Nikita’s USDA licensed owner in Ohio contacted The Wildcat Sanctuary about taking one of her most traumatized tigers. She knew how well we’ve helped other injured souls in the past and knew we’d be the best place for her. We agreed and began tackling the many details needed to get her to our Sanctuary. I’ve spoken to facility owners of wild animals for over a decade, but none as compassionate and selfless as this. She was making one of her life’s most difficult decisions, to place her cats that she had rescued and rehabilitated herself, at an accredited sanctuary so they would be safe.
Having just survived the threat of foreclosure, this owner knew it could be impossible for her small facility to meet these new regulations. Her animals would be confiscated or euthanized, she feared. These are probably the first in a long line of exotics that will become homeless. We are always the first to help, with no strings attached, just like with the closure of The Wild Animal Orphanage. We’re never the last, though. Each rescue takes a dream team to make it happen.
As common with most exotics, this wasn’t the first home for her tigress Nikita or Tasha, the cougar. Nikita was first owned by Sam Mazzola, a notorious ex-con who allowed people to wrestle his bears for money, who bred and sold tigers, who traveled and exhibited his animals, forced to live in filthy cages, starving and fighting for their food. Tasha had escaped from her first owner’s garage. Though authorities tracked her to shoot her, they didn’t find her.
Hearing their stories, the Sanctuary began working with other sanctuaries to place these animals. Bringing Nikita and Tasha to live here in Minnesota would cost a minimum of $30,000. There will be many more costs after they arrive. We worried about raising the funds, but began to prepare nonetheless.
A national TV program with a high profile celebrity wanted to film this rescue. You might think we’d jump at the chance for the publicity, but we always put the individual cat’s needs first. Nikita is a fractious, fearful cat and Tasha is terrorized by noises as simple as a lawn mower. We knew the camera crews, forced darting, and days of filming would be the worst thing for them. So, we said “no.”
Most of our rescues aren’t covered by the media. We do what we do best, provide safe passage for animals – desperate for serenity – to their new forever home, usually unnoticed by the press. This rescue would be no different. But then, help arrived in the form of award winning documentary producer Mike Webber and Tim Harrison, well known star of “The Elephant in the Living Room.” Tim offered to provide ongoing vet care for the cats, some needing immediate dental work. Mike offered to quietly and unobtrusively document the rescue with a handheld camera for future documentary use.
YOU, our supporters bega,n donating to help Nikita and Tasha. Our volunteers and staff worked hours to build enclosures and habitats.
Then , the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) heard of our efforts and called offering an emergency grant that will help with initial costs for this rescue. Usually, this isn’t the way our rescues unfold. We were in this from the beginning because of YOU, our amazing supporters. Having this dream team of helpers come together at the last minute is a dream come true for us – and for Nikita and Tasha.
And it doesn’t end there. The staff of Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo will perform intake exams and spays. Wildcat Haven, Inc. in Oregon has also agreed to take in two more tigers once they raise funds to build pens and arrange transport. We have worked with Wildcat Haven on dozens of rescues and placements in the past and could not do our work without our network of sanctuaries. Two more accredited sanctuaries have also contacted TWS to help with additional animals, if needed.
Though it may only take one person to harm and abuse an animal, like Nikita’s first owner, we know it takes a network of people coming together to give them a chance to live wild at heart. We are so thankful for all the members of our rescue dream team. We hope you’ll consider becoming part of this network, too by sponsoring Tasha or Nikita.