Frequently Asked Questions
Is The Wildcat Sanctuary open to the public?
The Wildcat Sanctuary is not open to public visitation. Asking people to support a big cat sanctuary that is not open to the public is difficult but the work we do requires this for many reasons. Most important is our strong-rooted belief that big cats should not be used for commercial, entertainment or amusement purposes. We are a sanctuary for animals; a place of refuge where injured, abused or displaced wildcats are provided a lifetime of care. Our residents come to know and eventually accept the staff and volunteers that care for them but trust comes with time and can be very stressful to them. But you can volunteer to help the animals on and off-site. Learn more about our volunteer program.
Is The Wildcat Sanctuary licensed or accredited?
Yes. The Wildcat Sanctuary is accredited by the American Sanctuary Association and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. We are also licensed by the USDA (41-C-0257) and members of the American Zookeepers Association.
Can The Wildcat Sanctuary shut down a substandard facility or exhibitor?
No. The Wildcat Sanctuary is a rescue facility and does not have any governing authority to shut down a facility or seize any animals. TWS’ priority has always been helping displaced animals in need and does not have the time, resources or authority to get involved in shutting these facilities down. The organizations with authority include:
- Local Animal control (usually the Sheriff)
- Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
- Board of Animal Health (BOH)
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFW)
Our organization gets involved only after an owner chooses to surrender their animal or governing authorities have seized animals for various reasons. We offer our services to provide lifelong care to displaced animals in need at our own cost. There have only been 2 instances in our 11 year history where a governing authority partially reimbursed us for our services. That is why your support is always needed.
In addition, we focus on prevention through education and legislation to prevent the need for wild animal sanctuaries in the first place. Providing facts to the public and letting each individual decide on their own to support keeping the wild in their heart, not their home is our ultimate goal. Therefore, we do not name or attack individual breeders, dealers or facilities and instead talk about the issue of wild animals in captivity as a whole. He said/she said ‘cat fights’ take time, money and resources away from the animals that need us the most. The Wildcat Sanctuary does post news articles and other materials published by sources outside of our organization that help bring awareness to the Captive Wildlife Crisis. If you have complaints about how an animal is being treated or conditions they are living in, we encourage you to file a formal complaint with one or more of the governing bodies. You can help be their voice.
I’m a photographer, can I come take photos of the cats?
The Wildcat Sanctuary receives many requests from professional and non-professional photographers to come on-site to photograph the big cats.
Though we understand your offer is to help, many of our animals come from tragic and stressful backgrounds. Therefore, we have a resident photographer who has been trained by staff in approaching the enclosures properly to ensure her and animal’s safety. Over time the animals have built up a sense of security and are non-threatened by her presence.
Beyond protocol logistics, we require that potential photographers build a relationship with The Wildcat Sanctuary first so they you understand our mission, vision and values and reason the Sanctuary is a safe haven for animals, not a zoo for people.
The first step is to become a volunteer at TWS. A potential photographer must achieve minimum Cougar Classification (minimum volunteer time of 84 hours every six months or 14 hrs per month every six months) and includes a formal Staff review without guarantee of gaining approval for photography.
Another way you can help the cats of The Wildcat Sanctuary is to donate a framed photograph of your work for one of our silent or live auctions. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to donate a piece.
What is the definition of a sanctuary?
A sanctuary as defined by MN law:
“Wildlife sanctuary” means a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that:
(1) operates a place of refuge where abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned,
orphaned, or displaced wildlife are provided care for their lifetime;
(2) does not conduct any commercial activity with respect to any animal of which the
organization is an own (including off-site exhibiting); and
(3) does not buy, sell, trade, auction, lease, loan, or breed any animal of which the
organization is an owner, except as an integral part of the species survival plan of the American
A sanctuary as defined by federal law:
• Must be a non-profit entity that is tax exempt under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code
• Cannot engage in commercial trade in big cat species, including their offspring, parts, and products made from them
• Cannot breed big cats
• Cannot allow direct contact between big cats and the public at their facilities
• Must keep records of transactions involving covered cats
• Must allow the Service to inspect their facilities, records, and animals at reasonable hours
What is a Bengal/hybrid cat?
The Bengal cat breed resulted from cross breeding an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC-Felis bengalensis) with the domestic cat (Felis catus). The first three filial generations (F1 – F3) of these hybrid animals are referred to as the “foundation” generations. A Bengal cat with an ALC parent is called an F1 Bengal, short for first filial. They eat raw meat and will almost never use a litter box once they reach maturity. These hybrids are often prohibited and regulated by state, city and township laws such as in MN, IA, etc. Read more. Please note that The Wildcat Sanctuary can no longer accommodate domestic Bengal cats into our program. We cannot keep up with demand and our mission is to help wild cats in need. Our program will still accommodate F1 hybrids if there is room at our Sanctuary.
Is breeding conservation?
Many times exhibitors or pseudo sanctuaries will try to convince you that by breeding their animals they are contributing to conservation. This is NOT true. Professionals and scientists around the world have found ways to reintroduce individuals of an endangered species back to its original habitat in order to restore a genetically sound population. The key words here are professionals and scientists. Private owners, pseudo sanctuaries and exhibitors are not professionals and they are not scientists. They breed to make money not to help save the species from going extinct. The animals that are bred for conservation have specific genetics that scientists believe will help the species survive. The animals that are bred by exhibitors and private owners do not meet these standards and therefore do not qualify for conservation breeding efforts. The truth is breeding animals in captivity even if it is for conservation does not necessarily mean that animal will be released into its natural environment. There are many considerations scientists must take in before a species can be re-populated. For instance, there needs to be a suitable amount of habitat left. In the case of many sub-species of tigers, there is little to no viable habitat left to reintroduce the species. In this case, even if 100 tigers are bred none of them will see the outside of a cage wall. Breeding is a business, a very lucrative business for some and is in NO way helping conserve that species. True sanctuaries aim to end the cycle of breeding and dealing.
Is exhibiting education?
Another very tricky way exhibitors and pseudo sanctuaries try to defend themselves is by saying they are educating the public. The public does not need to see a full grown tiger walked on a leash to be educated. The only thing they are educating people on is that wild animals can be tamed and that is a dangerous lie to tell. Exhibitors are only out to make money. They use wild animals to entice the public and make them think they are doing a good deed by educating people. The truth is these animals spend countless hours in tiny, filthy cages being hauled around the country. The only time they are allowed to walk around is when they are chained to their ‘owner’ or forced to do tricks. We can learn more about an animal by reading about it from a book or online than by seeing it jump through hoops or walk on its hind legs.
Why can’t your cats be released back into the wild?
If you own a big cat (we strongly disagree with ownership of wild animals) and can no longer care for it can you release it to the wild. NO. Animals that have been owned do not know how to hunt properly. They still retain their natural instincts to hunt however never learned from their parent how to execute a kill. It is dangerous to the animal and to the public if you were to release your wild animal. The animal will either starve because it does not know what to do or it will wonder in to someone else’s yard or home looking for a meal. There it could hurt their pet or even a person. If sighted the DNR or police will likely be called in to either euthanize the animal or try to place it at a rescue facility. If you cannot care for your wildcat anymore it is best to try to find another home for it at a sanctuary than release it.
What exactly is a white tiger?
In reality, not only does the breeding of white tigers compound the problem by giving the general public a completely incorrect image of these powerful wild predators, in addition it has caused a giant surplus of regular golden colored tigers in the private sector across the world because most litters still have several orange tigers. Out of a litter of cubs, the breeders will pick the white cubs that bring in a lot more money on the market and euthanize, inhumanely destroy or neglect the cubs that do not meet the color requirement.
What can I do?
There are many things you can do to help end the captive wildlife crisis. Do not patronize exhibitors, breeders or pseudo sanctuaries. By giving them money you are essentially funding the over breeding of captive animals including big cats. If you are passionate about helping animals be sure to fully research any rescue facility before donating or visiting. Do not buy wild animals or take animals out of the wild to keep as pets. Instead, adopt an appropriate pet like domestic dogs and cats from your local shelter. There are millions of animals in shelters waiting to be adopted. You can also lobby to local, state or federal government officials to ban the wild animal trade, private ownership of big cats and captive breeding of wild animals.