Big cat sanctuaries gather with IFAW to address best practices

The Big Cat Sanctuary Workshop will strengthen networking and collaboration between animal sanctuaries so that cats like Ducey, one of two privately-owned lions rescued in Missouri, can continue to find new homes at quality sanctuaries.The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), in collaboration with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), is bringing together animal welfare experts and sanctuaries to address the most important issues we face in rescuing and caring for captive lions, tigers, leopards and more.

The purpose of the second Big Cat Sanctuary Workshop in Denver, Colorado is to strengthen networking and collaboration between animal sanctuaries that house big cats, while identifying ways to advance institutional sustainability and animal welfare.  Invited attendees are sanctuary professionals who display a consistent commitment to providing legitimate and quality sanctuary to big cats in need.

During the three-day workshop, guest speakers will cover topics including veterinary care, enclosure design for psychological and physical health and safety, safe animal introductions, strategic & financial planning, staff development, fundraising, social media, collaboration and advocacy. Participants will engage through panel discussions, group activities and brainstorming sessions.

The first Big Cat Sanctuary Workshop was hosted by IFAW and GFAS in 2013. Initiatives that came out of that workshop include the Big Cat Best Practices Working Group, which has created a manual detailing nutritional and feeding best practices for big cat sanctuaries (it is scheduled to be released later this year); and the IFAW Wildlife Rescue Network, which provides an efficient, real-time mechanism to disseminate rescue requests to qualified sanctuaries (to date the network includes 16 sanctuary participants and has found permanent placement for 37 large carnivores).

Participants at this year’s workshop will once again develop goals and priorities for the next 2-3 years to address issues that will increase capacity, improve quality of care, and increase institutional sustainability for big cats in sanctuaries throughout the United States.

The captive big cat crisis in the United States results in hundreds of abandoned, unwanted or abused big cats annually in need of placement in bona fide sanctuaries as they are surrendered by owners who can no longer care for them, or are seized by state or federal agencies in cases of abuse or neglect.  IFAW works not just to provide for these animals, but also to pass a comprehensive national law that will ban private possession and breeding of big cats.

--MW

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