PR Newswire - The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) recently announced an emergency grant to rescue the last remaining 10 big cats from Riverglen Tiger Sanctuary near Mountainburg, Arkansas. The funds are being used to build temporary enclosures for the tigers at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR), located 80 miles to the north.
Efforts to rescue the felines got underway in November of last year when the Crawford County sheriff contacted TCWR staff. The sheriff reported a total of 34 big cats including tigers, leopards and cougars housed in enclosures in such state of disrepair that it was described as a "ticking time bomb." The owner, a 72 year-old woman suffering from health complications, opted to surrender all of the animals.
"The housing conditions have deteriorated significantly and are now too insecure to contain big cats, especially tigers. It is as unsafe for the animals as it is for the public," said Kelly Donithan, IFAW Animal Rescue Officer. "We want to relocate the animals to TCWR as soon as possible so that they can be safely housed and receive the proper care they require."
The three-month rescue operation will conclude at the end of the month when the tigers are safely crated and loaded into a rescue trailer for the trip up to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Ark.
"Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is honored to have the help and support from IFAW," said Tanya Smith, TCWR President. "Together we are making a difference for each of the animals we are relocating."
"Surprisingly, while some state regulations make big cat pet ownership difficult, keeping big cats as pets or for mere profit is generally legal in the United States," said Tracy Coppola, IFAW U.S. Campaigns Officer. "As a result, casualties and dangerous incidents continue to pile up."
"Adding to this problem is the fact that many unscrupulous exhibitors breed and keep baby tigers and other big cat species in order to be handled and photographed by paying customers," Coppola continued. "After the animals grow too big, they are often sent to roadside zoos, kept in backyards, or even killed."
IFAW is working to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, a bill that will soon get reintroduced this Congress to phase out private possession and breeding of big cats in the U.S. and require people who currently possess them to register those animals with the USDA.
Since 2003, IFAW has helped rescue more than 133 tigers, lions and other big cats from unsanctioned shelters, closing sanctuaries, and other poor and unsafe living conditions in the United States.
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