Big Cat Rescue made famous by ‘Tiger King’ moving animals to Arkansas

Big Cat Rescue, owned by Carole Baskin, is moving its animals to Arkansas.
Big Cat Rescue, owned by Carole Baskin, is moving its animals to Arkansas.(Netflix)
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:31 PM CDT
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TAMPA, Fla. (KAIT) – The animal sanctuary known for housing big cats and made famous in the Netflix show “Tiger King” is moving its animals to Arkansas.

KAIT reports Big Cat Rescue, owned by Carole Baskin, entered into an agreement with Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, according to a press release written by Baskin’s husband Howard that was posted on the company’s website.

“For thirty years, the mission of Big Cat Rescue has been expressed as having three prongs: To give the best life we could to the cats in our care, to stop the abuse, and to avoid extinction of big cats in the wild,” the release said. “For those same thirty years, we have always said that our goal was to ‘put ourselves out of business,’ meaning that there would be no big cats in need of rescue and no need for the sanctuary to exist.”

The release pointed to a new federal law banning the private ownership of big cats and the practice of cub petting as part of the reason behind the move.

“What this means, importantly, is that over the next decade, almost all of this privately held population of cats will pass away,” he wrote. “Within a few years after that, they will all be gone and there will be no more cats living in miserable conditions in backyards.”

The press release also pointed to the issue of costs in operating the Big Cat Rescue. The rescue said it currently has 41 cats and it costs about $36,000 per cat. As the Baskins get older, they did not see it as financially sound to keep operating until the last cat passed away.

“It is hard to imagine funding levels holding up well enough to cover the overhead as the number of cats dwindled,” the release said. “So, we would incur substantial losses. Even if funding levels did hold up, it would be difficult in good conscience to spend that much per captive cat when the funds are so needed for projects to keep the cats from going extinct in the wild, the third prong of our mission.

Big Cat Rescue and Carole Baskin came into the national spotlight in 2020 when “Tiger King” first went public. Since then, both have been in the spotlight, which allowed them to highlight their efforts and work on the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

Turpentine Creek sits on 450 rural acres and is about seven times the size of Big Cat Rescue, the release said.

One tiger and five bobcats will remain at Big Cat Rescue for the rest of their lives. When those cats die, the Baskins said they will sell the Tampa area property.

Construction on the new enclosures at Turpentine Creek has begun and is expected to take six months. Big Cat Rescue is expected to move some cats there as soon as July 2023.