As many of you know by now I went on a trip to visit Big Cat Rescue and four other facilities, most of which are constantly attacked by Big Cat Rescue. Those other facilities I visited were Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary, Dade City’s Wild Things, Forced Exotic Animal Relocation (F.E.A.R.), and The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.). Read about my experience at the first two facilities I visited HERE and HERE.
The third facility I visited on my exotic animal adventure was Forced Exotic Animal Relocation (FEAR) located at Lakeland, Florida. Since the facility was quite small this post will be brief.
FEAR claims to place or take in animals that were forced to be given up by their owners due to changing laws and other unfortunate circumstances. Debra Sandlin, Founder of FEAR, finds homes for the animals, takes them in herself, or offers owners temporarily housing for their animals until they can reclaim them.
Unlike many facilities, FEAR prides itself in not partaking in the whole "rescue" scheme that involves calling animals that were actually bred, bought, or rehomed “rescues”. Many "sanctuaries" will take this scam one step further by inventing stories of abuse or devising half truths by saying an animal that was actually born at their facility was “born into the pet trade" or “an accidental birth”.
When I first arrived at FEAR I couldn’t help but notice the large natural pond teeming with large koi fish, goldfish, and turtles. The pond was about 14 feet deep and was located in front of the gorgeous home belonging to Debra. This facility stood out from the others I visited because it was based out of a large house.
Debra was a former volunteer of Wildlife On Easy Street (aka Big Cat Rescue) which led to some very interesting discussions. She was very funny, honest, and pretty outspoken. She walked me around her small facility and introduced me to the very few animals in her care. I assume there were so few animals because she finds homes for her animals and lets their owners reclaim them.
Her facility was really clean, nicely landscaped, and was complete with a large fancy looking swimming pool with a small waterfall. There were a few soggy areas in the manicured grass caused by the rain, but all the animals were kept high and dry.
The first two animals I saw weren’t exotic, but they were absolutely adorable nonetheless. The first animals I was greeted by were dogs. One a large and fluffy Australian Shepard named Indy and the other a short round mutt called Diesel. They were both investigating their unexpected visitor in their own ways. One was very friendly while the other was very cautious but eventually warmed up to me.
Although there was a large African Spur-Thigh tortoise by the name of Tank roaming around the enclosed property, the first exotic animal I took an interest in was a friendly male bobcat whose name I forgot. His enclosure was solidly constructed and nicely built. He had a black padded floor with lots of shade and also had a grassy area where he could swim in a small plastic pool, play with a red ball hanging from the top of the cage, or just roll in the grass. He gets daily hands-on affection from Debra which he really seems to enjoy. He especially loves being scratched under his chin. His previous owners chose to place him at FEAR because he would receive the human contact that he was used to, unlike a 'sanctuary’ setting that would put this hand-raised pet bobcat in a cage with absolutely no physical contact.
I was curious as to the yearly cost of caring for this one bobcat because I wanted to find out how much money Big Cat Rescue should typically be spending on their smaller cats each year. Despite their name, Big Cat Rescue mostly cares for smaller exotic cats such as bobcats and servals. I asked Debra if she had calculated how much it costs to care for one bobcat for a year. Lucky for me Debra keeps meticulous records and had the answer ready; $1,560.
The next not-so-exotic animals I saw were two chunky pot bellied pigs. They had a spacious pig pen with an elevated wooden pig house which allowed them to do typical pig activities. I have no clue what pig activities involve, aside from the mandatory wallow in the mud.
On the other side of the property there was a large well-designed cage under construction with what looked to be a big fiberglass pool ready to be installed. Although some animals arrive and leave with their own caging, this permanent cage was being readied for the arrival of any new animals that may need temporary or permanent care.
I was then led to a large enclosure shared by a chubby celebes ape named Tia who smiled a lot and her buddy, a stand offish snow macaque by the name of Riley. Their enclosure contained a small pool and a full sized jungle gym that allowed them to brachiate. They both appeared to be in excellent health. Their enclosure was connected to a tunnel system raised a couple feet off the ground that allowed them access to Debra’s closed-in back porch where they come in to sleep at night, watch TV, or play with their human caregivers.
The enclosed porch was also home to many displaced parrots that were extremely noisy probably due to being confronted with a stranger. To the side of the parrots cages was a cage inhabited by a young bonnet macaque. Like Tia and Riley's enclosure, the monkey and parrot cages had access to both the outdoors and indoors. There was also a very old capuchin monkey who's even older mate had passed away. She was entertaining herself with some type of game she made up.
That pretty much summed up my visit there. I think there should be more places like FEAR where displaced exotic animals could be found new homes or cared for by experienced caregivers on a temporary basis while their owners relocated or worked to upgrade or rebuild to meet new and ever changing regulations. This operation seemed selfless, with the welfare of the animals the only true concern. Many places all too often put donations and publicity before what's best for the animals. There’s not really anything bad I can say about FEAR although I think the parrots cages could be bigger so they could stretch their wings and fly.
(Pictures Coming Soon)