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 owner’s 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.
HOW THIS PLACEMENT UNFOLDED OVER THE YEARS
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 an 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.
THE CATS’ HISTORIES
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.
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.
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.
THE ROAD TO THE WILDCAT SANCTUARY
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.
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!
SHADOW UPDATE – August 7, 2017
When Shadow stopped engaging and was notably lethargic, we knew something was wrong. Shadow arrived at our sanctuary when she was almost 15 years old. Upon arrival, she was being treated for chronic UTI’s and a biopsy performed on several skin masses.
Due to her age and medical conditions, Shadow was added to a short list of female cats that we chose not to spay upon intake. Only 6 of our 112 residents are not spayed, and that included Shadow. These decisions are made based on medical conditions, age, personality and how they would do in a confined space during recovery, as well as several other behavioral factors.
Once Shadow’s UTI’s were under control, and the mass biopsy was benign, Shadow was added back to our list of cats to be spayed during her next routine exam. Sadly, we were unaware of the tumor growing inside.
Shadow has received critical care and is making progress. The biopsy results came back benign, which is great news. After two emergency surgeries, she’s received 24/7 care, including three antibiotics and IV fluids twice a day. Skilled veterinarians and technicians have donated their time to be onsite at TWS twice a day to work alongside our staff to administer these treatments.
Recently, the catheters were removed and Shadow is now drinking on her own. She is standing, rubbing and grooming herself. All great signs of recovery. Now we need to encourage her to begin eating on her own. She will continue to receive antibiotics for several weeks and may also need more supportive fluids.
We are cautiously optimistic, but this strong girl is heading in the right direction. We cannot thank you enough for your outpouring of love and support. It’s kept us and Shadow going!
And thank you to all the vet care staff who have donated their time to her recovery so far. And without a doubt, thank you to the special donors who’ve helped cover the cost of her two emergency surgeries!
Shadow owes her life to each and every one of you!!
SHADOW UPDATE – August 11, 2017
We know waiting for news on Shadow is difficult. The waiting is hard on us, too. But sometimes, time is what’s needed to see what the future holds.
Shadow continues to amaze us. She’s such a resilient and happy leopard. At 16, she’s already cleared two large hurdles. First, the emergency surgery to remove the uterine tumor and second the ability to fight off a very serious infection. Now she still has one more hurdle. Her kidneys are not working as they should. And we were hoping with supportive care, her body could compensate and begin taking over. So far, that hasn’t happened as we’d hoped.
Going into surgery, her kidneys were a little compromised due to age. Then, her kidneys had to work overtime to clean the toxins from the infection from her body. After surgery and during recovery, she was receiving IV and subq fluids and she was urinating. It was time to stop the treatments and see how she could do on her own.
Right away, Shadow was social, rubbing, playing and very happy to see her human friends. She’s still that way this morning. But the reality is, Shadow isn’t eating well. She’s drinking, but urinating a large amount. Her last lab results confirmed her kidneys are not doing what they should.
The vet team and staff had have several meetings to discuss Shadow’s needs and what is best for her. Our decision was to release her back into her habitat and modified yard where she can enjoy the sun she loves so much. This would also give her body a few days to see if things would begin to work properly on her own when she’s in her familiar space.
Each moment we’re hopeful, but we’re sadly also facing the reality that Shadow may only be with us a short time. The thought of that breaks our hearts. But at the same time, to see her bound up to the fence and rub, just to say hello, fills our hearts with joy. Her personality is so contagious, and she’s always the one that wants to cheer us up. What a very special girl she is.
We are cherishing these moments, still holding out hope that she will beat the odds. The vets and staff are monitoring her closely to ensure she’s happy and comfortable – which she is. She’s getting spoiled with every kind of food and treat she could want. She’s scratching on her favorite logs, napping in her favorite trough bed and still telling Daisy who is boss at the fence.
We know she will tell us if it’s time to let go or if she can beat the odds. But until then, we’re so glad to have Shadow back for however long that may be.
SHADOW UPDATE – September 20, 2017