Tigers in America®
Ukraine Rescue, Relief & Rebuild
Consortium Partner

Tigers in America®

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 Rebuilding Tiger Lives

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

TIA Providing Relief

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:

  1. Identify Good Sanctuaries – These facilities meet TIA Standards and are willing to take additional rescued tigers. TIA funds upgrades and additional enclosures to increase capacity for rescued big cats.
  2. Notify animal management agencies – In the US, TIA works with US Federal agencies, US state animal management agencies, and local county sheriffs. TIA communicates with the appropriate agency to offer their support to rescue the captive tigers. Furthermore, TIA will offer to help fund their transport to acceptable Sanctuaries. TIA will support necessary veterinary care once the tigers have reached a proper sanctuary.
  3. Empowering rescuers from bad situations – When law enforcement knows there is a sanctuary that will take a rescued tiger, they are willing to help rescue tigers from bad situations. Such rescues end the suffering and ensure protection for first responders and the general public when a big cat gets loose.
  4. Expand scope – Learning from each rescue, TIA has slowly begun replicating its program and expanding its portfolio to rescue other big cats and dangerous animals.


Tigers Elsewhere in the World (e.g., Ukraine)

TIA utilizing aircraft in rescue

TIA utilizing aircraft in rescue

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:

  • Rescues: In all wars and disasters, priority should be given to people. This effort is generally followed by rescue and assistance for animals. Much has happened since the response in the US to the Hurricane Katrina disaster when people in New Orleans asked for assistance with their companion animals. The tragedy in Ukraine has also produced stories of people rescuing their pets and helping to feed animals (such as sanctuary and zoo animals) who have been caught up in the war. The large and dangerous predator zoo residents are the most difficult to move. If a relocation system were to be set up to move the tigers out of Ukraine, such an operation would help stimulate the relocation of all sanctuary and zoo animals. The tigers and lions are the most at risk. Occupying soldiers are curious when they first come upon a zoo but ultimately get bored and use the big cats for target practice and trophies.
  • Relief: Relief consists of finding temporary space in neighboring countries and providing food and veterinary care. Obtaining approval to move these animals to other countries will vary by country and be time-consuming. Furthermore, relocated facilities may need to be refitted or expanded to add additional residents.
  • Rebuild: Perhaps a silver lining to an otherwise desperate situation is that many of the existing captive animal facilities will have to rebuild after the war. This rebuild could provide an opportunity to transform these facilities into Sanctuaries. However, we do not suspect there will be many takers. Unfortunately, tiger breeding is also common in Eastern Europe (as it has been in the United States). Many big cat holders participate in a tiger breeding network that supplies tigers for petting exhibits and private ownership across Europe. TIA plans to adopt the same strategy in Europe that it has deployed in the United States, where TIA operations provide safe alternatives to exploiting the big cats.

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.

Chainsaw and Serenity Springs Rescue
Excerpted from Saving Tigers in America: Part 2

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.

Sawyer in her new home.

Sawyer in her new home.

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

Updates from Tigers in America

From William Nimmo, TIA Co-Founder:

TIA continues to demonstrate it capacity to rescue, transport and relocate tigers and lions to their final sanctuary homes, most recently in Canada. TIA is currently assisting with  the rescue, transportation and relocation of large animals in Ukraine.

Organizational Information

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