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Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue is an animal sanctuary dedicated to rescuing and housing exotic cats while also advocating for the end of the private trade and ownership of these animals as pets and their use in entertainment. Located in Tampa, Florida, the sanctuary is one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world for abused and abandoned big cats.

Mission and Philosophy

Big Cat Rescue’s mission goes beyond just providing a safe haven for big cats. It focuses on education, advocating for legislative change to prevent the exploitation of these animals, and supporting conservation efforts in the wild. The philosophy of the sanctuary is rooted in the belief that wild animals should not be kept as pets and should not be bred for life in captivity.


Founded in 1992 by Carole Baskin and her then-husband Don Lewis, Big Cat Rescue started as a sanctuary for a handful of exotic cats that had been neglected or mistreated. Over time, the sanctuary has grown to house a wide variety of species, including tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats, lynx, and others. The sanctuary has evolved its focus to emphasize the importance of legislation to protect these animals and has become involved in global efforts to save them in the wild.


  • Accreditation: Big Cat Rescue is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and is a member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, which works to eliminate private ownership and the commercial exploitation of wild cats in the United States.
  • Resident Animals: The sanctuary is home to a wide range of big cats, many of which have been rescued from circuses, private ownership, or were retired from performing acts.
  • Tours: They offer a variety of tours, including educational day tours, feeding tours, and keeper tours, which provide an up-close and informative experience about the lives of their resident cats and the issues they face in captivity.
  • Advocacy: Big Cat Rescue has been a key player in advocating for the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which aims to curb the private ownership of big cats and stop cub petting, a practice that often leads to abuse and neglect.


Big Cat Rescue is situated on 67 acres in the Citrus Park area of north Tampa, at 12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625.


More information about Big Cat Rescue, including details on visiting, supporting, or donating to the sanctuary, can be found on their website: Big Cat Rescue.


Visitors can take guided tours that must be booked in advance due to the sanctuary’s strict regulations to ensure the peace and well-being of the animals. It’s important to note that they do not allow guests to have physical contact with the cats, reflecting their strong stance against the exploitation of these animals.

Tips for Visiting

  • Book in Advance: Tours often sell out, so it is essential to book your spot well in advance.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for walking, as tours involve a fair amount of time on foot.
  • Photography: Cameras are allowed, but flash photography may not be permitted, so be sure to check their current policy.
  • Respect the Animals: Always follow the guide’s instructions and respect the boundaries set by the sanctuary to avoid stressing the animals.


Big Cat Rescue is more than an animal sanctuary; it’s a testament to the importance of animal welfare and conservation. By providing a home for big cats in need and working tirelessly to change laws and educate the public, the sanctuary plays a critical role in the fight against animal abuse and exploitation. A visit to Big Cat Rescue is an opportunity to learn about these magnificent creatures and support a noble cause.

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