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Big Cat Challenge!

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Big Cat Rescue Internship Program

Program Overview

Big Cat Rescue is home to more than 100 big cats and is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. During the course of the internship, the intern will gain valuable knowledge and working experience with small cats including; Siberian lynx, Canada lynx, bobcat, serval, caracal, ocelot, jungle cat, leopard cat, geoffroy cat, hybrids and other small animals. While Big Cat Rescue is home to lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, and sand cats, these animals are not cared for by interns, although there are opportunities to observe these cats. (Cougars also reside at the sanctuary and opportunities to care for this species are available to Level II Interns). The intern program consists of up to 15 interns.

Animal Husbandry Internships are 12-week terms and are full-time non-paid positions. Interns work a 5-6 day workweek of 50+ hours. Interns are required to work weekends and holidays, as these are the busiest times at the sanctuary. 1-2 days off per week are assigned by the Operations Manager and are based on the needs of the sanctuary.

There are two levels of internship available within the animal husbandry department. Level I internships are available to a broad range of applicants and designed to provide a base line of learning. This level is introductory and is geared towards individuals with little to no exotic animal experience. All interns begin the program as Level I. Level II internships offer an extended experience continuing Level I training for an additional 12-week term and include additional training in the care of cougars. A small stipend is available for Level II interns to help defray the cost of living. Acceptance into the Level II program is contingent upon the unanimous agreement of the Selection Committee. An intern that is accepted into the Level II Internship must return no later than three months from the end of the Level I Internship.

Level I Internship Training

Level I Intern training classes include the following are offered within the first four weeks of the internship;

Tour Back Up, Gate Operation, and Guest Relations: Teaches the safety procedures and guidelines for assisting with guided tours of the sanctuary, proper operation of the gates, and guest sign in procedures. Offered 1st week.
Human First Aid: Protocol and techniques for minor wounds and health conditions.
Animal Emergency: Standard operating procedures for an injured animal or animal escape.
Animal Observation: Identify and document signs of an ailing animal.
Small Cat Cleaning: Protocol and techniques for cleaning the small cat and other small animal enclosures.
Events: Represent and promote Big Cat Rescue and its mission offsite.
Kids Tour Guide: Guidelines for leading kids tours of the sanctuary to educate families about the big cats. Information is given at a child’s level of understanding.
Tour Guide: Guidelines for leading day tours of the sanctuary to spread the mission of the sanctuary and to educate the public about the cats both in captivity and in the wild.

Level I Intern training classes include the following are offered after successful completion of four weeks within the internship program;

Enrichment: Create and hand out enrichment items to the small cats and other small animals.
Operant Training: Reward desired behaviors of the small cats and other small animals using clicker training.
Small Cat Feeding: Protocol and techniques for feeding the small cats.

Level I Internship Duties

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to; enclosure cleaning, diet preparation, feeding, enrichment, and operant conditioning for the following species: Siberian and Canada lynx, bobcat, serval, caracal, ocelot, jungle cat, leopard cat, geoffroy cat, hybrids and other small animals. Live prey and domestic cat care. Grounds maintenance including; enclosure renovations, landscaping, general clean up, building and vehicle maintenance. Administrative duties including; assisting with and guiding tours, gift shop tasks, summer camp, and data entry. Training new interns and volunteers.

Level II Internship Training

Cougar Cleaning: Protocol and techniques for cleaning the cougar enclosures.
Special Tour Guide: Guidelines for leading the tour guide portion of the Feeding and Keeper Tours

Level II Internship Duties

Level II Interns continue on with their training and duties from Level I as well as clean cougar enclosures (as needed, based on availability), lead animal husbandry duties and projects, ensure the maintenance of intern housing, and additional duties assigned by the Operations Manager.


Big Cat Rescue provides free intern housing for up to 15 interns. All interns have their own private bedrooms, access to local phone lines, Internet service, access to a shared computer and shared kitchen and T.V. areas. Intern housings are smoke, alcohol, and drug free environments. Smoking areas are provided outside of the housings. Staff may reside in Intern Housings. Housings accommodate up to four people. Housings are for staff and interns only; guests are not permitted on the property or within the housings. Some housings may have domestic cats residing inside that are being fostered by the staff or interns for adoption. Interns are permitted to live off-site in their own accommodations at their own expense. All interns are responsible for the cost of their own food, transportation, and log distance phone calls.

Additional Benefits

Staff or volunteers may coordinate special field trips to take interns and volunteers to other animal related facilities in the area. This is a great opportunity for interns to gain knowledge and experience in other areas of the field. These trips are scheduled randomly and are not a guaranteed part of the internship program.


Animal Care: No animal abuse of any kind will be tolerated (this includes teasing) which is grounds for immediate dismissal. No food or toys shall be offered to any animal without prior approval from a Staff or Committee Member. No animal shall ever be removed from its cage or enclosure without the expressed consent of the Staff or a Committee Member.
Safety: No part of your person shall come within three feet of any enclosure or pass through the wire of the enclosure. Under no circumstances is any person to run or horseplay on the property. Any person feeling under the weather should contact the Coordinator to notify of an absence. Cell phones are to be left in the intern’s housings or Volunteer Sign In; however, if the intern is expecting an urgent call and must carry a cell phone, absolutely no calls will be answered while behind the barricades.
Interns must complete the Big Cat Rescue Intern Orientation and are upheld to the same rules and standards as all volunteers.
Interns must wear an Intern Shirt and their two-way Motorolla radio at all times while on the sanctuary grounds. These are provided to the intern at the start of the internship. The radio must be returned to Big Cat Rescue in good working order at the end of the internship.
Interns must check the Important Updates section of the site daily before beginning their work to check for crucial information and updates regarding the animals and the sanctuary.
Interns are allowed one vehicle for personal transportation and must be parked in approved intern parking area. Interns with vehicles must assist interns without transportation with grocery store trips.
There is a 11 PM curfew for interns living in Intern Housing. Interns must be onsite and in their own assigned housing at this time.
Interns living in Intern Housings are depended upon for nighttime and during closed hours for emergency situations and are not permitted to spend nights offsite for the duration of the internship.
The housing is a smoke-free, alcohol-free and drug-free environment. The consumption of alcohol or illegal substances is not permitted for the duration of the internship. Smoking is permitted in designated smoking areas only.
Part time jobs or classes are not permitted for the duration of the internship.
Tardiness and unscheduled absences will not be tolerated.
Security of the residency access gate will be maintained at all times. Any compromise of this security, including the disclosure of codes or the sharing of keys, will result in removal from the program.


No Contact: Big Cat Rescue is a strict no contact facility. While interns work among the cats and other animals at the sanctuary there is no physical contact with any animal at any time.

Vet Care: Our animals are in natural habitats, with limited human contact, thus our routine veterinary care consists of monthly parasite preventatives and vaccinations. Interns that are Certified in Small Cat Feeding may have the opportunity to assist with the preparation of diets containing monthly and quarterly de-wormer. Flea prevention treatments, vaccinations, and all other non-routine veterinary care procedures are performed by the veterinarian and the staff. Opportunities to observe non-routine veterinary procedures are infrequent are not guaranteed. Observation opportunities are decided on a case by case basis and decisions are based on the following criteria; risk and safety of humans and animals, space available at the site of the procedure, intern’s behavior and work ethic, and the personality of the animal. Interns pursuing a career in the veterinary field may receive priority but this is not guaranteed.

Internship Requirements

Must be a minimum of 18 years of age.
Big Cat Rescue is an English speaking facility. Interns must be fluent in the English language with spoken and written comprehension.
Must possess vision and hearing at adequate levels.
Must give complete disclosure of any prescription drugs and physical limitations.
Interns must be able to financially support themselves for the duration of the internship. Interns are responsible for the cost of their own food, transportation, and long distance phone calls.
Due to the demands of the internship position, part-time jobs or night classes are not permitted for the duration of the internship.
The work is physical and primarily performed outdoors in all types of weather. Good health and endurance are requi red. Interns must be able to lift and carry 50 pounds and walk or stand for extended periods of time.
Interns must obtain a tetanus vaccination, at their own expense, that will be good for the duration of the internship, prior to participating in the internship program and must submit proof of vaccination.

Internship Fees

A $50 fee is required to be paid upon confirmation of the interview session. This non-refundable fee is for the cost of a criminal background check.
A deposit of $150 must be submitted upon acceptance into the program and another deposit of $150 must be submitted on the first day of the internship. These deposits hold the internship slot and insure against failure to complete the internship or damages to the housings. Upon successful completion of the program and inspection of housings the intern will receive both deposits back. Deposits are collected in the form of cred it card number or check.


Big Cat Rescue can only accommodate 15 interns at any given time. Applications are accepted year round.
It is recommended that you apply no later than three months prior to your desired start date, but applications will be accepted anytime. Acceptance into the program is on a rolling basis throughout the year and is based on the availability of housing and applicants.

If you would like to apply for the Big Cat Rescue Internship Program please complete the intern application and submit the required documents. (Email is preferred)

Your application packet must contain:
Intern Application
Cover letter
3 Professional letters of recommendation
A copy of your driver’s license or passport

Please send your application packet at least 3 months prior to the desired start date. Please provide all of the requested information in your application packet or your application will not be considered.

Within 2 weeks of receiving your application packet the Intern Manager will review it. The best applicants will then be contacted to schedule an interview session for a date that best corresponds to when you are intending to begin an internship. You will choose an interview session date and confirm with the Intern manager. A $50 application fee will then be required to hold your session dates and to perform a criminal background check.
All U.S. and Canada residents are required to participate in an onsite interview session. These sessions are two days in length, starting at 8:30 on Friday morning thru mid-day Saturday. During your interview session you will take a tour of the sanctuary, shadow interns and volunteers, stay in intern housing if available (if not available the applicant must book a hotel and transportation to the sanctuary at their own expense), and interview with members of the Big Cat Rescue Intern Selection Committee. Interview sessions are by appointment only. Phone interviews will be conducted for non U.S. and Canada residents only.

After your interview session a criminal background check will be performed. If you pass the criminal background check, you will hear from us within 3-4 weeks and will be notified as to whether or not you have been accepted. You will then be given a list of internship start dates to choose from.

Once you have confirmed your start date with the Intern Manager, a $150 deposit will be required to hold your start date. Upon
your first day another $150 deposit will be required at the time of signing your contract. At the end of the internship, the entire $300 will be returned to you. These deposits are taken in the form of a check or credit card number, and will only be kept if you confirm your acceptance of the internship and cancel or do not show up on your start date, or if you are terminated from the program early due to breach of contract, or if you damage Big Cat Rescued property or intern housing.


Submit specific questions regarding the intern program via email to Chelsea Feeny, Intern Intake Manager at [email protected]

Big Cat Rescue Internship Program Contact

Chelsea Feeny
Big Cat Rescue Intern Intake Manager
12802 Easy Street
Tampa, FL 33625
[email protected]

Big Cat Rescue is the world’s largest accredited sanctuary that is dedicated entirely to exotic cats.