Lions Tigers & Bears (LTB) was founded in 2002, by Bobbi Brink. When asked why she started Lions Tigers & Bears, she often replies, “After witnessing the heart-breaking phenomenon known as the “exotic animal trade” and seeing the victims of this business, I was compelled to do what I could to help these animals. I have spent many sleepless nights picturing the tortured lives these cats end up living. The places where these marvelous animals are kept are truly disgusting – sometimes in places you would least expect, such as in miserable holding cells with no sunlight or windows, living in cages so small they barely have room to stand up or turn around. Many live in basements, never seeing the outdoors or smelling fresh air. I have seen 10 or more cats crowded together in a small enclosure, where they restlessly pace in filth and fight each other for scraps of food. Some starve to death.”
The total sanctuary property is 93 acres in size. Twenty acres are currently developed with species-specific habitats for our big cats and bears. We have plenty of room to grow and provide more lifetime homes to abused and abandoned exotic animals in need of a better tomorrow.
LTB is home to a variety of rescued animals. These animals include lions, tigers, black bears, bobcats, a mountain lion, leopard, Himalayan black bears, grizzly bears, llamas, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, a miniature horse, miniature donkey, peacocks, and a macaw!
Our sanctuary has administrative offices, a volunteer office, feed room, barn, a pasture and an on-site medical facility.
Granny Martin was first and foremost a Vaquero of grand style (Vaquero is Spanish for cowboy), who lived through the last era of self-sufficiency and knew that most of those who lived in the back country had to make for themselves what they needed for life. In this part of the state he was known as the last of the Vaqueros. He was especially celebrated on a statewide level as a fine reata maker, bit and spur maker, blacksmith, silversmith, horse trainer, and much more. He often referred to himself as a “jack of all trades and master of none”. The legacy of Granny continues to live on locally, as the annual Descanso Vaquero days are dedicated to his honor. You may wonder why start with Granny? It is through his recollections and writing that we have a better understanding of the history of the ranch.
There is an old adobe structure on the ranch. Part of the inside is what currently houses our feed room and volunteer office. Not too long ago, an old bottle was found in the wall of the adobe. In the bottle were some documents, one which included a handwritten history of the ranch as recalled by Granny. What a wonderful discovery! Living in the “information age” of computers, it is easy to forget that not too long ago, history was truly passed down from generation to generation, and documentation was written (by hand) to record it as well. What follows is the early history of the ranch, from Granny’s own written words.
Ranch History – The Early Years
As written on September 25th 1971, when Granny was 75 ½ years old. “I Granville Martin bought this ranch in 1948. It was about to wash away as the roof was all but gone so I have put a new south wall on the kitchen and re-roofed the whole house. This is the last of the early adobes built around Descanso.”
But who owned the ranch prior to Granny?
“Monroe Johnson told me the main part of this house was built after the close of the C.W. (Civil War) possibly 1866 by Silvines Gillette.”
“When Silvines died in 1876, John Combs moved in”
The grave of Silvines Gillette is still located just a few steps from the old adobe and the site of our current office. Mr. Gillette had several children, one who was name Lula.
“Chas. Griffin married Lula and when the place was almost lost for taxes Chas. Moved in in 1910”
It was in 1948 that Granny acquired the ranch.
Ranch History – The Present
The ranch remained in the Martin family until 2003. It was then that Bobbi, with the invaluable help of her husband Mark, purchased the ranch which they have made their home as well as the animals’ lifetime home. Ironically, Mark who was born and raised in San Diego, CA never owned an animal before Bobbi moved back from Texas.
All that changed after Bobbi filled their home with animals and was still flying back and forth to Texas to help other big cats. While in the process of getting all the necessary permits and paperwork together to start LTB, Bobbi & Mark spent many weekends walking different properties, but never seemed to find quite the perfect piece of land.
There were so many challenges, although looking back, it seems as though life opened a new door with each special cry for help. When Bobbi brought LTB’s first tigers from Texas: Raja & Natasha, Bobbi & Mark had property in escrow, but could not build anything there at that point in time. Bobbi had a friend who knew a woman, Elizabeth Nunnery, also know as Cis, with an incredible piece of property. Bobbi approached her about housing Natasha and Raja there temporarily. It turned out Cis is the granddaughter of Granny Martin. She agreed and they began constructing a temporary habitat, getting all the permits and arranging travel for the cats. It started with a modest 24’ x 24’ habitat — and a hose. Bobbi would bring meat up daily in a cooler for them. Bobbi thought it was possible Natasha could be pregnant and sure enough, she was.
After watching Bobbi’s dedication to the animals, Cis decided to sell the perfect piece of property to Bobbi & Mark. The ranch that LTB now calls home!
Of course there is no way of knowing what Granny Martin would think of actual lions, tigers and bears living on the property. But one thing is certain and that is that the spirit of Granny lives on.
Bobbi, Mark, and all the volunteers of Lions Tigers & Bears share the same passion, commitment, and devotion to doing what is right and helping a cause just as Granny did.
Thank you Granny for leaving us the bottle, the history, and your legend. Thank you Cis – for without you LTB would not exist where it does today.
By keeping the animals on the ranch and not having to transport them off site for medical care, we are able to maintain control over the setting, creating a safer environment for the animals, and eliminating much of the stress these animals experience as a result of the medical procedures.
Our vets are able to do procedures here on the ranch and in addition, we are able to offer interns and veterinary students an opportunity to assist the veterinarians, possibly performing their first blood draw, teeth cleaning, or microchipping. It’s our way of making sure these animals and others who come after them have access to expert medical care.
What does it mean to be Accredited?
Lions Tigers & Bears is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and the American Sanctuary Association (ASA). These organization set exceptionally high standards of care for sanctuaries across the country and throughout the world, to ensure that the physiological and psychological needs of rescued animals are met.
We are often asked the question “What does being accredited mean?”
Being accredited means we, as a sanctuary, abide by the stringent standards of care set forth by these accrediting bodies to ensure the animals in our charge receive the most comprehensive care possible. True accredited sanctuaries will never buy, sell, breed, or trade any of the animals in their care.
- True accredited sanctuaries do not breed.
- Do not allow contact with their animals, including photo opportunities with young cubs.
- Do not sell or trade animals.
- Ensure each animal receives species-specific specialized care, including a nutritious diet, routine medical examinations and preventative veterinary care.
- Recognize that the needs of the animals come first and foremost.
Before making a contribution to any charity, please make sure they are accredited – then you can rest assured that YOU are part of the solution – making a real difference.
EXOTIC ANIMAL STANDARDS OF CARE:
Thorough standards of care have been drafted by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) for small, medium, and large felids (attached as Appendix A) and for bears (Appendix B). Standards for other animal groups are also available from GFAS. In addition, the State of California has promulgated extensive “Restricted Species Laws and Regulations” (Appendix C) which cover in great detail many of the issues discussed in this report.
The following standards of care are a universal minimum standard. Lions Tigers & Bears is proud that we exceed most of these standards. For over a decade, Lions Tigers & Bears (LTB) has been home to a growing number of abused and abandoned captive (and wild) exotic animals.
The following issues are often brought up in regards to large, dangerous exotic animals:
I. Public Safety
(a) How should permanent enclosures be maintained and temporary enclosures be built so as to minimize the risk of contact between wild animals and their caregivers or the public?
(b) How should wild animals be transported so as to minimize the risk of escape or injury to the transporters?
II. Humane Care
(a) How should permanent enclosures be maintained and temporary enclosures be built so as to provide wild animals with a humane environment?
(b) How should wild animals be transported so as to minimize their stress and risk of injury?
A. HABITAT ENCLOSURES
1. INTERIOR FENCING
Certain minimal fencing standards need to be maintained, whether the enclosures are temporary or permanent in nature. (See “GFAS Felids,” Appendix A at 9-12; “GFAS Bears,” Appendix B at 7-10; “Calif. Regs.,” Appendix C at 26-28).
First, the upright members should be:
- at least 1-5/8 inch schedule 40 steel pipe (2-3/8 inch at the corners),
- at least 8 feet high (most of the LTB enclosures are 12 feet high),
- sunk in concrete to a depth of 18 inches, and
- no more than 10 feet apart.
Second, the chain link fencing should be:
- made of at least 9-gauge chain link (large animals are quite capable of destroying fencing weaker than that), including fasteners of the same gauge;
- with schedule 40 steel pipe placed horizontally at 4-foot intervals or where the animals are likely to exert pressure, beginning at ground level (so the fencing cannot be pushed out).
Third, unless the fencing is at least 16 feet high, it should have a chain-link roof with:
- cross-members of schedule 40 pipe, again at 4-foot intervals, or in the shape of a truss.
Here are examples of these construction features at LTB:
Both enclosures have horizontal cross-members at 4-foot intervals beginning at ground level.
The roofs also have trusses or cross-members at 4-foot intervals.
Chain link perimeter fence, with posts sunk in concrete.
“Tiger Trails,” the big cat exercise area at LTB, is a 16-foot-high enclosure with no roof.
2. ENCLOSURE SIZE
(See generally, “GFAS Felids,” Appendix A at 7-9; “GFAS Bears,” Appendix B at 5-7; “Calif. Regs.,” Appendix C at 20-23)
Minimum habitat size is a function of both the specific species of animal and the number of animals per enclosure.
For strictly temporary enclosures, the sizes specified by the California regulations are probably sufficient. So, for example, tiger enclosures are required to be at least 300 square feet for one animal, 450 square feet for two animals, and an additional 150 square feet for each additional animal (Appendix C at 22). This, of course, assumes that multiple animals are compatible, which often they are not!
On the other hand, for permanent enclosures, humane treatment requires much larger dimensions. Hence, GFAS requires that two tigers have a minimum enclosure size of 1,200 square feet (Appendix A at 9), rather than the 450 square feet specified in the California regulations.
3. PERIMETER FENCING
Some sort of perimeter fencing is absolutely necessary as a back-up in case an animal escapes its enclosure.
For some facilities, economic considerations dictate the use of one perimeter fence around the entire compound. However, in our view, each enclosure or group of enclosures should have its own perimeter fence. A perimeter fence around the facility’s outer boundary is insufficient, because:
- people are more likely to leave an exterior entry gate open or unsecured;
- weaknesses and breaches along an extensive perimeter fence are much more difficult to detect; and
- animals that escape into the compound itself pose a danger to workers and visitors.
Whichever option is chosen, each perimeter fence should itself be at least 8 feet high, and built to the same standards as the interior fence.
Here are examples of perimeter fences at LTB:
Safety tip: CO2 fire extinguishers (not the chemical variety) or bear spray should be placed at strategic locations outside the enclosures and along the perimeter fences, because these are highly effective at deterring an attacking animal without injuring either the animal or the attackee.
4. GATES AND HOLDING (LOCKOUT) AREAS
Each habitat should have a small, separate “room” in which the animal(s) can be kept while the main cage is being cleaned or otherwise serviced, or to segregate an animal from others in the enclosure. The inner gate for this smaller area should be accessible with a pole or other device so that it can be opened and closed without a person having to enter either part of the enclosure.
The gate of the inner enclosure should be sized so that, when opened, a transfer cage or squeeze cage can be rolled up flush to the opening (i.e, leaving no gap) so that the animal can be loaded safely into the cage for relocation to a medical facility, exercise area, or another habitat.
As for the perimeter fence gates, we found it handy to make them large enough (12 feet high) to be able to back up a large trailer all the way to the gate(s) of the inner enclosure:
(see generally, “Calif. Regs.,” Appendix C at 31-33)
Each animal should be transported in its own sturdy transfer cage, large enough for the animal to turn around. Such cages can be purchased commercially (see, e.g., http://www.lbarmranch.com/Exotic-Animal-Transport-Cage-p/exotic_animal_cage_eatc464st.htm and http://www.lglacp.com/transfer_restraint_cages.htm), or fabricated by a skilled welder.
The cage should be constructed so that food and water can be provided to the animal and waste removed without having to open the cage (features which commercial cages may or may not have). In addition, the doors should slide open (either horizontally, as in the lower photo on page 5, or vertically, as in the photo at right) rather than swinging open, so that the cage can be opened and closed while flush against the animal’s habitat enclosure.
The cage can be either a simple transfer cage, such as the example in the small photograph above, or a “squeeze” cage, in which one side can be moved inward to immobilize an animal for medical or dental treatment:
In addition, we have found that, although four caster wheels may be sufficient for portable cages used on smooth, flat surfaces, they are inadequate for bumpy or rough terrain. Hence, the LTB squeeze cage has four sets of two heavy-duty wheels each:
Here are the squeeze-cage specifications we recently gave to a San Diego welder:
Aluminum squeeze cage dimensions to be 42″ wide + 84″ long + 48″ tall. Cage to have two (2) slide doors. Cage to have removable stainless steel pins every third containment bar. Cage to have [food & water] access panels where requested. Cage to have sub-cart with casters and tow bar as per sample. Cage to have two (2) removable urine collection pans.
Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries – Standards for Animal Care of Felids
- ANIMAL DESCRIPTION
- TEMPERATURE, HUMIDITY, VENTILATION, LIGHTING
- NUTRITION REQUIREMENTS
- VETERINARY CARE AND PHYSICAL WELL‐BEING
- SOCIAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL AND BEHAVIORAL WELL‐BEING
- STAFF SAFETY
- RECORD KEEPING
- Download Full Standards for Animal Care of Felids PDF
Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries – Standards for Animal Care of Bears
- ANIMAL DESCRIPTION
- TEMPERATURE, HUMIDITY, VENTILATION, LIGHTING
- VETERINARY CARE AND PHYSICAL WELL-BEING
- SOCIAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL AND BEHAVIORAL WELL-BEING
- STAFF SAFETY
- RECORD KEEPING
- Download Full Standards for Animal Care of Bears PDF
California Natural Resources Agency – Department of Fish and Game