PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Many around the world have seen the Netflix documentary Tiger King, but many don’t know how one Panhandle cat sanctuary has a connection to it.
‘Tiger King’ is all about the crazy world of a few big cat owners, like Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and Doc Antle, but it’s not the story of all of them.
The Bear Creek Feline Center is a big cat sanctuary in Bay County with 21 cats in their care. They don’t have Tigers, but have many different species of cats including Lynx, Cougars, Florida Panthers, Servals and Bobcats.
They rescue animals who are retired celebrity cats and failed pet attempts.
“You’ve got some that were confiscated by the government,” Bear Creek Feline Center Director Jim Broaddus. “The government looks at us, we like to think they look at us as an asset. They don’t have a warehouse for used cats.”
Big Cat Rescue Owner Carole Baskin, who was featured in the Tiger King documentary, didn’t just call out Joe Exotic’s zoo, but many big cat places all over the country and even Bear Creek’s. In 2009, she wrote a letter to the Panama City News Herald, that was published on her blog, claiming they were not a real sanctuary and that they exploit their animals.
Broaddus said they were just another center that was bullied by her.
“Every member of the Feline Conservation Foundation,” Broaddus said.” She lowered her sights on us. She wanted to be the mother superior I think in other words, she could do this but no one else could.”
USDA licenses breeders, brokers and exhibitors, but Florida has come up with a sanctuary license which Bear Creek has.
“We are not exhibitors, we are certainly not brokers, and we don’t breed so we are therefore qualified to be a sanctuary,” Broaddus said.
Bear Creek does do small tours of the facility, but that money goes directly to the cats into their food fund.
They believe that having some contact with these big cats is not abusive and a great way to bond with the animals.
“We don’t believe in animal abuse but we don’t think that direct contact on a limited basis is abuse, and some people go over that line,” Broaddus said.
The coronavirus outbreak has also affected the center because without tours on the schedule for the foreseeable future, funds are a little smaller.
They hope they can get get tours going soon because at the end of the day, Broaddus said it’s all about the well-being of the animals.
If you would like to donate to the center, check out their website here.