Support animal sanctuaries
It seems like the whole world is abuzz after Netflix released a popular docuseries last month. The show is successful for many reasons, particularly COVID-19 which practically requires non-essential employees to spend all their time at home. You know what else is at home? Netflix and its crown jewel, Tiger King.†
If youíve seen the series, I donít have to tell you itís a wild ride. Joe Exotic is made for TV, and not only because he has spent his life in search of the spotlight. He is a ridiculous person who appears larger than life, with his two husbands, lots of drugs and countless exotic animals. He curses and shoots guns with abandon. A classic narcissist, Joe knows what to do to get people talking about him in his home base of Oklahoma and beyond.†
His archnemesis, Carole Baskin, runs an animal sanctuary called Big Cat Rescue in Florida. Her husband Don mysteriously disappeared years ago and she inherited the bulk of his wealth, which he accrued from decades of working as a loan shark. Joe thinks Carole killed Don, and heís not the only one. Iím not so sure. It seems to me that a lifelong loan shark might have enemies outside of his immediate family.†
Throughout the series, Carole and Joe constantly spar over which one of them has the correct approach toward taking care of exotic animals. Because the feud is so personal, itís easy for folks sitting on their couch to equate Joe and Caroleís operations. But in that regard, they arenít even close to the same.†
While her personal history is certainly sketchy, Carole runs an accredited animal sanctuary. Joe does not, not by a long shot. Joe is depicted breeding exotic animals, taking money from people who want to pet cubs and shooting at†wild animals that dare act like wild animals. You might say youíd shoot at a tiger that was trying to attack you, too, but I have to wonder if youíd get in the cage in the first place.
At the end of the series, the message is clear. Exotic animals do not belong in cages. The thing is, these animals canít be returned to the wild after they are born and bred in captivity. They donít have the same ability to thrive as exotic animals already in the wild do. Many of these animals have been routinely drugged or malnourished, making it necessary for them to have lifelong care in accredited animal sanctuaries.
We have one of those in our own back yard. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge takes in exotic animals that have been bred for captivity and gives them compassionate care and large, natural habitats. Turpentine Creek regularly rescues animals from facilities like those run by Joe Exotic and Doc Antle. I am thankful for the refuge and all the animal sanctuaries like it that give kind, lifelong care to big cats that have been abused and discarded. To be clear, Big Cat Rescue is one of those sanctuaries.
Ideally, all exotic animals would live in the wild. Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where psychopaths like Joe Exotic breed exotic animals like house cats, often euthanizing many of these animals because of overcrowding. According to interviews with Joeís employees, Joe would sometimes shoot big cats dead just because he felt like it. Those animals deserve the best, but once they have been born in captivity, all big cat sanctuaries can offer them is better.
This week, I urge you to support animal sanctuaries like Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Big Cat Rescue. If we can take anything away from Tiger King, itís that exotic animals deserve better.