Giving Back to The Wildcat Sanctuary
I am a longtime volunteer at The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) in Sandstone, Minnesota. The Wildcat Sanctuary is a 501c3 non-profit, no-kill big cat rescue. The mission of TWS is to provide a natural sanctuary to wild cats in need and inspire change to end the captive wildlife crisis.
I have had the pleasure of helping with many tasks at the sanctuary, from building enclosures to cleaning to making fire hose hammocks to picking up tiger poop. Every task I do, I know I am making life better for a big cat whose previous life was most often filled with abuse and neglect.
During a particularly heavy snowfall in northern Minnesota, the cats’ enclosures had over three feet of snow in them. The tigers residing at the sanctuary don’t mind the cold and snow but the lions (there were three at the time) tend to spend more time inside during the winter months. (Each animal can escape extreme weather in a temperature controlled building.)
You can imagine when a tiger walks in new fallen snow they immediately create a path. Well, the same would be true for a lion, if they would actually walk in the snow. So, in order to coax the lions outside, we had to go into their large enclosure and shovel paths for them. (Anytime people are in an outdoor enclosure the cats are safely shut in their indoor enclosure.)
As I shoveled lots and lots of snow to make the paths, I thought, “I am an average size woman shoveling a path for a 400 lb. lion!” I affectionately say the lions are big babies in the winter; but I really know that this is due to fact that they are an African species. Of all the shoveling I have done as a Minnesota native, shoveling snow for lions is the only time I have gotten excited about shoveling.
After we finished shoveling the snow, and the lions were let back into their outdoor enclosure, they immediately investigated every inch of their new path. It was so gratifying to see them happily exploring and romping in the fresh snow.
It’s an honor and a pleasure to give back by volunteering at The Wildcat Sanctuary. It’s hard, gratifying work and I am so grateful this wonderful sanctuary for big cats resides in Minnesota.
Review from #MyGivingStory
My first introduction to The Wildcat Sanctuary was in Isanti. I sponsored a big cat and along with that sponsorship came an exclusive tour of the sanctuary. On my ride up for the tour, I remember thinking, “I hope this is a reputable sanctuary and I won’t be disturbed by what I see.” I know that all “sanctuaries” are not what they claim to be. Sure the photos on the TWS website looked great, but websites may not be a true reflection of a place.
Upon arriving at TWS, I was thrilled to find out that Tammy Thies was giving the tour! The Executive Director and Founder of the sanctuary had made time in her day to spend with me! After that first visit to TWS I was moved by the mission of the organization, impressed by all they were doing for the cats and completely “wowed” by Tammy’s commitment and dedication. From that point on, TWS became a top favorite cause of mine.
Over the years, I have been a financial supporter of TWS as well as introduced others to TWS. Tammy possesses the expertise to lead the sanctuary into the future. She is respected nationally for her knowledge and skills, for which she is called upon frequently. Minnesota is very fortunate to be home to this sanctuary that not only provides the best home for life possible for formerly unwanted and abused big cats, but serves as a resource for the entire country. This has all been built and accomplished under the leadership of Tammy Thies.
Review from Guidestar
My husband and I have been donors to The Wildcat Sanctuary for many years now. We volunteer for another Wild cat sanctuary in another State where we live, so the best we can do to help such a wonderful organization and woman that we admire as Tammy is to give our support through donations. My husband uses his company matching program (X3) every year. We know how close Tammy is to all the cats and how much she cares for them. We love her news letter and website which brings us even closer to her and all the animals. We specially appreciate her handwritten personal thank you notes for our contributions.
We wish The Wildcat Sanctuary all the best and hope one day we can make it to help them as well.
Review from Guidestar
I have been a fan and a donor of The Wildcat Sanctuary for about 10 years now. This organization is the epitome of what a exotic cat sanctuary should be. The care and love the cats receive is next to none and I am particularly fond of their ever expanding enrichment program. They also help educate people that these animals belong in the wild and not in our homes. If we are to save wild cats, we need to save where they live and not breed for captivity.
Review from Guidestar
I have been both a donor and a volunteer for TWS for many years. I’ve seen them go from a small organization in Isanti County years ago to the large, nationally recognized and accredited sanctuary they are today in Pine County, MN. Having been a Senior Keeper at one of the top sanctuaries in the country, I have had a lot of personal experience knowing what helps rescued wild cats thrive. For TWS, that has always been their #1 goal. Their cats enjoy huge natural, free-roaming habitats – something few sanctuaries have the luxury of providing. They receive excellent preventative veterinary care and no expense is spared when a cat is sick or in need. Habitat improvement, expansion, and new construction to provide even more for the cats is never-ending. When TWS went through a rapid growth cycle, there were management issues that could have been handled better. As with so many sanctuaries, it’s difficult to be an expert at caring for wild cats and be an expert business manager, too. But, new much-needed policies have been put in place to assure donors that sound business practice management is a priority. Many have watched the organization grow, watched the rescued cats thrive, watched the education and lobbying efforts pay off, and watched the social media fanbase top one million. For those, it’s been extremely rewarding to support this wonderful charity. For those who have just found TWS, I truly believe the best is yet to come!
I learned about The Wildcat Sanctuary almost 10 years ago. I've watched this sanctuary grow from having less than 20 rescued wildcats to now well over 100. What has impressed me the most is that they have stepped up to take in rescues when no one else would. They did so without fanfare, expecting nothing in return except the peaceful recovery of these abused, injured souls. Since they're not open to the public, since they are a true sanctuary of solitude, it's not as easy to raise the funds they need like other organizations and zoos. But they won't compromise the animals' need for peace, not to be disturbed by visitors. It means they work doubly hard to provide the wonderful habitats, the nourishing food and healthcare that their rescues need. The staff are all the most compassionate people I've ever met. They work through some of the harshest weather conditions, drive across the country and back, non-stop, to pick up rescues, come up with the most innovative and exciting forms of enrichment for their cats, take in some of the worst cases when no one else will, and do it all on a small, tight budget. Their dedication and drive to educate the public about the danger of having wild cats as pets is also impressive. I have been a donor to this organization for many years because I've personally seen a tiger that has been starved, nearly to death, now swimming, chuffing, running with reckless abandon, happy to be alive, all because of the keepers' love. The animals come first, no matter what, and that is what convinced me that this place is so special. I'm proud to be a supporter of such an amazing organization!
This organization is a great advocate for neglected, abused and abandoned wildcats, however, its reputation has been tarnished by this investigation. By removing the people responsible for this mess, then and only then can this wonderful organization rebuild its reputation and become the sanctuary it used to be. New people, more structure and accountability, and full transparency are needed in order to regain the trust of its loyal donors and the general public.
The reason for the rating is that I will not donate to this organization until there is trust that the donations will not be used inappropriately, but The Wildcat Sanctuary has and will eventually have a great impact in the future.
Review from Guidestar
A great group whose priority continues to be what's best for the "critters".
At time of first contact with TWS they still offered sponsor tours, and that was all it took to convince me the cats were "in good (great) hands". Since that time, the facility upgrades, enthusiasm of the staff, cat updates, and the many events/fundraisers continue to indicate to me that providing the best possible environment for the cats is their #1 priority. A REALLY GREAT group/organization that i am happy/proud to support!
The Wildcat Sanctuary does so much for so many animals with the most effective use of resources I've seen in my decades of philanthropy. I will never forget hearing the lead keeper describe how Sabrina the tiger, who was found unconcious after her (private) owner passed away and arrived at the Sanctuary terrified of people, turned to her one day and "chuffed" a greeting. Just one of many miraculous rescues they have accomplished. Truly a privilege to be connected to them.
I first learned about TWS from the Best Friends magazine, after which I looked into the organization myself. Around the same time, I watched the documentary, "The Elephant in the Living Room," and I was so moved by plight of those captive wild animals and TWS' mission to not only find a better "home" for animals in similar conditions but to end the practice altogether that I immediately became a fan. I particularly like the fact that TWS is not open to the public, endeavoring instead to give those animals as close to a wild existence as they can get. They are no long gawked at or used as some sideshow exhibit to make money, but actually get the chance to be wild cats. I also checked TWS on Guidestar before donating, and it is a very transparent organization that puts donations to good use.
This organization truly deserves recognition for all that they do and for that which they have accomplished. Their philosophy and goals are mirrored in all that they do, not merely words. I am honored to help in whatever manner I can at this sanctuary, as the dedication of staff, interns & other volunteers is a reflection of true compassion for these animals, not as ownership, but genuine care for their needs and best interest. In addition to the hard work & endless demand of caring for these cats & others in need, the Director & staff make very effort to make opportunity to help educate the public on the problems caused by the exotic pet trade and their repercussions. This is an organization that I hope to be involved with as long as I am capable!
I hope to get to volunteer there the next time Scott Lope is helping you out and I will be bring my camera to get the most awesome photo for you and your super big hearted place for these beautiful animals!!!! Thank You!!!