I'm hardly a cat lover. My roommate still accuses me of killing our previous cat due to the death stares I would give it every time it would pee on the furniture or swipe at the Venetian blinds over and over. I'm Team Dog, but even I love and appreciate the great work done by a true hidden gem of Tampa.
Big Cat Rescue is a wonderful facility that is a second chance for some of the most abused "pets" you'll ever see. The largest accredited sanctuary devoted to big cats in the world, BCR gives over 100 animals a home... and could take hundreds more if they had the budget for it. Many of their tenants come from private owners that just aren't able to care for the animals properly in the first place, or from performing acts that discarded them. Yup, that happy little touring circus is often pretty evil, and that's before you factor in how much clowns suck. Pony up the extra cash and stick to Cirque du Soleil.
Check out what it takes just to move some abandoned tigers from Texas here:
Texas Tiger Rescue (via Big Cat Rescue)
So how do they make money? Well, they don't. Most of the expenses have been covered for almost two decades by Carole Baskin and her family, and the money they take in isn't enough to make it a long-term solution without philanthropy. But you can take a walking tour of their huge facility for $29, which is a must do for anyone that loves animals and wants to see what they're like outside of the confines of a regular "zoo." Bring comfortable shoes, and be prepared to see lions, leopards, tigers, bobcats, caracals, cougars, ocelots, lynx, and whatever else needs a good home.
Many people in Tampa don't even know Big Cat exists, but the work they do is important not only for the wildlife they save, but for continuing the expansion of knowledge about big felines. Take a half-day and do the tour, which will amaze you at how close you can get to these animals. Many have been traumatized by their past experiences and need extra special care, which the excellent staff and volunteers provide every day.
We love Big Cat Rescue, and are proud it calls Tampa home.