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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

The Wildcat Sanctuary

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animal Protection & Welfare, Animals, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Zoos & Aquariums

Mission: The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) is a 501c3 non-profit, no-kill big cat rescue located in Sandstone, MN. TWS provides a natural sanctuary to wild cats in need and inspires change to end the captive wildlife crisis. TWS is funded solely on private donations. The Sanctuary is a home for animals, not a zoo for people and is not open to the public. Combining natural and spacious habitats with a life free of exhibition and exploitation, TWS allows all residents to live wild at heart. As a true sanctuary, we do not buy, breed, sell or exhibit animals.

Results: TWS provides natural sanctuary to over 125 wild cats. We provide large, free-roaming habitats that offer our residents to live wild at heart. Each animal can escape extreme weather in a temperature controlled den or central animal building. Every individual has the opportunity, often for the first time in their lives, to choose a path to walk and a place to lie down. After living in a small concrete cage in the backyard of a Texas home, Sabrina the tiger, now has a free-roaming habitat with grass under her feet, a pool with a fountain and a safe environment for the rest of her life.

Target demographics: wild, exotic and big cats of the captive wildlife crisis

Geographic areas served: National

Programs: No More Wild Pets Campaign, Sponsor a wild one program, Volunteer, Feed A Feline, Help us build Wild Woodlands

Community Stories

106 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I can't say enough good things about The Wildcat Sanctuary! Each time I go, I am so touched by the love the staff and volunteers show towards these beautiful cats. They are always working to better the lives of the cats and to make room for more so that other mistreated animals will get the chance to live out there lives with respect and love!

Review from Guidestar

Jessi K.1

Donor

Rating: 5

The Wildcat Sanctuary is an amazing place for wildcats in need. The safe space, out of the public eye, enrichment programs, health care and love received is something many of them never received. Their love of their residents and other wildcats in need is evident in the care they provide.

The Wildcat Sanctuary does a great job balancing the needs and privacy of the residents while keeping the public engaged in the daily lives of the wildcats. I have learned so much from them about the pay-to-play industry and have appreciated Information they have provided in how to engage in combating the exotic pet industry. They keep us informed of upcoming legislation we can support or protest as well as sharing stories of communities saying “no more” to traveling tours that treat wildcats horribly and allow the public to touch them.

Review from Guidestar

1 Susan M.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had opportunity to volunteer at TWS last summer and the experience really opened my eyes to the amazing work this organization does. From medical attention to nutrition to living structures - great attention has been given to ensuring these beautiful animals have a high quality of life for the remainder of their years. I am so glad this organization exists - both for the sake of the animals in their care and for the education they provide to the public on the issues and needs facing wildcats today.

Review from Guidestar

2 Sandra O.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered for a 1-day work day at TWS a couple of years ago. After our workday we were given a tour of the sanctuary which was extremely interesting. The planning that goes into providing proper nutrition for each of the cats along with the designs of the habitats and their medical care is top notch. Also TWS goes to great lengths to educate the public at large about not trying to keep wild cats as pets. TWS is not open to the public so the only way people can see the big cats is to be a part of a work day crew and even then TWS is careful about who is allowed to be a part of those crew days. I am glad there are places like TWS for these big, beautiful creatures to live out their lives and not be exploited.

Review from Guidestar

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Hi! The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, MN has a great story to tell. It is an amazing place with all of the great work it has done since it has been open. I have volunteered on a couple of work days. The work has been good and you really feel good to give back to this important endeavor. I have also attended a few of the fundraising events. It is great to see and hear the positive ways that the Wildcat Sanctuary has given and gives to so many cats -big and small, a second chance at life. The cats have a chance to have a space that they can roam, play, and enjoy the life that they deserve. They get the medical care and appropriate nutritional food that helps them grow and survive with dignity. Tammy Thies, the staff, the volunteers and all of the support given from donations do make a great difference and saves lives of these special wildcats.

Review from Guidestar

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’ve been a volunteer and donor of The Wildcat Sanctuary for over 13 years. I’ve seen them grow from their original location near Isanti with about 20 cats to their current location with over 100 cats. From their humble beginnings to their current facility with large free roaming habitats, they have always gone the extra mile to see that each animal has all their needs met in the most natural environment. I’ve had the great opportunity to work with the small bengal cats in cleaning habitats and providing enrichment for them. TWS does so much in educating the public about the captive wildlife crisis. Tammy Thies is an excellent spokesperson on this topic. And even though they are not open to the public, they are great in using social media to keep their supporters informed - if one has the time, one can get to know each cat personally through the TWS website.

I have first hand experience with the organization so I have no hesitancy donating to this organization since I know that every dollar will be so well spent.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Being a long time volunteer and donor it is very satisfying to see how and where my money and time is being utilized. Having a diverse Board of Directors, excellent Vet with on-site hospital and a partnership with the U of M and relationship with the Minnesota Zoo makes this a Top Notch Sanctuary. Every cats needs are met whether it be diet, enclosures or daily enrichment by the knowledgeable staff and interns. Proud to be a part of it. Thank you.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered at least 4 times for day-long work days at TWS and continue to be amazed at the quality of medical and nutritional care, attention to detail, personalized plans/habitat/enrichment that each and every cat receives. These folks have an unwavering focus on the cats and their care and are passionate. Further, they educate the public through social media channels to change attitudes around keeping wild animals as pets or props for profit. They live up to their reputation as global experts in collaboration with other sanctuaries, students who want to intern/learn how to care for these animals and partner rescue groups. I'm proud they call MN home and that I can donate, volunteer and support TWS.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered at The Wildcat Santuary a number of times, and always look forward to my next trip. The animals are all referenced by name and a member of their family. Concern for them is evident by the way they are meticulously cared for with their surroundings and health assessments. The updates given in emails are heartwarming and sometimes tearful, but always heartfelt. Praying they keep funded to continue their important work.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a long-time volunteer at The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS), I have witnessed the natural, spacious and well-kept enclosures provided to each of the more than 100 residents. The TWS staff truly care about the physical and emotional well-being of its cats; it’s a delight to see the many cats enjoying challenging and fun enrichments, made by dedicated volunteers.

Even though offering public tours would provide a steady stream of revenue, TWS is not open to the public. This preserves the dignity of the cats and ensures the grounds remain a peaceful safe haven.

TWS has built much support and public awareness. TWS has nearly three million fans on Facebook and uses social media not only to build support for the sanctuary, but to raise awareness of the captive wildlife crisis through its No More Wild Pets campaign.

The staff at TWS learn the personalities of each cat, and with their broad knowledge of felines, this gives them the ability to recognize even the slightest change in their behaviors. When medical care is warranted, staff take immediate action with the TWS veterinarian and seeks further outside services as needed.

Minnesota is very fortunate to be home to this sanctuary that provides the best home-for-life possible for formerly unwanted and abused big cats.

Review from Guidestar

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I was introduced to this non-profit by a friend a few years ago. I have volunteered my time for TWS, as well as donated, and have found the sanctuary well-run with great care taken of the animals. They have taken in hybrid cats (inappropriate pets), as well as the traditional wild cats referred to in its name. Not stopping at providing sanctuary, they provide excellent health care to their charges, doing their best to make the rest of their years pain-free and happy. It is gratifying to see an organization willing to take that extra step to improve the lives of their charges.

Review from Guidestar

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer for the Wildcat Sanctuary and have had an opportunity to tour the property and meet the director and staff on several occasions. The mission of the Wildcat Sanctuary is critical. The staff and volunteers are simply the best. I know that the animals are well cared for and all of their needs are met.

It is a privilege to have The Wildcat Sanctuary here in Minnesota.

Review from Guidestar

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Giving Back to The Wildcat Sanctuary
www.wildcatsanctuary.org

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

Previous Stories
5

Donor

Rating: 5

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

3

Donor

Rating: 5

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.
Marie S

Review from Guidestar

3 Lisa356

Donor

Rating: 5

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

4 wildcatadvocate

Donor

Rating: 5

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!

Previous Stories
3

Donor

Rating: 5

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!

2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 2

http://www.ag.state.mn.us/PDF/PressReleases/AssuranceOfDiscontinua20140422.pdf

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

1

Donor

Rating: 5

A great group whose priority continues to be what's best for the "critters".

Previous Stories
2

Donor

Rating: 5

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!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

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.

2 Thad D.

Donor

Rating: 5

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.