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Big Cat Rescue: Accredited Sanctuary or Tourist Attraction

Subject: BCR: Accredited Sanctuary or Commercial Tourist Attraction?
Source:  BCR Website, Letter From TAOS, Dateline TV

Carole Lewis Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, Florida, has long criticized the use exotic cats in any form of commercial activity, and refers to her own venue as a peaceful sanctuary for the cats in her care. A quick look at the commercial activities offered at Big Cat Rescue should put an end to any idea that Baskin's cats receive any real peace, day or night.

Her commercial offerings are listed below, taken directly from her web site.

  • Day Tours
  • Kids Tours
  • Feeding Tours
  • Keeper's Tours
  • Private Tours
  • Photo Safari's
  • Night Tours
  • Parties and Retreats
  • Weddings
  • Kid's Camp
  • Field Trips
  • Scouts

Baskin claims the commercial activity is all about education. How much education do you suppose goes on at a wedding or a party? On her website under "Frequently Asked Questions" Carole explains that to be a true sanctuary "no commercial activity involving animals occurs..." Tampa Tribune's February 2008 article in their Flair magazine tells us, "The sanctuary is part educational enterprise, part wildlife "attraction" offering guided tours, wildlife encounters, nighttime excursions and kid's camps. The site is available for weddings and private parties". In 2006 Baskin boasted 26,000 visitors to her wildlife attraction and this number is expected to grow each year. Is this commercial activity the model for an accredited animal sanctuary?

Again under Frequently Asked Questions it asks "why keep animals in cages or have them on display". Baskin answers, "The purpose of exposing the public to them is to show people who are contemplating big cat ownership that it never works out for the cat's benefit". 

On the contrary, in Baskin's case, it shows people how you can take your private collection of pets and breeders, assign them rescue stories of abuse and abandonment, open your gates and sell tours for a wildlife exhibit, and make millions charging people to see your cats, all the while claiming to be a true sanctuary! 

For years Baskin hid behind the excuse that it was required by Florida law that she exhibit her cats commercially in order to satisfy the permitting requirements. However this is not true. True sanctuaries can (and most do) close their doors to the prying eyes of the public and give their cats the peace and serenity they deserve.

However, Big Cat Rescue will never be a true sanctuary and Carole Lewis Baskin will never close her doors to the public as long as there is money to be made at her gate...day or night.


Accreditation:
Carole Lewis Baskin loves to brag that she is an "accredited sanctuary", but just what does that mean? Most true sanctuaries do not charge customers to tour their exhibit or exploit their animals as Big Cat Rescue does. Although they may admit the public for fundraisers or open for special events they do not advertise nationally and run a day and night tour business for locals and tourists.

How many legitimate organizations turned Baskin down for accreditation? She applied to become a participating breeding facility for the Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP). But her tour business caused the Ocelot SSP to shun her.

We're told Baskin was then turned down for accreditation by the ASA (American Sanctuary Association). ASA does not permit sanctuaries to engage in commercial activity.

But what Baskin desperately wanted was to become a zoo. She twice applied for and was twice denied accreditation from AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, because she did not meet their higher standards. 

These rejections from the SSP, ASA and AZA are probably what led to the transformation of Baskin from breeder and exhibitor into a radical opponent of captive breeding and zoos. After these failures she began a campaign of hatred against zoos and all owners, breeders and exhibitors of exotic cats.

Although for many years Baskin claimed that she was accredited as a sanctuary through TAOS (The Association Of Sanctuaries), a letter from the president of TAOS tells us that Big Cat Rescue did not meet their requirements to be accredited as a sanctuary. The letter is reproduced below.

TAOS actually created a category just for Carole Lewis Baskin so that she could continue to be open to the public, run her tour business, and still claim to be an accredited sanctuary. She was never an accredited sanctuary under TAOS as she claimed for many years, as her commercial use would not permit her to be accredited. The word used was "approved". Baskin's was the only "approved" facility listed in this category. It may have been a special favor since we're told Baskin donated all her lemurs to an officer of TAOS after being turned down for accreditation as a zoo.


The letter from TAOS:

Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 8:48 PM

Dear (name omitted):

Big Cat Rescue does not meet TAOS requirements for a fully accredited sanctuary; the organization has been classified by TAOS as an Approved Rescue Facility. I hope this is helpful to you.

Eileen Mccarthy
President

TAOS - The Association of Sanctuaries
www.taosanctuaries.org


Phone calls to Baskin's newest accrediting organization, The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, have not been returned, but it is thought that Baskin herself is  behind this organization. In other words, after failing to receive accreditation from these other organizations, she simply helped form her own. One of the requirements of membership in the GFAS  is "no commercial trade"....the same reason others would not accredit Baskin's Big Cat Rescue. BCR definitely is a commercial enterprise, and advertises as such, but apparently, The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuary rules do not apply to Carole Lewis Baskin.

Understand that anyone can form their own accrediting organization. Most are nothing more than a club or a group of like-minded private owners of exotic or domestic animals that pay dues to become accredited. More information on this incredible story can be found here.

While all along claiming to be a sanctuary Carole Lewis Baskin was advertising tours and sleepovers and engaging in commercial activity and public contact with her declawed cats.  As the inevitable bites and damage were reported, Baskin simply dropped the cabin guest sleepovers and stepped up her tour business, to the tune of 26,000 visitors in 2006 and growing. This woman claims she was and is a sanctuary yet she had exotic cats declawed and forced them to sleep in the beds of strangers for money.   Pimping is the word that comes to mind, although Baskin preferred the term "conservation." Amazing that people have forgotten who Carole Stairs Murdock Lewis Baskin really is and continue to glorify her in the press as the person she now pretends to be. Watch a video of why Baskin could not be accredited: view now.

Disclaimer: These reports are compiled from information supplied by former staff of BCR and volunteer researchers from hundreds of documents furnished to them. Therefore some information may be repeated. 

Reports are updated and added to daily. We ask a lot of questions that we want you, the reader, to answer for yourselves. Your comments are welcomed and your questions will be answered.

Public Information Disclosure: BCRL holds no claims of ownership to the referenced articles or photos that are public information online. The information is intended to educate the public. Anything posted that is not factual would be a matter of opinion or belief. 


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