The Expected and The Unexpected

What Causes Animal Establishments to Close?

August 20, 2019

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, before it held the name, was started when founders Hilda and Don Jackson rescued Bum, a lion who had been traded to an individual in lieu of a debt and was slowly withering away chained up outside with a tree as his only shelter. Some years later, they took on a larger rescue when a black-market exotic animal dealer needed to ditch her hoard of big cats while on the run from the police. Since then, the Turpentine Creek team has encountered a number of different scenarios causing animals to seek lifetime refuge with us.

When exotic animals, especially large carnivores, have no place to go, finding them a home is tricky. Pulling up to your local animal shelter with a tiger in tow is not recommended! True sanctuaries like TCWR exist as, in essence, types of specialized animal shelters. In the past, we have quite literally had owners of big cats and bears show up at our front door with these huge creatures sitting unsecured in the beds of their trucks! Other times, we have rescued from closing facilities.

What causes an establishment to close its doors can vary. Most recently, Wildlife Waystation in California announced its upcoming termination. While some news sources allege “financial and management difficulty” as a reason, all writings on the matter attribute fire and flood damage as the leading cause. The facility suffered at the flames of the state’s 2017 Creek Fire; it never truly recovered when it was hit by significant flooding in early 2019. Since then, the organization has struggled to make much-needed and mounting repairs while continuing to care for their nearly 500 animals. In early August, they agreed to allow state officials to step in and begin rehoming processes.

Like natural disasters, illness is another uncontrollable factor that can lead to an organization’s demise and the uncertain futures of hundreds of animals. The Colorado Rescue began when the cub-petting/breeding operation’s owner was battling cancer and could no longer operate the park. Thankfully, the Turpentine Team was able to team up with Tigers in America (TIA) to facilitate the rescue and rehoming of 115 animals to 15 different reputable sanctuaries, including our own. A similar situation happened in 2012, in Mountainburg, AR. when the owner of a breeding facility couldn’t care for her animals due to failing health and age. We were called in and had to build 20 habitats in 128 days, an area now known as Rescue Ridge, to accommodate the massive influx of animals needing a home on short notice. When animals are in need, Turpentine Creek steps up, with the help of our supporters, to make sure the animals have a forever home with us.

Sometimes, situations occur out of nowhere. In other instances, it seems to be only a matter of time before some places suspend operations for good. Just last week, over 100 animals were seized from Wilson’s Wild Animal Park, a roadside zoo in Virginia said to have a “history of complaints.” State and local officials began the seizures amid animal cruelty allegations. Prior to the closure, which may not be permanent, federal inspectors had written the park up on numerous occasions. Investigative efforts continue to gather information for Wilson’s Wild Animal Park’s August 29 court hearing.   

As a true sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the risk of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge’s closure due to improper care of our animal residents doesn’t exist. Hearing news of closures caused by the unforeseen, such as natural disasters and illness, makes us aware of how quickly things can take a turn for the worst, but also reminds us of how grateful we are for our supporters, like you! While we have disaster plans and plans for nearly every what-if scenario, you are the ones who truly provide security for our animal residents. Because of you, not only can we respond quickly and efficiently when animals are left homeless, but we also know that should catastrophe knock on our door, we can continue providing quality care for our Survivors of the Trade. For that, we can’t thank you enough.

Wildlife Waystation Rescue Status: Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is prepared to help as needed with the rescue of the animals at this facility providing housing, transport, or both for animals in need. We do have space available for some animals currently, but distance, heat, and other facility space closer to Wildlife Waystation are determining factors in where animals will be placed.  At this time, we are just making sure we are prepared at our facility in the event that we are asked to assist with this rescue. As the rescue situation develops, we will keep our supporters updated on what we know.