Callie

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It’s been over a year in the making and several months of not knowing if four new big cats would be calling The Wildcat Sanctuary home. An owner-surrender rescue takes an enormous amount of time, patience. That’s why we don’t feel comfortable sharing details until the cats are safely on their way to their habitats here at the Sanctuary.

It’s an emotional process for all involved and with one misstep or one misunderstood word at any moment along the way, the entire rescue can fall apart. And for us, it’s the cats and their welfare that always comes first, so we won’t take the chance of jeopardizing a rescue that’s in progress by sharing too much too soon. We also understand that the owners love these cats and in this case, wanted to ensure their safety.

In this unusual instance, the owner took good care of his cats, they are all happy and healthy, and he had done everything according to the NY state and federal regulations. The legal issues revolved over and around local zoning changes and instead of being grandfathered in with his cats (as happens in many cases where laws change) he was forced to find them a new home or face time in jail. The cats will have a great life at TWS, but it was a bittersweet day, with the owner making the best choice for the cats he loved rather than leaving their fate to the state.

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Yes, we need to raise funds to finance these rescues, especially with a huge rescue like this of not one – but FOUR – big cats in need.  And it would be easy to put out advance appeals for financial help but, we never want to jeopardize the success of the rescue itself. Nothing is more heartbreaking than when you think a rescue is in order, and then it all unravels.

That’s why we’re happy to finally share the news that tigers Calcutta, Logan, Caesar, and leopard Shadow are all our newest residents here at The Wildcat Sanctuary. Theirs has been a high profile case in the news for the past four years. Their owner, Steve Salton, has battled town officials over zoning issues for some time now. (Links to articles included below)

We became involved early on, offering a home for these cats. With a ill wife and disabled son at home, Salton faced six months in jail if he lost his appeals. After years of litigation, he finally accepted a plea bargain, agreeing to place the cats elsewhere within a year.

We set aside our opinions of private ownership and worked with him for almost a year in order to safeguard these cats’ future. Through months of discussions with us, he finally agreed our sanctuary would be best for his cats and he would not acquire any more exotic cats in the future.  He has been very helpful along the way, and agreed to rehome his cats to The Wildcat Sanctuary because he know they would be well cared for.

Calcutta

For these cats, as with most captive wild cats, this wasn’t their first owner nor was it the first time they were involved in controversy.

Calcutta is an 11-year-old white tiger with a much publicized past. She was acquired from New York’s Ashville Game Farm after she scratched a 4-year-old child across the forehead at the Saratoga County Fair, requiring 14 stitches. The child had been sitting on a bench posing in front of Calcutta, who was then a full grown 2-year-old tiger.

This incident further proves the importance of our educational campaign to end the use of wild cats as photo props. Not only is it dangerous for the humans involved but it leads to a cruel existence for the cat who, like Calcutta, ends up going from facility to facility. When the game farm was ordered to get rid of all of their big cats, that’s when Calcutta came to live with the Saltons.

Read Calcutta’s story HERE.

Calcutta and the other cats at Salton’s home were in very good shape, which is not what we generally see with private owner surrenders. You can tell he cared about the cats’ well-being. Calcutta is very outgoing and likes people. Going from a cage less than 200 sq. feet to habitats 50 times that, complete with platforms and natural amenities, will be a fresh start in life for her. We hope to soon provide her with a permanent 10,000 sq. foot habitat, as our other tigers enjoy, with the help and support of our donors.

shadow

Salton had also acquired two leopards from the same Ashville Game Farm. Though we’d agreed to take in all five of his cats, sadly Viper, his golden leopard, died before plans were finalized for the rescue. It was heartbreaking to hear of his loss since we’d hoped Viper would be enjoying true sanctuary life in a large free-roaming natural habitat with us, too.

Shadow, Salton’s other 14-year-old black leopard, has had some medical problems in the past. We’ll know more about Shadow’s condition once medical tests are completed on her here at the Sanctuary. We know she’s going to love going from living in an 8’x33’ cage there to the large natural habitat she will have here. She seems to have a very sweet disposition and we hope she has many years here with us to live wild at heart.

Logan and Caesar, both 8-year-old golden tigers, were bought from a pay-to-play Michigan exhibitor after they were of no use anymore. This is another sad consequence for cubs used as photo props. When they’re no longer manageable, when care costs escalate, they’re often sold off and more are bred. It’s a vicious cycle of abuse.

They’re both very large tigers but they’re living in cages the size we provide for our smallest hybrid cats. We know they’ll both love having room to stretch their wild sides here at the Sanctuary. Both of these cats were intact and able to breed, which is not something we’d ever support. We assembled a veterinary team that neutered them a few weeks before transport. Breeding more cats for life in a cage is not something any true sanctuary would ever support since there are so many surplus wild cats in need right now.

A huge thank you goes out to Loving Friends Transport, Tigers in America and Dr. Bergmann for helping us with vet exams and safe transportation of all four cats from the East Coast to Minnesota.

With a lifetime of care and new habitats to build, we hope we can count on our supporters to donate towards these cats’ new lives here at The Wildcat Sanctuary. And, if you can give $500 or more, Tigers in America has offered a 50% match you can take advantage of HERE.  

Thanks to you and your help, we know Calcutta, Shadow, Logan, and Caesar will be sharing many happy moments with you soon – and we’re happy we can finally share the good news!

You can help us create a new life for these 4 big cats by donating toward their permanent habitats and care through our Wild Spaces campaign!

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Background articles:

ONE GREEN PLANET coverage of Callie’s background story as a cub