Tigers in America


In the summer of 2011 we received a call saying there were tigers in a bankrupt Texas sanctuary that would be euthanized by the end of the year. The bankruptcy proceeding had been going on since 2010, and while other animals had been placed no one wanted or could accept the tigers. Travel to San Antonio and conversations with authorities led to the release of 7 tigers that we had transported to Sanctuaries in Florida and North Carolina.

Convinced it was an isolated incident we returned to New York City and resumed the routine of our day jobs. And the phone rang "are you the people that got the tigers out of Texas, we have a problem here in Ohio, the owner can't feed her tigers and she is suicidal can you help" So we went to Ohio to get 6 tigers out of Angela's back yard. Followed by calls from Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, and Wisconsin, the Texas tiger situation was not unique. As we would come to find out, they were caught in the tiger breeding business. It is legal in this country to commercially breed tigers for Roadside Zoos that buy them for exhibition or to sell them to private owners who buy them for amusement. There are thousands of tigers out there. While it was news to us, the breeding and trafficking in exotic animals has been going on for years, so we thought there must be some organizations that already deal with this problem.

Our search led us to Animal Rescue places who could not take them because they were too dangerous, and to Zoos who would not take them because they were not pure bred. Tiger breeding had spilled out of the zoo system in the 1980s when zoos dumped their surplus tigers to animal dealers who cross bred them (Bengal to Amur or Sumatran or Malaysian) and began selling them. Any tiger you see in this country outside the zoo system is considered "generic" and therefore has no conservation value which is why the zoos won't take them. We spoke to Wildlife Charities headquartered in this country with Save the Tiger Programs, they collectively raise $500 million a year. But they don't do rescues and have no interest because tigers in this country are not in their native environment.

So if you are a tiger, the product of 2 million years of evolution, the largest cat on the planet, no predators other than man, and you live in this country you will probably spend your life in a Roadside Zoo waiting for food and die of neglect because you have bad genes and you were born in this country.

We tend to be optimistic and believe we live in a prosperous and compassionate country, we found two Sanctuaries to take the Texas tigers, we just needed to find more. Our search for other places led to a report that identified 130 facilities in the United States listed as Sanctuaries with tigers. However, there is no restriction on the use of the word Sanctuary in a corporate name, so any breeder, exhibitor, dealer or roadside zoo can set up a company, acquire tax exempt status, advertise and solicit donations as a tiger sanctuary.

We formed Tigers in America and spent the next 2 years visiting Sanctuaries on the list and identified what we consider to be the best tiger Sanctuaries in the country and created the TIA Rescue Network. In the past 8 years we have relocated 250 tigers and other big cats. The 17 TIA Sanctuaries provide lifetime care for 500 tigers.