Reporting Bud Gillett
WYLIE (CBS 11 NEWS) - Supporters of a big cat sanctuary in Wylie are finding unusual ways to raise funds for it after a wave of viral infections killed three tigers and a lioness there and sickened some twenty other animals.
In-Sync Exotics has been hit with a wave of canine distemper illness — not feline distemper, there’s a vaccine for that — but canine distemper. And now supporters, new and old, are rallying to show their support.
They raised $18,000 Thursday for In-Sync Exotics.
“Actually I’d seen it on TV, that the animals were sick, and decided to take a ride out here,” said Hank Venturoni, who with his wife, Carol Venturoni came to In-Sync for the first time Thursday. But they wrote a check for more than double the entry fee. “I wish it could’ve been more,” Carol said, laughing, “but I told him if it was 500 it wouldn’t clear .”
Their hearts go out to the majestic beasts. The latest big cat to succumb to canine distemper was Harley, a white tiger that died Wednesday. Four animals have now died from the virus, another 18 confirmed or presumed to have it, according to media director Carol Williams. “We cannot use a canine distemper vaccine because it is a live vaccine and it could cause more damage to the big cats.”
Some animals are so ill keepers have to take the emergency step of feeding them special medicines carefully by hand. They are watched around-the-clock. Canine distemper has been found in racoons near Wylie. Williams says the sanctuary fears critters crawling over the enclosures have relieved themselvs onto play areas, “which is going to be great enrichment for the tiger, They’re going to think ‘Oh, this is a new kind of smell,’ They’re going to smell it, they’re going to roll in it, they may taste it even, and that’s all it takes.”
Williams says vet and medical bills are now pushing the six-figure mark. On Thursday an informal group of supporters held a bake sale in the lobby of a Dallas office building to help offset expenses. Usually they do this only at Christmas, but the big cats’ deaths have left them heartbroken, according to organizer Corby Bryant. “And instead of wringing our hands and crying about it we just said, ‘What can we do?’ And what we know how to do is organize a bake sale.”
At the sale, Kristen Perez folded her babysitting duties into cookie run and hopes her purchases help. “I think if everybody came and bought stuff it would help them more with their medicine.”
In-Sync Exotics says the most difficult of its unexpected expenses is the bill for four cremation services.
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