39 Tigers – The Colton Tiger Rescue
John Weinhart and his sanctuary in Colton, California called Tiger Rescue started out as a home for tigers retired from the circus and entertainment industry and became a popular weekend destination for families who paid a fee to see the cats. Weinhart was often portrayed in newspaper stories and his own promotional material as a dedicated protector of wild animals. Over time, however, reports filtered into the authorities that conditions at Tiger Rescue were very disturbing and finally the authorities were forced to act.
In 2003 when sheriff’s deputies arrested Weinhart they found tiger cubs crawling around his home’s attic, two hungry tigers roaming around the porch, and behind a gate in the front yard they came across 30 dead adult tigers, some with their legs tied together and roped to discarded auto parts, presumably to starve to death. There were 58 dead cubs stuffed into freezers, as well as other exotic animals suffering from malnutrition. At the Tiger Rescue site were many more tigers crowded into filthy cages and without food or fresh water. A number of organizations came to help, with sanctuaries providing homes for the animals healthy enough to travel and the Fund for Animals stepping in to care for the animals in the worst shape on site until they could be relocated to a new home at the Performing Animal Welfare Society – PAWS – in northern California.
PAWS undertook the largest big cat rescue in U.S. history, saving 39 starving and desperate tigers. They constructed a ten-acre habitat where each tiger had its own den and no longer had to fight for food. They built out the infrastructure for the 39 tigers and moved them in stages as the habitats were completed over the course of a year and a half. At PAWS, the tigers each receive the best medical attention and are watched over by dedicated and caring keepers. They are free from fear.
They rest in the tall grass they now know is home.