Tigers in America (TIA) is an all-volunteer organization headquartered in New York. TIA started by rescuing captive tigers from abusive and vulnerable situations in America but has since expanded its operations globally. TIA ensures every Tiger receives lifetime care from discovery to sanctuary in a safe, forever home. Founded in 2011, with a specific focus on captive tigers in the United States, TIA expanded its efforts to include all big cats (lions, leopards, cheetahs, cougars, and jaguars) in 2017, added bears and wolves in 2020, and in 2021 began work in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.
TIA has participated in the rescue of 430 captive big cats, including Joe Exotic’s shutdown (of Netflix’s Tiger King). TIA funds transportation, veterinary care, tiger rehabilitation, food, logistics, equipment rental, and construction of tiger enclosures at the 15 TIA named Sanctuaries that have met a long list of criteria to qualify as a TIA sanctuary.
In the 11 years TIA has been working on the captive tiger breeding and abuse problem, 73 of the 306 “Roadside” zoos in the United States have closed. Ringling Brothers circus shut down its operations in 2017, and 23 of the 35 remaining circuses have closed or have stopped using tigers. TIA estimates tiger breeding (the main reason there are thousands of captive tigers in the United States) has been reduced by 50% since 2011.
Replicating and Extending the TIA Strategy
Learning from rescue experiences has provided TIA with practical, effective, and replicable strategies in its big cat rescue program. TIA’s approach to its very successful program includes these criteria:
Tigers Elsewhere in the World (e.g., Ukraine)
The Ukraine Animal Rescue, Relief & Rebuild Coalition’s (U3R) strategy focuses on these focus areas – Rescue, Relief & Rebuild. Although this program’s design focus areas are distinct, they are related, often occur concurrently, and should be linked as much as possible to the vision of rebuilding. TIA embraces this approach:
If the plan begins and works with tigers, it can be expanded to all big cats, all predators, and finally to all zoo animals. It would replicate what TIA has accomplished in the USA at some level.
TIA became involved with another case involving a roadside zoo and cub-petting operation near Colorado Springs in Calhan. Serenity Springs was typical of places where one could go to have one’s picture taken with a tiger cub. When launched in 1993 by Karen Sculac, the operation was an aspiring sanctuary. However, Karen died unexpectedly in 2006, and her husband took over. By 2015, Serenity Springs was still listed as a sanctuary but was now a full-blown tiger breeding, selling, and cub-petting operation. It was also for sale. TIA, partnering with another sanctuary in Arkansas, bought Serenity Springs and all of the 114 animals on the property, including 74 tigers. All the animals were relocated to TIA partner sanctuaries, and the property was then sold.
Serenity Springs’ most emotionally damaged tiger was a young female named “Chainsaw.” She had been acquired from Joe Exotic (The Tiger King of the Netflix documentary). She never rested in the presence of people and charged the fence if any male human approached. She was in the last group that moved out of Serenity Springs to PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) in California. PAWS is regarded as one of the most successful TIA partner sanctuaries.
Two months after her arrival, TIA received an update on Chainsaw from Ed Stewart and Dr. Gai at PAWS. Her name and her life have changed. “Sawyer” now spends a lot of time relaxing in the sun on her favorite platform that overlooks a valley of tall grass. She greeted all PAWS caregivers with a welcoming “chuff.” She is finally home and at peace.
“Tigers have not lost their ability to fascinate, we should not lose our ability to care.”
~Bill Nimmo, TIA Co-Founder
“When we actually see a tiger being released into its new home, that first step on grass, you can see their sense of wonder.”
~Kizmin Reeves, TIA Co-Founder