The Captive Wildlife Crisis: Responding to cases involving wild cats

The Captive Wildlife Crisis: Responding to cases involving wild cats
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-08-24
Unit 1 Slide Deck: The Captive Wildlife Crisis
Unit 2 Transcript: The Captive Wildlife Crisis
Unit 3 Workbook: The Captive Wildlife Crisis
Unit 4 Recording: The Captive Wildlife Crisis

About a year or two ago, the documentary Tiger King roused the public’s awareness about an odd American subculture – one that breeds and raises big cats. Outside of the media hype, an actual crisis is being faced by animal and wildlife welfare in the form of these captive wildlife. Sanctuaries from all over the US formed a coalition through the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance (BCSA) to end private ownership and exploitation of wild cats that puts the public, the enforcing bodies, and the animals all in danger.

To discuss the extent of the problem and proposed solutions to the captive wildlife crisis are:

  • Tanya Smith, President/ Co-Founder, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
  • Tammy Thies, Founder, the Wildcat Sanctuary
  • Kathy Blachowski, Program Manager, Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance

Specifics of the webinar include:

  • An overview of the BCSA – its membership, the alliance’s objective, and their shared values.
  • A glimpse into the Wildcat Sanctuary in Minnesota and the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas – the sanctuaries’ space and big cat residents.
  • Understanding the prevalence of the captive wildlife crisis, what encourages it, and how it impacts the animals being bred and raised in such conditions.
  • Outlining the different ways that big cats end up in the BCSA sanctuaries.
    • Recovered by first responders from unrelated calls like crime scenes and emergencies.
    • Confiscated from USDA licensees who are failing to comply with USDA’s regulations.
    • From large-scale seizures that must serve as evidence for the cases and must be kept under a ‘witness protection cat program’.
    • Upon causing injuries or death to humans.
    • Claimed to be non-wildcats by their owners to mislead authorities and circumvent existing laws.
  • The different services and assistance offered by BCSA from transport and mobilization, housing and holding, species identification, case preparation, vet care, and adequate care based on the unique needs per species.
  • The importance of establishing a BCSA emergency protocol ensuring sanctuaries and involved agencies are effectively collaborating when needed.
  • Case studies were presented to demonstrate how sanctuaries can recover big cats and the different unsafe scenarios and USDA violations where sanctuaries responded to safely remove and relocate animals.
  • The different laws being implemented surrounding the possession of big cats across the US and the need for a federally enforced law to address the captive wildlife crisis.
  • Efforts that law enforcement and animal welfare agencies can do to prevent commercial breeding, buying, and selling of wildlife.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • Preventing private ownership of cats.
  • The consequences of housing big cats illegally.
  • Enforcing USDA licensing and regulations.
  • The role of universities in the Big Cat Public Safety Act and why they’re granted an exemption.
  • Finding vets that specialize or work with big cats.
  • What vets are mandated to report.
  • The big cat sanctuaries around the US.
  • BCSA working is ASPCA and HSUS.
  • Reporting potentially illegal/unlicensed private ownership of big cats.
  • Where and how to get help with big cat cases


Click here to view and register for other upcoming NACA  webinars on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “I enjoyed learning about the captive wildlife crisis and learning about the individual cases.” — Abby
  • The topic of big cats in cities and on private property is something that I have had questions about. The webinar answered those questions and I appreciate the contact information for reference if a call like that arises in the future. — Brittany
  • I did not realize how many big cats were in the US. Contact information very valuable. — Daniel
  • This was very a very worthwhile presentation. The case studies with pictures were very helpful, and the speakers were obviously knowledgeable about the topic. — Jennifer
  • “Law enforcement officers can ensure their safety and a good outcome for captive wild animals by knowing about and trusting rescue organizations that know how to safely handle unpredictable big wild animals. LEO usually feel like they have to solve the problem themselves, and they don’t have to.” — JL
  • “Well designed for an audience with diverse previous encounters with this topic. Broad questions answered with appropriate nuance and understanding. Good emphasis on the importance of the Big Cat Public Safety Act.” — Marilynne



View our Animal Welfare Webinar  Schedule and Recordings



This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





Additional Resources
2 years ago
After the Webinar: The Captive Wildlife Crisis. Q&A with the Presenters
Webinar presenters Tanya Smith and Tammy Thies answered a number of your questions after their prese […]
4 years ago
Top 10 Tips for Taking Wildlife Calls
Animal care and control organizations rarely do have the resources and capacity to respond to all wi […]
4 years ago
Humane Wildlife Capture and Handling: Advanced Techniques for Success
Humans and animals are supposed to coexist but somewhere along human civilization, some of these ani […]
4 years ago
Urban Wildlife 101
What used to be woods or fields are being turned into cities to cater to the human population that d […]
4 years ago
Wildlife and Rabies
Much of what most people know about rabies are actually myths. These untruths spawned generalized fe […]