SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is the permanent home to 150 animals including 50 big cats. The 20-acre property has been quiet for the last two months due to COVID-19.
The nonprofit typically welcomes guests five days a week. It counts on donations and admissions dollars to keep operations running. A sign out front reads “closed until further notice.”
Founder and president Kay Rosaire says she can tell the animals miss interacting with visitors.
“Every time Wednesday comes around, they are waiting for people to come in. It took them a couple of weeks to realize that we are on a long vacation,” said Rosaire. “I want everybody to know that the animals are doing fantastic. We spend lots of extra time with them.”
The nonprofit animal rescue may have shut its gates to the public, but the behind the scenes operation hasn’t skipped a beat. Rosaire says the only thing that has changed is there’s no income coming into the nonprofit.
“We have shut our doors, but our animals still continue to get the same care and the same enriched stimuli,” said Danielle Rosaire.
Kay Rosaire says she hasn’t laid off any of her employees. Many of them are trained specifically to work with and care for exotic animals including lions, bears, and tigers.
Between payroll, the cost of animal care, food, and other operating costs, Rosaire is unsure what the future of the rescue looks like, especially if they stay closed for much longer. Costs are quickly piling up.
“There is a huge concern because like everybody else, eventually our money will run out. We don’t quite know what we will do,” said Rosaire.
Rosaire says she wants to reopen to the public but is taking it slow for the health and safety of her staff, guests and rescue animals. The nonprofit is looking at possibly opening up for small groups and private reservations but no date has been set.
Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary is accepting monetary donations to help with animal care, food and other operating costs. You can find more information on the organization’s website.