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Big Cat Rescue: Commercial Use and Public Contact

Subject: Commercial Use and Public Contact
Source: "Sleeping In a Cat House" NY Post

Carole Lewis Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, Florida is well known for criticizing fellow private owners for profiting commercially from exhibiting their exotic animals or permitting public contact with them.

On March 17, 1998 the New York Post ran an article in their POST TRAVELER PLUS section titled "Sleeping in a Cat House".

Baskin's commercial endeavor is described as "A Florida B&B in which guests share their bed with wild and exotic felines." As with the buying, breeding and selling of exotic cats, Baskin would like to blame her commercial enterprise on her missing millionaire husband Don Lewis, but Don disappeared in 1997, a good seven months before this article ran. Here are some excerpts from the article, written by Mary Lou Janson and Lee Foster.

"While most B&Bs entice travelers with down duvets and designer decor, Wildlife on Easy Street (now Big Cat Rescue) in Tampa, Florida, offers an overnight cuddle with an exotic cat...a baby bobcat, cougar, leopard, serval or caracal." 

Although Baskin claims that she became a rescue in 1992 and that all breeding ended when her husband Don Lewis disappeared in 1997, she was actively buying and breeding cubs in 1998 to entice travelers to her so called sanctuary bed and breakfast, sometimes referred to as "Bed and Bengal."

The story continues. "Allowing overnight guests to share quarters with one of these cats is part of this conservation organization's effort to raise consciousness as well as cash." Carole Lewis Baskin agreeing that physical contact helps to raise awareness of conservation? 

Continuing..."Carole Lewis (now Baskin) who started the facility with her husband Don, insists that close contact with the wild cats helps the public understand the need to protect them. A non-profit organization, Wildlife on Easy Street depends on donations and B&B fees."

Ahhh, there it is. Give me your money and I'll let you pet my cat. But don't call it exploitation, I insist you call it conservation. But I should be the only one permitted to raise awareness by allowing the public to actually have physical contact with an exotic cat. 

Explaining their choice of a cat for their bed, the authors write, " A bottle fed baby, Tonga (a white serval) was used to human contact and would be easier to manage than, say, a cougar, prone to nocturnal nibbling." A bottle fed baby used to human contact. A baby bought or bred by Carole Lewis Baskin for just this purpose.

As we read on, "Wildlife on Easy Street rescues panthers, leopards, lions, and tigers from owners and trainers who are unable or unwilling to handle them properly." This was in 1998, the same year Baskin was issued 10 citations by USDA for running a trash strewn facility where the animals were not handled properly or provided even the minimum standards of care under the USDA Animal Welfare Act

You be the judge. Did Carole Lewis Baskin become a sanctuary dedicated to rescuing abused and abandoned cats in 1992 as she claims? Or was she, six years later in 1998, still buying or breeding babies for commercial exploitation in a filthy and unsafe facility devoid of even the basic care for her personal pets and breeders?

View the cabin cubs, bred and declawed for this purpose here.

View the Articles of Incorporation here proving that Lewis/Baskin incorporated for the purpose of breeding several years after she claims she became a rescue.

Last year Big Cat Rescue, a roadside tourist attraction masquerading as a sanctuary, had over 26,000 tourists, took in almost 2.25 million dollars, had an eight hundred thousand dollar excess, and close to five million in assets. And this is not commercial use?

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