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Big Cat Rescue: The Phony Fur Farm Rescue of 1993
Subject: Where It All Began: The Phony Fur Farm Rescue of 1993
Carole Lewis Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, Florida can't seem to make up her mind. In some articles she says she became a rescue in 1992 when she bought her first bobcat at an auction which then became a pet and breeder. In still others she says her sanctuary began in 1993 with the now legendary "rescue" of 56 bobcat kittens, which were then sold as pets or used as breeders. Let's take a closer look at this phony fur farm rescue; the birth of Baskin's Big Cat Rescue.
The tiny bobcat kittens purchased by Baskin on that day in 1993 were in no immediate danger of being killed and skinned for their fur. It was the older, larger adult cats who were scheduled to meet this terrible fate. But did Baskin 'rescue' the adult cats, were doomed to die? Of course not, because the real reason Baskin bought these baby bobcats was not to rescue them, but to bottle raise them to be sold as pets...at least the ones she didn't aspirate due to her lack of experience bottle feeding infants. Those who weren't sold were used as breeders.
On page 29 of Baskin's Wildlife on Easy Street Safari Guide she writes about one of these "rescued" cats, Raindance. "Raindance came from a fur farm in Minnesota. We had ordered six bobcat kittens by phone..."Baskin's later History & Evolution version says she was searching to purchase just one kitten as a pet when she "unwittingly" ended up at a fur farm. She goes on, "We found homes for all of them (they were advertised and sold as pets), except a few who we became so attached to that we could never bear to see them go. Raindance was one of these kittens"
Raindance was one of "the few" kittens Baskin couldn't sell so instead she used her as a breeder. At one time, three "rescues", Raindance, Windsong, and Little Feather were all pregnant at the same time, and their kittens were advertised for sale for $550 each in the Animal Finder's Guide." You do not rescue kittens to breed or sell them. This was not a rescue as Baskin has claimed for 20 years. Why the lies? Could it be that people would be reluctant to donate money for cats that Carole Lewis Baskin actually bought to sell or breed?
A member of Baskin's staff, fed up with the lies, deceit, and fraud, copied and removed many documents from Baskin's office before leaving in disgust. Baskin first denied that these documents existed and later admitted they were stolen from her office. Among these were USDA Acquisition forms in Baskin's own hand, private e-mails, and a diary, purported to be hers. From the diary, an entry dated June 18, 1994 talks about still another fur farm "rescue" of bobcat kittens.
"On May 16, after much protest from me, Don and I went to Le Center, MN and he bought 58 kittens with the provision that all but 6-8 would be dropped off on the return trip. The trip itself was a nightmare. Don got sick and couldn't drive or help and some people didn't show up for their cubs".
Baskin "protested" that she didn't want to go and "rescue" these 58 kittens? All but six or eight were to be dropped off (to buyers) on the return trip? Some people didn't show up for their cubs?
This was a year after the original "rescue" of 56 kittens. Did they this time buy the adult cats ready to be harvested for their fur? Of course not. Did they buy only the kittens to rescue them and give them sanctuary for life? Of course not. Or were 50 or so pre-sold kittens dropped off to their new pet owners before they even got back to the "sanctuary?" Was this another fur farm rescue, or another fur farm lie?
When presented with proof of these arguments, Baskin did finally admit that she bought only the baby bobcats to sell them as pets "to what we expected to be good homes". To her credit, she did also try to sell the new pet owners her book, "Exotic Cats as Housepets" so that at least they might know what to expect. The fur farm "rescues" were never about saving cats from being killed for the fur trade. They were about buying the kittens to sell as housepets while promoting and selling her book as well.
No matter what Carole Lewis Baskin tries to tell you, you do not "rescue" kittens from fur farms or auctions to bottle feed them and sell them for pets or breed them to make more cats to sell as pets! These kittens were not rescued! This was Baskin's entry into the business of breeding and selling exotic cats, which is exactly what she did for many years, even incorporating in 1995 for that purpose... breeding and socializing exotic cats. See her articles of incorporation as a breeder, naming her then 14 year-old daughter (with an illegal last name) as director.
That Carole Lewis Baskin became a rescue or a sanctuary in 1992 or 1993 is a lie, and Baskin has perpetrated that lie to the public ever since. That she is somewhat "legitimate" now that she actually has rescued a few cats does not negate the lies that she continues to tell of her beginnings. It does not explain the omission of the extent of her buying, selling and breeding. And it certainly does not excuse her presenting her privately owned bought and bred cats as rescues to collect millions in donations from the unsuspecting public or inventing horror stories of abuse for the same purpose. This is what we call "predatory fundraising". She preys on people with invented horror stories of abuse and rescue to take their money for her cats.
If it was truly the intention of Baskin and her millionaire husband Don Lewis to rescue bobcats and lynx from being killed for their fur, why did they leave the adult cats to die? When confronted with this question Baskin posted a new version of the rescue story. The newer version says she later went back and bought the fur farms out and closed them down. Baskin said there were mink, fox, and other animals being bred there. If she bought the fur farm out and shut it down, where are the fox and mink? And where are all these cats? Adults are much harder to sell than kittens. They are not at Big Cat Rescue. Did she sell them too? Or is it possible that this new version of the rescue story is just another lie?
When this piece was posted and Baskin could not explain where the minks and fox went after she "closed down" three fur farms, she then changed her story once again. Now she did not close the fur farms completely down, she simply made them agree not to breed or kill cats for fur. Not only is this too a lie, but she did not buy "every cat there", she only bought kittens that she then sold or used for breeders. Read the ads she posted in the Animal Finder's Guide to sell these kittens.
We contacted one of the supposed fur farms that Carole Lewis Baskin has claimed for years that she shut down. Patricia Bondenstedt of Brunswick, Nebraska told us that she and her husband had no such agreement with Baskin to stop breeding cats, that Baskin in no way "shut them down" and that they continued to breed bobcats and lynx until her husband passed away in the late 1990's. Of the 17 cats recorded on the USDA acquisition forms in just one of the purchases from this breeder, eight were quickly sold and a ninth one died in Baskin's care. Contact us to verify Mrs Bondenstedt's statement for yourself.
If any other "sanctuary" in the world, accredited or not, bought 50-plus bobcat kittens and sold them as pets or bred them, and then claimed to this day it was a "rescue", how many people would agree? Is it ethical to portray yourself as a rescue and sanctuary for years while buying breeding, and selling cats? Were these true rescues to save 56/58 bobcat kittens from being killed for their fur...or was this a greedy financial decision to buy only kittens that could be sold as pets or bred for profit?
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