San Diego's ONLY Accredited Big Cat and Bear Sanctuary
Established in 2002, by Founder and Director, Bobbi Brink, Lions Tigers & Bears is a NO KILL, NO BREED, NO CONTACT animal rescue, sanctuary and educational facility located in east San Diego County. As one of the few exotic animal sanctuaries in the United States accredited by both the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries
and the American Sanctuary Association
, we abide by the strict standards of care set forth by these accrediting bodies, ensuring all animals in our charge are provided with the utmost care, compassion and attention.
Lions Tigers & Bears is situated on 93 acres just outside of Alpine, California, on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest. Located at an elevation of about 4,000 feet, this idyllic countryside provides peace and tranquility for our rescued animals to live out their lives with dignity in a safe and caring environment. Currently, twenty acres are developed with species-specific habitats for our big cats and bears with plans to expand further as additional funds are raised.
Lions Tigers & bears is home to more than 60 rescued animals and 19 species, including lions, tigers, American and Himalayan black bears, grizzly bears, bobcats, mountain lions, leopards, an African serval, llamas, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, a miniature horse, miniature donkey, peacocks, and a macaw. Lions Tigers & Bears is a model sanctuary, offering the highest standards of care for rescued exotic animals. Our sanctuary features an administrative and volunteer office, a feed room, a barn, pasture, and a state of the art medical facility. With room to grow, we hope to provide more lifetime homes to abused and abandoned exotic animals in need of a better tomorrow.
Background - How did Lions Tigers & Bears Get Started - and WHY?
In the beginning
Bobbi Brink started Lions Tigers & Bears in 2002, after witnessing first-hand the neglectful and abusive treatment of exotic animals held in captivity outside of zoos. When her research led her to discover that there are more tigers living in backyards, basements and roadside zoos than in the wild, and that you could buy a big cat for less than a purebred domestic cat from indiscriminate breeders, with no tracking or oversight, she knew she had found her calling.
The first two residents of Lions Tigers & Bears were Raja and Natasha, two full-grown tigers who were being kept in a 6'x12' concrete and chain link enclosure, where they had survived for 5 long years in a Texas backyard. Authorities were ready to confiscate the two cats; however Bobbi heard their story and knew she needed to do something to help them - and quick. In less than 30 days, she was able to secure the permitting, funding, transportation and appropriate housing to rescue the cats from deplorable conditions and bring them to their new home in California.
An enclosure was built on a friend's 93-acre property, adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest in Alpine, California - just 45 minutes from downtown San Diego. With no direct water source, water and food were brought in daily for the two tigers. The owner of the property saw Bobbi's dedication and commitment to the cats, and offered Bobbi and her husband Mark the opportunity to purchase the 93-acre parcel. Shortly after, it became apparent that Natasha was in the motherly way, and after a few weeks of arriving at the sanctuary, Sitarra and Tabu were born, and Lions Tigers & Bears had its first family. Raja, Natasha, Sitarra and Tabu are the legacy and foundation of Lions Tigers & Bears.
Now with four tigers - and a permanent and spacious property to grow from - Lions Tigers & Bears slowly and steadily shaped into the sanctuary that we know and love today. In those early days, non-profit status was filed and obtained, and Bobbi began exploring how the sanctuary would continue to expand its reach for more animals in need. As government funding is not available for animal rescues, donations from friends and family were the first source of revenue for Lions Tigers & Bears. A couple of news coverage stories by the San Diego Union Tribune and the award-winning, beloved local newscaster, Larry Himmel of CBS-8 began to capture the attention and hearts of local supporters. And just like that - San Diego had its first and only big cat and exotic animal rescue facility.
The rest of the story
Building a non-profit sanctuary is one thing; sustaining it is quite another story. Since that time, the plight of exotic animals in private ownership and the public safety issues it brings has become more well-known. Many states have passed legislation to regulate ownership and breeding, but with that, the demand for legitimate sanctuaries has grown - and most sanctuaries are often filled to capacity. To this day there is still no federal law regulating the private ownership of inherently dangerous wild and exotic animals like lions, tigers and bears. Zoos do not generally take in rescue animals whose background and lineage cannot be verified, because such animals have "no conservation value" and do not align with their species-survival plan (breeding program).
All of which means that our work is never done. It is a constant challenge and sometimes a struggle to raise the funding required to continue the work we began.
Through the hard work of a network of caring volunteers and staff Lions Tigers & Bears has expanded to provide a forever home to more than 60 animals. Through media exposure, fundraising events, private foundation grants and loyal donors, we have earned a reputation of a model sanctuary, and hold the highest accreditation from the Global Federation of
Animal Sanctuaries and the American Sanctuary Association.
Lions Tigers & Bears goes beyond helping animals rescued by our sanctuary. We are one of few sanctuaries in the United States that has the equipment and capacity to coordinate the rescue of exotics in need of permanent refuge. Since 2010, our team has coordinated the rescue of more than 240 big cats, bears, wolves and other exotics from across the United States - providing medical care and transport to lifetime homes at reputable sanctuaries including our own. Lions Tigers & Bears is called upon several times a year by law enforcement, first responders and other sanctuaries to assist in the relocation of abused animals throughout the country.