Safety Measures and Precautions
Escapes are something that no one wants to think about. Even if no one were hurt, which they probably would not be, it would have tragic consequences for all the cats at Tiger Haven. No one wants a loose cat any less then we do, so we must always be alert and prepared for its occurrence.
Redundancy is built in to prevent error. Elaborate precautions are taken anytime a gate is opened or a cat is moved to another enclosure, and only trained personnel can enter any enclosure with a cat.
At Tiger Haven, safety is a state of mind which we cannot convey here, but we can illustrate some of the procedures and precautions we strictly adhere to
All personnel carry commercial two-way radios at all times. A frequency has been assigned by the FCC to Tiger Haven for our use only.
In the event of an accident, the radios can notify everyone at the same time so that pre-planned actions can be initiated.
Nine experienced handlers live on Tiger Haven property. There are never less than two qualified handlers on premises at all times.
Each of the handlers has several years of hands-on experience with the big cats. We also know the personalities and behaviors of each cat, and what would be necessary in the event of a mishap.
All suspect trees that would damage fencing if they were to fall have been removed. In addition, the design of the enclosure fencing is such that a spring effect would take place in the event that a tree would fall on it and not come down entirely.
The enclosure and perimeter fencing is formally inspected three times each day, including the first thing each morning and the last thing each evening. If repairs are necessary they are done immediately. No gate is left open and unattended.
No person goes into an enclosure alone with the cats. One person backs up the other and makes sure that all procedures are followed.
A formal escape plan is on file with the State of Tennessee. We have different procedures for different cats. For example, for many of the cats it would simply be a matter of walking up, putting on a leash, and walking the cat back to the enclosure. Others, who would be dangerous to us, would have to be tranquilized immediately. At no time could any cat be allowed outside the perimeter fence.
We maintain all the tools and materials needed in the event of an escape in a designated location. This includes CO2 powered dart rifles and pistols, blow guns, fast-acting tranquilizers, rope, white plastic sheeting, stuffed toys, and high-power firearms.
The purpose of most of these items is obvious, but you are probably wondering about the stuffed toys, right?
Many times, when a cat does not want to go from one place to another, from an enclosure to a transport cage for example, we get their attention with a stuffed teddy bear or the like. Then all we have to do is walk along the fence with the stuffed toy and they can not resist following it.
The same would be true if the toy was tied to a rope and pulled where ever you wanted the cat to go.
White plastic sheeting is used to divert the cat. If they cannot see what is on the other side, they will not go over or through it.
All the staff at Tiger Haven is trained in the use of these items and is qualified as experts.
In the event of high winds the cats are put into their feeding lock-outs, which they are accustomed to entering when we call them. These lockouts were designed to withstand the force of falling trees.
All enclosure gates stay closed, chained and locked at all times except when passing through.
Double Gate Entries
All entrances into the enclosures that are used by people have double gates. When the first gate is passed through, it is closed and locked before the second gate is opened. That way there is never an opening to the outside that a cat could escape through.
Gates in the perimeter fence stay closed, chained and locked at all times. Including the front gate. That way someone cannot just happen to wander in without the knowledge of Tiger Haven staff, and get their finger bitten off because they wanted to touch the pretty cat while no one was around.
When cats are transported from one location within the facility to another, they are never outside an enclosure. Our enclosures have lock-ups and gates to the adjacent enclosures so that we can move most of the cats without their leaving an enclosure.
When it is necessary for the cat to be moved outside a permanent enclosure, is done with an approved, steel-bar rolling cage. That way, the cats are always contained and never loose within the compound.
Tiger Haven maintains four transport vehicles, a van for transporting a cat already inside a cage, and a specially modified horse trailer, and a wagon designed to transport eight cats in separate compartments.
The van is equipped with emergency lights and cage lock-downs to the van to prevent movement.
The trailer has added reinforcing steel to strengthen the structure, locking partitions and slide gates to facilitate the safe transfer of the cats, and side shields to keep paws inside and curious fingers outside.