TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa is home to one of the largest accredited sanctuaries for abused and abandoned big cats, and it’s open to the public for folks to see them up close and learn more.
Big Cat Rescue is currently home to over 60 large cats, from leopards to tigers to bobcats and ocelots.
“Most of them have been rescued from horrible situations. They were former circus acts. They were rescued from becoming fur coats. They were owned by private owners who mistakenly thought they would make good pets or they were seized by authorities in various states,” said Susan Bass, director of public relations.
The sanctuary is open every day but Thursday. You must have a reservation for a guided tour and pay in advance to get in. Tours for children under 10-years-old are available on Saturdays and Sundays.
Those who work and volunteer at Big Cat Rescue are passionate about working to pass federal legislation to ban the private possession of cats and the practice of “cub petting.”
“I’d like people to know that as an accredited sanctuary, we don’t ever touch our cats. We don’t buy cats or sell cats,” Bass said.
“So, if you see a place that allows you to actually touch a tiger cub or a lion cub, or do something that would be unnatural, something a cat would not be doing if they were wild, rather than in captivity. Then just don’t do it. It’s cruel, not cool to pet tiger cubs.”
Here is some information to help you plan your next trip to Big Cat Rescue:
*NOTE: You must make a reservation and pay in advance to be admitted into the sanctuary.
- Day Tour (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday) – $39, no children under age 10
- Day Tour (Saturday, Sunday) – $39, no children under age 10
- Feeding Tour (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) – $67, no children under age 10
- Keeper Tour (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) – $127, no children under age 10
- Kids Tour (Saturday, Sunday) – $29 for kids under 10, $37 for 10 years and over
- Private Tour (Any day) – $150 for the first person, $50 for each additional person
- Night tours (Quarterly) – $67, no children under age 10
Travel time (links will update to current traffic conditions, weekday mid-afternoon conditions listed):
- From Downtown Tampa: 23 minutes
- From Brandon: 43 minutes
- From New Port Richey: 36 minutes
- From Lakeland: 1 hour, 6 minutes
- From Bradenton:1 hour, 11 minutes
- From Sarasota: 1 hour, 35 minutes
- From Orlando: 2 hours