Today we chat with Jamie Veronica, president of Big Cat Rescue, who led the rescue of the newest addition, a cougar. Big Cat Rescue is an accredited wild cat sanctuary founded by Carole Baskin, who began rescuing exotic cats in 1992. The 55-acre property at 12802 Easy St., in Citrus Park, just west of the Veterans Expressway, is dedicated to rescuing and providing permanent homes for abused or abandoned exotic cats.
Q: Can you give us a short history of your newest resident cat?
Answer: Reise was born in the 90s in Texas, sold as a pet to a buyer in New York, de-clawed by a hack and later rescued by the South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Homestead. She lived there for 15 years in a small, concrete-floored birdcage (sized enclosure) and was fed a diet of almost nothing but chicken necks.
Q: How did Big Cat Rescue come to be her new home?
Answer: The founder of South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has terminal brain cancer. We had helped him recover from a hurricane in 2005 and had been helping his volunteers with their social networking and volunteer management. So when he ended up in the hospital, they called and asked if we could take their four cougars, two leopards, tiger and hybrid. They found other homes for all of the cats, except Reise the cougar and JoJo the hybrid, so we took them.
Q: How is she adapting to her new quarters?
Answer: Reise had probably never felt the soft earth beneath her battered paws, and seems to just hug the ground. She has enjoyed her first nutritionally complete and tasty meals and has even found the joy in the enrichment items that volunteers make for her.
Q: With this new addition, what’s the population of Big Cat Rescue? Answer: We are now home to 106 exotic cats.
Q: As nonprofit Big Cat Rescue depends on volunteers, how does one help?
Answer: There are lots of ways to help the cats, including volunteering. Find out more at http://bigcatrescue.org/get-involved/