About Big Cat Rescue

  • Big Cat Rescue is against zoos, including those that are members of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (to BCR was denied accreditation from in the past).
  • Big Cat Rescue's founder purchased many of her current feline residents as private pets.
  • Big Cat Rescue does not support breeding for conversation efforts.
  • Big Cat Rescue has supported federal bans on the private possession of most pets other than dogs and cats.
  • Big Cat Rescue rakes in donations and doesn't pay its staff, who often aspire to work in zoos, despite the organization's stance.

Nothing speaks tranquility like a leopard hanging in the branches or a tiger wading in the water. Nothing can quiet your soul like the purr of a mountain lion. We invite you to pull up a chair and have a lynx or a bobcat come sit in your lap while you stroke its luxurious fur . . .

— Carole Baskin

The Truth Behind Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue is manipulative and has underlying ambitions that are not made clear to the majority their supporters. The way that their philosophy came to be may be surprising. "Why do people want to own exotic cats?" many ask. Well, you can ask Big Cat Rescue's founder, Carole Baskin, this question.

Those who only recognize Big Cat Rescue’s surface appeal often do not know that the organization's founder started out as a prominent exotic pet owner. Not only did Baskin collect and broker big cats, and not only did she seek to "one day have the largest private collection of exotic cats in the world," as one former acquaintance of hers puts it, but she also published articles in exotic animal newsletters guiding and informing potential exotic cat owners.

At her facility, Baskin also rented cabins to people so they could spend the night with sub-adult bobcats and cougars. See the video below for more information.

Baskin doesn’t necessarily hide this fact (doing so would be an impossibility), but that information is reserved for people who care enough to do a little background research.

However, she came under fire for apparently lying about one resident tiger, "Shere Khan," who she claimed was abused by his original owner and could not walk when she obtained him. A video later surfaced of her playing with Shere Khan as a cub, in which he appeared active, healthy, and alert, exposing her statement as erroneous.

On Big Cat Rescue’s main website, other animals were stated to have been rescued from abusive situations, yet some of the irate original owners have come forward to claim that their animals were sold to Baskin. One news station picked up the story (see video below).

A tiger at Big Cat Rescue

A tiger at Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue's Zoo Opposition

This page describes Baskin's position against zoos. While the page may seem to elevate AZA-accredited zoological facilities out of necessity, they are also frequently criticized, and Big Cat Rescue's overall mission is to stop all zoos from displaying exotic cats entirely. Baskin believes that any exotic cat in a cage is inherently cruel, despite her continuing to carry out the practice at her own facility.

Carole's "Pet" Cats

Aside from the lack of integrity in Baskin's claims, the biggest issue about Carole’s so-called former-pet-owner status and her original interest in achieving a massive collection of cats is that she is still achieving that goal.

Times have changed, and animal activism is what's en vogue. Circuses (outside of Cirque de Soleil) have seen diminishing attendance, and now even top zoos with lush vegetation and healthy animal populations are coming under scrutiny by rabid and misguided activism.

Baskin has intelligently elevated her status from top animal owner to top animal rescuer, achieving respect and donations from organizations all over the world as well as the general public.

Her "sanctuary," which is still by definition a zoo, is the largest accredited big cat facility around. The facility possesses an incredibly rare white serval whose origins are also being questioned as well as sand cats that were "surplus from a breeding program."

While she no longer breeds, buys, or sells animals, her original plans seem to be moving along as strongly as ever but under a new guise.

Caracal at Big Cat Rescue

Caracal at Big Cat Rescue

Caracal at Big Cat Rescue

The End of Big Cats in Captivity?

Baskin now states that her ultimate goal is to close down her rescue and completely phase out big cats (and most likely other exotics that will be up to her determination) in captivity because these animals cannot live a respectful existence in such a setting, but simultaneously, she brags about her enclosures, care standards, and how happy the cats are.

It may not match the idealized view that Disney movies and films like Born Free create, but behind the "jail bars," a big cat can be perfectly happy if provided enough space, a proper diet, mentally stimulating activities, and veterinary care.

Why would BCR continue to house these animals in such "unfortunate captive conditions" if they truly didn’t believe in it?

Big Cat Rescue uploaded a video (now removed) that supported the bill discussed in the video above.

Ego, arrogance, and a superiority complex—these three aspects of the human condition have likely contributed to Baskin's motives, and they are also traits she lambasts and accuses private exotic animal owners of having while she praises herself.

One great example exists in an article she wrote entitled “Who are Exotic Pet Owners?”

"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."

—Carole Baskin

This is most likely the reason Baskin has deluded herself into believing that some of her animals, originally purchased as breeders, were gallantly rescued from scumbag owners. In addition, Carole’s ultimate goal will remove animals from these perceived underlings and put her in control of all of them.

Carole has indeed touched upon an obvious truth that she does not inform the public about when she condemns animal captivity: Most of the cruelty cases involving exotic animals occur with low-income or uneducated people. Big cat care is an inherently expensive venture, and not being able to measure up financially is a recipe for disaster.

This is not an issue with animal captivity but an issue with how animals are distributed. Animals like dogs and cats (pit bulls are famously neglected in some neighborhoods at a higher rate) are prone to the same exact conflict.

Lion at Big Cat Rescue

Lion at Big Cat Rescue

Public Safety Claims

Interestingly enough, while Baskin cites public safety as a reason to remove big cats from captivity, she ignores that even domesticated dogs attack and kill humans. Even Carole Baskin herself was attacked by a dog as a child and "never got over it."

It is hard to buy Baskin's claim that she would shut down her facility and be cat-less for the rest of her life (nor does it sound believable that the current volunteers would be pleased going back to working at animal shelters with domesticated cats and dogs). Baskin likely knows that the flow of animals will never truly disappear in her lifetime.

When the rights of everyone but her and a few other privileged people have disappeared, she’ll probably convert BCR into a "conservation center" or something to that effect, joining the ranks of respectful zoos that are allowed to acquire and possess the rarest species, which was her original goal. You can accomplish things like this if you have all the money, respect, and adoration in society.

Big Cat Rescue vs. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums

To add to suspicions of the true intentions of her mindset, Baskin’s "rent a cabin with big cats" business was frowned upon by the renowned Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and her request for accreditation from them for her ocelot breeding program was denied. Given her ambitious goals, this likely lead to her disdain for all zoos and her plan to close down even AZA-accredited facilities.

Pet Owners and Zoo workers

Carole has had fear-stirring letters sent to the neighbors of exotic animal owners (Class II in Florida). It is well-known that owners of larger exotic pets are not commonplace in the slightest. Unfortunately, small groups mean small support. What chances do exotic pet owners have against Big Cat Rescue and the many other organizations conglomerating to phase them out?

This is happy news for Baskin and Big Cat Rescue associates, however, as they continue to upload videos with their interns’ condescending remarks about the people they’ve obtained some of their cats from.

Despite all this, I used to be subscribed to BCR on Youtube, as I enjoyed the enrichment and care videos. I was forcibly unsubscribed from them when I was blocked for (politely) speaking my mind in the comment section. Yet, unsurprisingly, condescending and hateful comments directed toward pet owners remain on the videos.

An Unintentionally Funny Big Cat Rescue Video

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.

© 2012 Melissa A Smith


MK on March 26, 2020:

Carole is a bitch, thats it. Watch latest Netflix. I did not believe her since I saw her 1st time in my life.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 09, 2017:

Glad to hear that Laura!

Power Ball Pythons from Mobile, AL on May 08, 2017:

At first I was leery of the title but this article was enlightening and fair!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 15, 2015:

It's hard for me to determine the perimeter of those cages Frida. They are unusual shapes.

Frida Nyberg from Sweden on February 15, 2015:

I actually do think their husbandry seems pretty appalling. If it was a zoo or completely respectable, honest private individual that had this (and not this fraud and liar who should be in a cage herself), I would still protest it: http://nimwey.tumblr.com/post/105539500860/snapped...

She's an animal hoarder who thinks only she should be able to have wild cats.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 04, 2014:

That works, thanks.

Juan Garcia on July 04, 2014:

So the link doesn't work? How about this one? http://beyondthinking.weebly.com/big-cat-rescue-fo...

Wow! It has been six months since I last commented and that was way before I knew what I know now.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 26, 2014:

Link doesn't seem to be working: http://beyondthinking.weebly.com/big-cat-rescue-fo...

Donna on June 26, 2014:

bigcatrescuelies is down but much of the same information is here:


Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 28, 2014:

It looks like it.

Lizzie on April 28, 2014:

I can't find bigcatrescuelies.blogspot.com, is it closed down?

Don's Ghost on March 28, 2014:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now hire yourself a bodyguard, as this arrogant woman is also suspected of killing her second husband! I am sick to death of reading one-sided articles in the press about this sociopath. She is a hypocrite who has committed fraud for over 20 years......and still gets away with it!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on December 17, 2013:

Lol, thanks Juan.

Juan on December 17, 2013:

BCR is the first channel to block me although I sort of found a way to still comment all thanks to the google+ thing. Take care.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on December 15, 2013:

Yes, they've blocked me too. Not even Seaworld resorts to that.

Juan on December 15, 2013:

BCR blocked me on youtube too. Their recent video about Shere Khan tells the untrue story of how they obtained him. I commented that they are lying and put a link to the news segment that proves that they were and they blocked me so now nobody can see the comment. I just hate how they are fooling a lot of people.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 22, 2013:

Many big cats that are 'rescued' come from people who are down-sizing or shutting down their operation. Many times this is due to the laws that BCR strongly pushes for. You can bet that there will be many displaced tigers and other big cats from the recent changes in Ohio. Laws make it more difficult for potential 'adopters' to take in high-maintenance wildlife, so while I agree that overpopulated big cats are an issue, people pushing to ban private owners are partially responsible for it. .

Kallie on September 22, 2013:

I know, I was just stating that even beyond the lies there are sometimes truths. I just wish that their lies didn't affect smaller sanctuaries and pet owners. I like this article, along with many of your others, you bring out both sides of the story quite well. Now I'm curious, I wonder how many of the cats BCR has that don't have documented footage of their 'rescue' actually came from the neglectful homes that BCR claims they did. Before reading this article, I believed 100% that all the cats that were taken in were rescued as it stated in the individual cat bios. Now I'm questioning that belief, which I believe is the right thing for me to be doing. Thank you.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 22, 2013:

Kallie, this article is about the lies and manipulations of this certain rescue, not their husbandry.

Kallie on September 22, 2013:

There has been several animals at BCR that have indeed been rescued from terrible homes and comes with footage to support these claims. However, some do indeed to appear to have dubious histories.

All in all, at least BCR takes care and provides for all the animals they have. They may have 'falsed' some information about histories, both their own and the cats, but they aren't neglecting or abusing these animals. In my opinion, they should be able to open another facility as long as it runs as a rescue, where no cats are bred.

At least the cats are there and not dead, or in a 5ft crate filled with feces. Granted I wish that smaller rescues would get recognized more than they are. For instance I just found out that there is a big cat sanctuary not far at all from my house. I never knew about it because it is not open to the public, only allows staff and students onto the property so that the big cats aren't gawked at or pestered. The sad thing about this is that they aren't as well known as rescues like BCR because they aren't open for public viewing. They ensure the animals privacy rather than expose them to countless loud children and adults.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 24, 2013:

Thanks for the kind words, I have a facebook, I don't really post too often but I'll send you the link if you give me your email.

Denise on June 24, 2013:

I remember that awful article on who keeps exotic pets! I haven't been able to find it in some time! Melissa, you are so smart and well-informed, and I have been reading your posts all morning. Do you have a Facebook? If so I'd really like to follow you on it.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on October 27, 2012:

Hi Donna. Unlike a few of BCR's detractors I have little issue with how the animals are being kept at the facility. People just get so upset that Carole Baskin is trying to control the animal industry with her ideological view and ego that I guess it drives them to make irrational statements.

Donna on October 27, 2012:

Woman, you are sincerely out of your mind if you think BCR is anything but the most marvelous place a former pet or abandoned wild cat can live out it's days in as close to a natural habitat possible.

Carol on May 04, 2012:

BCR is built on a former dump. Baskin burnt asbestos there in the early years which may explain why so many of her cats have died of cancer. 129 cats dead. Sure, some of old age, but that number is unusually high. Someone needs to take a water sample from the lake these animals drink from and submit it for testing.

LLovelace on May 01, 2012:

BCR is accredited by an org that she herself put together, BCR boasts 55+ acres, but fails to tell the public that the majority of it is water, she has maybe 4 usable acres to house the large cats on

Sue on April 17, 2012:

Sorry, that blog address is bigcatrescuelies.blogspot.com

Ask for supporting documents and they will send them to you.

Sue on April 17, 2012:

The way to share the "real story" is for everyone who reads this article to then read the blog of 36 reports compiled by her former staff and volunteers and post the link to that blog on their Facebook, sharing it with everyone they know. As more people become aware of the true character and motives of the founder, there will be less glorifying of her in the media and a chance for some of the smaller, legitimate sanctuaries to get the support that they need.

Marsha on April 16, 2012:

OMG, that video is just embarrassing...get that daffy woman off (along with the song), and it's better. But it illustrates the mindset in a similar way to "The Secret" narrative video by CB, and the logo on a web book depicting a woman in a spotted gown which flows into a spotted big cat on a leash. The book is implied to be an orignal work, but in fact is a copy of one published 100 years ago, with changes made to personalize it.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 15, 2012:

Yes it is unfortunate. It would be positive to share the real story of this place with people so they can understand the mentality behind it.

Lisa Lovelace on April 15, 2012:

Great Job!

Linda Sue on April 15, 2012:

Melissa, this is and Excellent article. Thank you for putting this out to the public. After 2 news interviews on fraud you would think the authorities would be investigating further. Not to mention the Extreme acts of animal cruelty that goes on there. BCR's practices and death records do not make it an ethical or successful caretaker of wildlife.

Debra on April 14, 2012:

In NC. Send email address to my address & I'll send as soon as I return to Florida.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 14, 2012:

May I have a copy too please? :)

Donna on April 14, 2012:

Glad to see you refer to BCR as what it is....a roadside ZOO. Carole in fact wanted very badly to become a zoo but was turned down for accreditation not once but twice by AZA after which she decided to turn against zoos and become an accredited sanctuary instead. Problem was, no one would accredit her because of her commercial activity...pimping out cougar and serval cubs to sleep with cabin guests, doing photo shoots with big cats for magazine spreads, charging the public to see her private collection of big cats....until she came across TAOS (the

Association of Sanctuaries). They made a special category for her after she donated all her lemurs and who knows how much money to someone affiliated with them. Carole continued to bill herself as an "accredited' sanctuary, even though TAOS never accredited her as such, saying she did not meet their standards for a sanctuary. Lies, lies, and more lies. It's all on the bigcatrescuelies blogspot.

Debra on April 14, 2012:

She is accredited by the global federation of animal sanctuaries. The top board members are HSUS people. It used to be TAOS. If you read the criteria for accredation she does not qualify. It's like ASA. Tipi hedronis president and also president of shambala. So she accredits herself

Debra on April 14, 2012:

Shaddie I have that document. Contact me at celebesmom@aol.com I will send it to u

Sue on April 14, 2012:

Yes, she got busted big time over her statements about Shere Khan. Her original statement, "raised in a loving and nurturing home" does not bring in donations like her later claim that he was "abused and neglected". I like the stories she told about Shaquille the black leopard being beaten with a baseball bat and forced to jump through burning hoops of fire in a show in Las Vegas. When contacted, the former owner said Shaquille was never in Las Vegas and never in a show of any kind but Carole wanted him to breed with her female black leopard Lola. The lies this woman tells to take money from animal lovers....it shows her true character.

Shaddie from Washington state on April 14, 2012:

LOL at that last video... Good heavens. I'd love to get my hands on “Who are Exotic Pet Owners," if I could I would post that incriminating article all over the place. Exotic ownership has so many enemies...

Bigcatrescuelies on April 14, 2012:

Referencing the "cabin cubs", Carole Baskin (then Lewis) had these cubs declawed before submitting them to paying customers to sleep in their beds overnight. On her self-serving "educational tours" you learn that the leopard Sundari was declawed by an unscrupulous pet owner. What you are not told is that Carole Baskin herself was the owner who had the leopard declawed and then passed the claws out to her volunteers. While not against declawing cats, bcrl is most definitely against deceiving the public for the purpose of donations. BCR took in 2 million dollars last year and had an $800 thousand dollar excess, yet they still beg donations based on the perception that these cats, many of them her former pets and breeders, are all "abused and abandoned". This is fraud. For more on the subject go to bigcatrescuelies.blogspot.com.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 13, 2012:

Thank you for commenting, yeah the video did end up looking like a spoof due to less than spectacular editing...

Shawna Frantz on April 13, 2012:

Well thank you for a very informative article...thought the video was a hoax....the chit singing anyway ruined it if they were serious....

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 13, 2012:

Yes it is unfortunate that the public will not investigate further into BCR's specious claims. I believe most of their supporters are pro-zoo and at least supportive of people who have "wild" pets like snakes and birds. Thanks for your comment.

Kathy B. on April 13, 2012:

Cont.....Has been pulling the wool over there eyes for so long. Wish this article would be put in the newspapper in Tampa area, ITS TRUE and FACTUAL....great job...thx K.B.

Kathy B. on April 13, 2012:

We ALL (exotic animal owners in FL).. have known about this for along time....Its just been hard to get the general public to listen and realize BCR

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 12, 2012:

I was under the impression that they were legitly accredited (by whoever handles such matters for top sanctuaries), do you know who does?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 12, 2012:

Lol, the video has way too much emphasis on the 'singer' and it ruins the song's message, and it has pretty silly scene selection as well. Thanks for commenting.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 12, 2012:

Thank you for your comments and perspective. I didn't know she's planning on opening another facility, interesting. I wonder if she will seek to obtain more species of animals, as we know she has a particular affliction for felines.

Jeswise on April 12, 2012:

You should look into who "accredits" BCR... If you look deep enough I'm pretty sure it isn't legit. (Aka, themselves.)

Vera Chaples on April 12, 2012:

OMG.. the video is hysterical.. can we say horrible ham acting and never mind.. buwahahaa.. Looks like she is trying to go for it like the ASPCA and HSUS.

Thank you again for posting the truth. No one believes the people that speak out against this roadside zoo!

Debra on April 12, 2012:

As a former volunteer at BCR I can assure all who read this story that it is indeed accurate as well as informative. I would like to add that many of the "abused and neglected" cats "rescued" at BCR were actually born right there at BCR (formerly Wildlife on Easy Street). I would also like to say that Baskin has a BIG plan already in motion to open ANOTHER facility in North Carolina under the name Wildlife Warriors. Her right hand man Scott Lope is the front for this operation. Her current board is in NC at this time and I have been told that The Humane Society of The United States is helping her with this endeavor (they allegedly own the 800 acres). I am currently in NC to investigate these allogations. Mellissa thank you for such a well written story and please visit bigcatrescuelies.blogspot.com to read more about the fraud by this organization.

Bigcatrescuelies on April 12, 2012:

Thank you Melissa for revealing the truth about BCR. However, there is so much more to the story, as can be read at bigcatrescuelies.blogspot.com. This is a website compiled of 36 reports by former staff members including links to documents, videos, and news reports that expose the truth about the dubious past of the founder of Big Cat Rescue, Tampa. None of the contributors to this site breed or exhibit big cats as Carole Baskin would have you believe. They are devoted animal lovers who left her employ disgusted by the lies, deceit, and fraud being perpetrated on unsuspecting donors and supporters.

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