5-Minute Interview: Howard Baskin, chairman, Big Cat rescue
In 1992, Carole Baskin received a baby bobcat as a pet by her then husband. Neither knew then that it was a bad idea. When they went to buy a second one, they ended up at what they didn’t realize at the time was a “fur farm” that raised bobcats and lynxes to slaughter for fur coats.
Once she figured it out, Carole bought the farm’s entire inventory of 56 bobcat and lynx kittens in return for an understanding that the owners would stop making cats into coats.
“Initially she thought they could make good pets and believed the breeders who said they were breeding to ‘preserve the species,’ says Howard Baskin, Carole’s current husband and chairman of Tampa, Fla.-based Big Cat Rescue, which Carole founded.
“A few cats of other species were purchased in those early days, and there was a limited amount of breeding,” Baskin explains. “But as Carole gained experience with the animals and learned more about what their typical life was like in captivity, the philosophy of the sanctuary changed dramatically and has continued to evolve. After the initial cats arrived, people began calling asking her to take cats of various species.”
Today, Baskin says, the rescue is home to 145 cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, bobcats, lynxes and others.
Here, FS talks with Baskin about the refuge and the fundraising that FundRaising Success: How do you fund your mission? What fundraising avenues do you use?
Howard Baskin: Our two primary sources of income are guided tours of the sanctuary and donations, mostly from individuals. Secondary sources include an annual gala called the Fur Ball, a gift shop, online gift-shop sales, an ink-recycle program, and a cell tower on the property. We have done almost no direct-mail solicitation of donations, relying primarily on our informative quarterly newsletter and the Web.