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Multi-State Coalition Helps Dozens of Wild Animals Find New Homes
San Diego, CA – An exotic-animal rescue mission, led by Bobbi Brink of Lions Tigers & Bears Big Cat and Exotic Animal Rescue (LTB) and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), with the assistance of seven sanctuaries, one zoo and organizations in five states, was nearly completed this week. Thirty-two wild and exotic animals were removed from a failing facility in Ohio that was forced to close its doors due to lower-than-expected donations and tougher regulations.
As Ohio prepares to implement a new law regulating the private ownership of exotic animals, one animal facility near Columbus, Ohio, found that the harsh realities of exotic animal care were too much. Faced with having its license revoked by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) last year due to unsafe enclosures with “gaps in the fencing which would enable the cats to pass a paw through and injure themselves or possibly enlarge the open area that may allow escape,” the facility chose to find new homes for the animals.
“Many private owners and facilities have the best of intentions to care for exotic animals but quickly face the reality of all that is involved,” said Bobbi Brink, Founder and Director of Lions Tigers & Bears. “In this situation, the owner did the right thing by reaching out for assistance when the financial stress became too much. With the new legislation passed in Ohio, we expect to see a rise in the number of exotic animals that will need new homes.”
In April, Brink received a call from GFAS and was asked to lead a team of wild-animal professionals seeking to find homes and safe and healthy transportation for 32 orphaned animals. For Brink, the first order of business was to find willing and appropriate facilities that maintained the necessary standards. She made numerous calls and worked with other sanctuaries and organizations around the country to negotiate needed space and funds for transfer of the animals.
All animals were required to undergo a veterinary check-up to ensure that they were fit enough for the journey and to protect other animals they would come into contact with. Vets were called in to sedate the bear and the big cats in order to perform physical exams, including blood work, parasite exams, dental inspections, and other procedures that required tranquilization. While under sedation, the animals were loaded onto trailers that were equipped to keep the animals comfortable and safe during transport. These specialized trailers could hold anywhere from one to six cages.
“This effort has relied on a number of organizations coming together to provide resources and funds. There has been a great deal of coordination among facilities, and we are thrilled at the willingness of so many to make these animals a priority,” continues Brink. “Our first goal in transporting the animals was to ensure the health and safety of the animals and the public. We wanted to prevent another incident such as what happened in Zanesville, Ohio, last fall where 49 wild animals were massacred after being set free by their owner. People need to know that they have another alternative – that help is available to relocate these animals.”
A total of four trailers were used in this relocation effort. Brink coordinated and assisted with the medical exams and the loading of animals for transport, including the seven tigers and one black bear she personally transported. Among those, two tigers, “Gage” and “Syber,” found new homes at Safe Haven in Imlay, Nevada. Another three tigers, “Zeus,” “Jake” and “Apollo,” were taken to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) facility in San Andreas, California. The remaining black bear, “Sugar Bear,” will join Brink and three other black bears at Lions Tigers & Bears in Alpine, California, where Brink has just completed construction of a 4-acre black-bear habitat. Other animals were taken to Carolina Tiger Rescue in North Carolina, Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary in Mississippi, and two facilities in San Antonio, Texas – International Exotic Animal Sanctuary and Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation. Brink will return to Ohio at the end of this June to place the remaining two tigers and four lions.
The costs of these relocation efforts have been high, and Brink, along with GFAS, has succeeded in raising over $45,000, including $15,000 from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and $10,000 from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The balance was provided by private foundations and by donors and members of LTB through a fundraising effort named after Sugar Bear, the black bear that Brink has brought back to California.