Category Archives: Exotic Animals

Sanctuary accreditation

One reason I support Lions, Tigers & Bears is that it is an accredited animal sanctuary.  LTB is one of the few sanctuaries in the country accredited by two organizations – the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and American Sanctuary Association (ASA).

Bakari enjoys his spacious habitat at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

Bakari the lion enjoys his spacious habitat at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

Accreditation means that a sanctuary meets specific standards for humane care of the animals, as well as operation and governance.  This is important for several reasons.

First, for animal lovers looking to donate to an organization that actually helps animals, accreditation shows the facility is providing a good home for the animals with appropriate care.  Food, water and veterinary care are readily available along with appropriate housing and enrichment.  Here, for example, are the standards of care for Lions, Tigers & Bears.

Lions, Tigers & Bears has a state-of-the-art veterinary facility on site.

Lions, Tigers & Bears has a state-of-the-art veterinary facility for the animals on site.

Accreditation also tells donors that the sanctuary is sound in operations, including finances and government.  The standards include best practices for things like composition of the board of directors and fundraising practices.  Even if you visit a sanctuary in person, you won’t see how fundraising is done or how governing decisions are made.  Accreditation tells you everything is on the up and up.

All this is not to say that any sanctuary lacking accreditation is a bad place.  I have visited several unaccredited sanctuaries that are very good organizations.  But accreditation is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  It provides assurance that if you donate to an accredited sanctuary, you are supporting a good place.  This is one reason grant-making agencies are increasingly requiring accreditation before funding an animal sanctuary.

Any roadside zoo can call itself a sanctuary.  Accredited sanctuaries do not provide care like this.

Any roadside zoo can call itself a sanctuary. Accredited sanctuaries do not look like this. Source: GFAS

The problem is that any animal organization can hang up a sign calling itself a sanctuary, but that doesn’t mean it is one.  On the most basic level, true sanctuaries to not breed, buy or sell animals, and they provide a lifetime home for the animals they bring into their care.

Some organizations calling themselves a sanctuary breed animals to sell as private pets or use for profit in petting displays or photo booths.  Others sell animals to canned hunts or euthanize resident animals for space so they can charge fees to take new animals from private owners who no longer want them.

Jillian the lion enjoys her large pool at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

Jillian the lion enjoys her pool at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

In other cases, a facility might provide excellent care to its animals, but fail due to financial impropriety or mismanagement.  Perhaps they have questionable methods of fundraising, or they have trouble fundraising at all.  This is equally bad for the animals because eventually the facility falls apart.

Recent years have seen two high-profile cases of large sanctuaries folding and other facilities having to absorb all their animals.  In 2010, amid charges of financial and governing mismanagement, Wild Animal Orphanage in Texas closed its doors.  GFAS and many others worked hard to find new homes for the 400 animals of various species.  Most true sanctuaries across the country have at least a few animals from this failed facility.

Conga, a captive-born leopard, was abandoned at age 5 weeks but fortunately found a home at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

Conga, a captive-born leopard, was abandoned at age 5 weeks but fortunately found a home at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

The other more tragic situation was Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue, where 1,200 animals were found, mostly llamas and horses, and many close to death after being neglected for years.  The facility had been relying largely on the generosity of a single donor; when that donor pulled the plug, it had nothing to fall back on.  The owners were aging and sick, unable to care for all the animals they had taken in.  Some animals were able to be rescued, but many had to be euthanized.

Accreditation helps prevent cases like this by requiring facilities to meet standards for government, finance, acquisition, outreach, staffing, physical facilities, security, and animal care.  Accrediting groups such as GFAS also work with sanctuaries that aren’t quite there to improve their practices.

One advantage of working with a sanctuary accreditation group is the facility doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel.  An accrediting organization works with lots of other good sanctuaries that are already in operation, and can draw from their experience.  For example, on its website GFAS has several sample documents such as a sample lease, financial statements, and employee handbook.

GFAS also offers a series of webinars to help sanctuary personnel, on topics like grant writing, applying for accreditation, setting guidelines on intake and euthanasia of sick animals, and using technology.

Here is the list of sanctuaries accredited by GFAS.
Here is the list of sanctuaries accredited by ASA.
Here is a photo gallery from Lions, Tigers & Bears, so you can see the facilities for yourself.

Day 28 Swim Report
Number of laps: 45
Time: 75 minutes
Pace: Good pace

Day 29 Swim Report
Number of laps: 42
Time: 65 minutes
Pace: Good pace

Day 30 Swim Report
Number of laps: 40
Time: 65 minutes
Pace: Good pace

Ended up taking Day 27 off due to a very hectic work schedule.  A co-worker has left, and I get to fill in until we hire a new person in a few months.  I really needed the swim coming back — which was good because I had 117 laps to cover in the last three days.  I had planned to split it an even 40 laps a day, but ended up doing a few more the first two days.  So I made my swim goal!!

I hope I can keep close to this pace going into the future because I have felt so much better this month in general.  Regular exercise is very time consuming, but it helps all other aspects of your life.  And I hope my swims have inspired some of you to get started too.


Lions, tigers, and seven bears

As its name implies, Lions, Tigers & Bears houses not only big cats but bears.  Its founder, Bobbi Brink, directed the move of dozens of big cats from failed sanctuaries and private owners in Ohio to accredited sanctuaries across the country.

Now it’s time for the bears.

Six bears are currently living together in a 15×20-foot enclosure in Prospect, Ohio.

Bobbi is currently trying find homes for and move seven bears from private owners in Ohio who can no longer keep them and want to place them before Ohio’s new exotic animal regulations go into effect on January 1, 2014.

These bears include six that were previously owned by an exotic animal “exhibitor” cited for hundreds of violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including poor nutrition, neglect, and conditions described as “deplorable”and “squalid.”

Their current owner is better but does not have the resources to properly care for the bears.  All six are living together in one 15×20-foot enclosure – about the size of an average living room.  Such crowding is inherently stressful, and the enclosure has no grass and no enrichment.

Maddie the bear lives in a corn-crib enclosure in Covington, Ohio.

Maddie the bear currently lives in a concrete corn-crib enclosure in Covington, Ohio.

The seventh bear, Maddie, was originally purchased to be a pet.  Not surprisingly, the family decided they couldn’t take care of her after she grew up and considered selling her to a canned hunting ranch.

Fortunately her current owner stepped in, but can provide her with only a small concrete corn-crib cage, where she has been living for the past seven years.

Bobbi is searching for permanent homes for the bears where they will receive the care they deserve in a safe, enriching environment.  Lions, Tigers & Bears is also raising money for a host of expenses including:

Sugar Bear, who came from a sanctuary in Ohio that closed down, now lives in this spacious enclosure at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

Sugar Bear, who came from an Ohio facility that closed down, now lives at LTB in this spacious enclosure.

  • Travel expense for their volunteer team to get to Ohio and back
  • Medical evaluations and lab tests for all the bears
  • Neutering two of the males
  • Transport to new homes (one bear will come to LTB, while the others will go to other accredited sanctuaries)
  • Building an additional bedroom in LTB’s new bear habitat.

It wasn’t easy or cheap for Bobbi to rescue dozens of big cats from Ohio, and it won’t be easy or cheap to rescue these seven bears.  Your donation will help cover the costs of giving these animals happy new homes.

Day 14  Swim Report
Number of laps: 40
Time: 70 minutes
Pace:  A little slow

Day 15 Swim Report
Number of laps: 35
Time: 60 minutes
Pace:  Right at goal speed

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of activities, but I did manage to get in a swim each day.  I am finding that it’s more sustainable to spend a little less time in the pool and go more often than to try to do huge long swims fewer times a week.  I sleep a lot better on days I work out, so I am going to try to work out most days, even if it is for only an hour vs. 1.5 hours three to four days a week.

Day 10

Day 10 Swim Report

Number of laps: 38
Time: 55 minutes
Pace: Somewhat fast

Today was one of those days.  Got a late start for the pool after dinner, then ran into a huge detour due to road construction.  Got there 20 minutes late, then found half the lanes roped off for a class.  Squeezed in next to a big guy doing 30-second butterfly laps and managed to bang out 38 of my own before the pool closed.

One positive outcome:  On the long detour, I caught most of a very interesting episode of All Sides with Ann Fisher on WOSU.  You should check it out!  Here were the guests:

  • Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, a fictional account of a family that tries to raise a chimpanzee
  • Dr. Sally Boysen, professor of psychology who ran a cognitive research lab with 11 chimpanzees at Ohio State for many years
  • Amy Fultz, co-founder and behavior director at Chimp Haven sanctuary in Louisiana, where Dr. Boysen’s chimps are now and where the government may soon retire 500 more chimps from federal research labs.

Rescue One

Last summer, Bobbi Brink, the director of Lions, Tigers and Bears, invited my husband, Paul, and me to see a facility in Ohio about an hour from our home where she was rehoming all the animals.

An outdoor enclosure at Rescue One.  The animals who lived here had already been moved when we visited.

An outdoor enclosure at Rescue One. The animals who lived here had already been moved when we visited.

At its height, Rescue One held more than 30 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other dangerous wild animals.  Most of them had been rescued from situations of abuse or neglect, or given up by owners who had bought the animals as cubs and could not handle them once they grew up.

It costs about $10,000 a year to house and feed a tiger, and over time Rescue One had been stretched far past its financial capacity.  They fed their carnivores with animal carcasses from farms in the area or road kill, and they paid their bills in part through proceeds from bingo games.

Indoor enclosure. Rescue One volunteer's face blurred for anonymity.

Indoor enclosure. Rescue One volunteer’s face blurred for anonymity.

Last year Rescue One’s owner, Angela Harter, called the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries seeking help.  After Ohio passed a law regulating ownership of exotic animals, she would be required to considerably upgrade her facilities, which she didn’t have the money to do.

GFAS sent Bobbi to take stock of the situation.  Bobbi not only found accredited sanctuaries to take the animals, but arranged teams to sedate and transport them.  Because no one facility could take all the animals, multiple transport trips, most of them across the country, had to be arranged.

Such trips are extremely expensive.  Veterinary personnel must be on hand, drivers have to be hired, and the large trucks are climate controlled and use a lot of gas.  Financially underwriting this endeavor were International Fund for Animal Welfare and Humane Society of the United States.

A lion watched our every move from his indoor enclosure.

A lion watched our every move from his indoor enclosure. Yes, we were that close.

Transfer of the animals was even more complicated than usual at Rescue One.  Accredited facilities build animal enclosures to certain regulations.  One of these is that when the animal needs to be moved, keepers can line up a transport cage against a door to the enclosure.  Then the door can be opened and the animal can walk into the transport cage.  From there the animal can be loaded safely onto the truck.

That’s not how it went at Rescue One.  Because finances were very tight, Angela’s husband, David Cziraky, had to be creative in finding materials to build the enclosures, and they were not built to these specifications.  There were no regulation-size doors to the enclosures, so when it came time to move the animals, they had to be sedated and carried out by a team of handlers.  This added to the expense as well as the risk in moving them.

Sugar Bear's enclosure at Rescue One.  He now lives at Lions, Tigers and Bears.

Sugar Bear’s enclosure at Rescue One. He now lives at Lions, Tigers and Bears.

Rescue One is an example of how Ohio owes Bobbi Brink and Lions, Tigers and Bears a debt of gratitude.  Angela Harter and David Cziraky did the best they could to take care of so many exotic animals, but in the end needed help.  Bobbi and LTB provided that help, and now those animals are in good homes.

Rescue One was featured in an episode of Animal Intervention, the Animal Planet show with Alison Eastwood, filmed several months before Bobbi flew out to help.  You can see an excerpt in which David Cziraky talks about feeding the animals at

You can also see the LTB page for Sugar Bear, who came from Rescue One and found his home at Lions, Tigers and Bears –

Day 6 Swim Report

Number of laps: 50
Time: 85 minutes
Pace: Somewhat slow

I took yesterday off because I was ahead of schedule and needed a break both physically and to catch up on a lot of things at work.  Today I was back at it and needed the swim.  I had planned for 45 laps but ended up doing 50.  This will come in handy later for that last 0.2 miles of the marathon.

Raja and Natasha

Tigers Raja and Natasha were the first residents of Lions, Tigers & Bears, arriving in September 2002.  They came from a private owner in Texas who kept them in a 6×12 foot cage with no shade or shelter.  They had to step over each other to turn around.

Their owner didn’t want to give up the tigers to the authorities in Texas, nor was he willing to provide them with a better enclosure.  After a great deal of negotiation, he finally agreed to give them to LTB.  Texas authorities gave LTB a month to raise money, build a suitable enclosure, get all the necessary permits, and transport the tigers to California.

When they arrived, Natasha was pregnant.  She gave birth to two female cubs, Tabu and Sitarra, in November 2002.  The girls still live at LTB and have flourished.  Raja was neutered in 2003 to make sure there are no more births.

Check out this video of Raja splashing in his pool after a snow in March 2012.  Unlike most cats, tigers love water, and good facilities will provide them with this essential enrichment.

Day 1 Swim Report

Number of Laps: 45 (1.25 miles)
Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Pace: Slow

This morning was taken up with a volunteer program, so I didn’t get to my swim until late afternoon.  I had skipped yesterday in anticipation of starting today, and consequently didn’t sleep well last night.  That led to a very slow swim today – but by lap 30 I was feeling better and was able to go an extra 9 laps or quarter mile.  That will probably come in handy later this week when I need a break.