I made a post about Big Cat Rescue (BCR) 9 months ago. I said I admired the work of Carole Baskin (formerly Carole Lewis) the founder. BCR was called Wildlife on Easy Street (WOES). I have been constructively criticised recently about this post. I am pleased to be corrected when I am wrong. It has given me the motivation to look again at Big Cat Rescue and make my own decision as to whether the allegations that Carole Baskin lies is true. I will try to be as neutral and as objective as possible.
- A host of allegations are on this page of this site: rexano.org – link broken to specific webpage April 2013
- BCR don’t rescue cats they buy healthy cats and breed them (src: http://web.archive.org/web/20091126013220/http://www.wildliferescueandrehab.org:80/learnthetruth/index.html (broken link) and http://www.metacafe.com ) and then make money from them.
- BCR has suffered 10 USDA violations in April 1999 (src: as immediately above)
- BCR had a litter of cougars born on their property in 2001 (src: http://www.merchantcircle.com/business/Big.Cat.Rescue.Corp.813-920-4130/review/list).
Looking at some of the Allegations
I’ll look at some of the allegations from the link in the first numbered bullet (rexano.org – link broken to specific webpage April 2013) as this is the best prepared page containing allegations of deceitfulness and therefore the most likely to be true. I will address the first 5 allegations on the linked page above in the order presented.
- Carole Baskin writes “stupid” letters to the neighbours of people who keep dangerous animals under license to warn them of potential problems if they escape etc.. Comment: a copy of the letter is shown. On the face of it, it is true that she sent the letters. But is it silly or stupid in an absolute sense? No. It might be stupid to the author criticizing and it might seem a bit too forceful to some people but to others it might seem very appropriate. This seems to be a bit of mud slinging from someone who does not like Carole Baskin and her operation.
- Snow leopards were bought by BCR as pets or breeders (in 1998?). Two invoices and a newsletter – link broken are produced as supporting evidence. Comment: These animals were on the face of it bought as stated. They were however, bought from another wildlife sanctuary, MacCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary, a non-profit 501-(c)-3-wildlife rehabilitation facility licensed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Act, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior. McCarthy’s are a rescue sanctuary (see this page: http://www.mccarthyswildlife.com/about.html). This would then appear to be a transfer of rescue cats from one sanctuary to another. It could be argued that it should be a free transfer because BCR has to take on the upkeep. One of the cats, Hercules, is stated as being a gift from Don Lewis to his wife. Is it possible to give a gift of a wild cat to a wild cat rescuer and rescue a cat at the same time? It seems the answer must be, yes. Is is possible for the founder of a cat rescue operation to treat one of the cats in her charge as a pet? It would seem, yes. Is breeding captive wildcats contrary wild cat rescue generally? No, this is now the norm it seems (and in any event BCR claim not to breed from Hercules). Also BCR say that Hercules was rescued because he was surplus to survival plan of this cat species as declared by someone else.
- Another allegation is that “BCR are calling their pet Snow Leopards ‘surplus to the Species Survival Plan‘. Comment: I think that Rexano simply got this wrong. BCR are saying as mentioned above that these cats were considered surplus by other sanctuary (McCarthy’s?). They claim to have rescued them from getting into the hands of unscrupulous breeders.
- The next allegation is that BCR had a video on YouTube showing how they bred wild cats and traded them etc. Comment: The video referred to has been removed, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Carole Baskin .” The allegation in any event would not seem to be automatically contrary to cat rescue.
- BCR is no longer (at 28th April 2008) a charity accredited by BBB because they mishandled complaints and they cannot use the BBB seal. Comment: The three complaints that they dealt with were answered on the BCR website. BCR criticised the complaints as false. This did not meet the standard of BBB. This is standard no. 20. There are 20 standards and the remaining 19 were passed by BCR. The seal is voluntary by the way. BCR are not seal holders (as at Nov 2009). BCR is listed on the BBB website (Nov 2009 – http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/#B). The list is of “enrolled charities”. The BB Wise Giving report expires Oct 2009. I presume that this means that the problem expires too.
Is Big Cat Rescue a Sham? No, not on this evidence. OK to recap the above. I do not see malpractice or evidence that tells me that Big Cat Rescue is anything other than stated:
Stated Purpose: “to provide a good home for the limited number of cats that the sanctuary can afford to take in … and reduce the number of cats that suffer the fate of abandonment and abuse by educating as many people as possible about the conditions that lead to the plight of these animals. ” (BBB website – this page)
What I do see is some mud slinging. This is probably because Carole Baskin is a forceful women who has made some enemies. Although controversial, I think it fair to say that there may also be a sexist problem. Some men and women don’t like women who behave like men.
She has certainly alienated wild cat hybrid breeders because she is firmly against the practice. She has tended to be too outspoken against wild cat hybrids and made generalizations about them which have on occasions been misconstrued and which have not furthered her cause. But these are simply her views and she is entitled to declare them on her website. Alone, a declaration of a deep distaste of wild cat hybrid breeding is not sufficient to say that Carole Baskin is a liar and runs a sham of an operation.
I welcome comments. But please, comments should be supported by sound evidence if critical.