TAMPA, Fla. - The sights are stunning to say the least: a tiger swims gracefully, a lion shows off its fearsome teeth and cougars play chase.
Big Cat Rescue is a wildlife sanctuary in the heart of Tampa but it can't do the work all on it's own.
On Saturday, Action News contributor, Sean Daly got a look at the magic that happens everyday and how you can support it.
The vision for Big Cat Rescue started with one disturbing trip in 1993. Founder Carole Baskin says she and her former husband were interested in raising a couple of bobcats.
The couple found someone selling the cats in Minnesota. Baskin says when they arrived, they discovered a fur farm.
The couple bought all 56 cats in the facility to save them from being killed.
Today, the sanctuary tries to educate people about why keeping exotic animals as pets is a bad idea. In their experience, most people get exotic cats as kittens. Those kittens are manageable for about two years, then they toughen up and cost a lot more to feed. At that point, people start to abandon the exotic pets.
Baskin says some of the abuse and neglect they've seen is heartbreaking.
Baskin admits that during the early years of the sanctuary, she and her husband didn't really know what they had gotten into. The couple bred some of their cats, believing it was necessary to perserve the species.
Now Baskin wants to make sure no one else makes that mistake.
Big Cat Rescue encourages laws that forbid breeding or owning exotic pets. They've also been asked to help draft legislation.
Every year, Big Cat Rescue raises money for their cause with a Fur Ball.
This year's event takes place Friday, October 8th at the A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa.
You'll enjoy live music, a gourmet dinner and live and silent auctions. You can even bid on paintings created by some of the big cats.
Individual tickets to the Fur Ball are $150. You can also reserve a VIP table for parties of 10.
For more information, visit the sanctuary site at bigcatrescue.org
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Southbound Dale Mabry is closed from Columbus Ave. to Spruce after a pedestrian was hit and killed by a fuel tanker Friday morning. The roadway will remain closed throughout rush hour. Use Himes as an alternate route.