Animal sanctuaries in Arkansas and Missouri respond to Netflix's 'Tiger King'

Published: Mar. 31, 2020 at 2:48 PM CDT
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From breeding tigers, to killing them, Netflix's "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness," is introducing us to the horrors of the big cat industry people like Tanya Smith know all too well.

"I thought it was pretty crazy just to see everything that we've been dealing with these types of people for 28 years," she said.

Smith runs Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, where tigers and other animals that were held in captivity and cannot be released find a loving home for the rest of their lives.

That's a far cry from what Smith and other sanctuaries in the Ozarks have seen from main character Joe Exotic. Turpentine Creek's staff worries people will make assumptions about what they do based on Netflix.

"Big Cat Rescue, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, we're all nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to saving these animals. And they left that part out. And the other people are for-profit and exploiting those animals for money," said Emily McCormack, an animal curator at Turpentine Creek.

Turpentine Creek and the National Tiger Sanctuary south of Ozark do let people pay to see their cats, but it's from a distance.

"Our people are always behind two fences so they're never where they could touch a cat," said Keith Kinkade, a co-founder of National Tiger Sanctuary.

"We take in tigers generally that are older, or there is something wrong with them. They're ones that happened to live through pay-for-play and live past getting to the black market for some reason," said Judy McGee, a co-founder of National Tiger Sanctuary.

The co-founders of National Tiger Sanctuary said they are glad the show brought the issue of exotic trading, breeding, and cub-petting to light.

The pandemic has both sanctuaries closed for now. That means their main source of revenue is gone, as are the chances to reach people face-to-face and show them you can't believe everything you see online.

"We've been open 364 days of the year since 1992, so for us to be closed, we are taking this very serious and we want to keep our staff and animals safe through all this," Smith said.

You can always do your own research about zoos or sanctuaries online, and the USDA does also have inspection reports online as well.

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