Lions. Tigers, and Bears, Oh, My!

| September 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

Jodie Cavenaugh organized one of our best field trips ever for the Mission Hills Garden Club.  We visited Lions, Tigers, & Bears, a sanctuary in Alpine for rescued exotic and abused animals.  We boarded a very nice bus in front of the nursery.  Several of us brought grandchildren who were old enough to behave completely appropriately.  The adults were well behaved as well.

We drove through the mountains enjoying the wildflowers expressing their delight in the winter rains by showing off their colors.  The tour began with a film about a brief history and description of the sanctuary.  In 1990, Bobbi Brink, always an animal lover, moved to Texas to open a restaurant.  There she noticed many ads with lions, tigers and other big cats for sale.  Bobbie and her husband Mark realized that many of these animals were in some horrible situations.  They had to act.

Bobbie discovered that the majority of wild animals bred and living in captivity live deplorable lives.  Some live in tiny enclosures; the Brinks saw one enclosure so small that the two tigers living in it could not lie down at the same time–one had to stand while the other lay down.  These animals are sold to circuses, other exhibitions, for labor, or for pets.  When they are no longer fit to breed, work or do tricks, they are sold to farms which let hunters pay to hunt and shoot them or they are sold for body parts or as food.

In an ideal situation, each animal costs about $10,000 per year to maintain with proper diet, medical and dental care, space and means for exercise, shelter, and intellectual stimulation. In an attempt to help one leopard “sanctuary,” the Brinks gave the owner money to build a much larger enclosure and to spay and neuter their leopards to curtail sales of captive exotic animals.   Then they discovered that the leopards had been neither spayed nor castrated and were being bred each heat, producing more leopards than ever. 

In 1998 Bobbie and her husband returned to California where they owned 94 acres of land on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest.  For several years they worked diligently to obtain permits to build a habitat in which abused animals could live out their years in dignity.  In 2002, Lions, Tigers & Bears opened its doors.

Currently 20 of these acres are in use as refuges for the animals. The first rescues were two tigers.  Raja and Natasha were purchased as a gift for a man to give his wife.  Unfortunately, five years later, the couple divorced.  The Department of Game and Wildlife tried to confiscate the animals.  The husband refused to let his wife have the tigers, and told Game and Wildlife he would shoot the animals instead of giving them up.  These two large cats had been living in a six by twelve-foot cage for five years.  After cutting through more red tape, Raja and Natasha came home to Lions, Tigers, & Bears.

Bobbi travels all over the country, and sometimes the world, rescuing animals in need.  She has bears and other exotic animals that have never felt anything but concrete under their feet.  Some never saw daylight.  Others were chained in damp basements.  Mia, a bobcat, comes from Wyoming where she had been living in a house pet until her owner became ill.  Since Bobbi goes on all rescue missions, she rented a vehicle to bring Mia home.  It took time for Mia to adjust to a life outdoors with animals and birds for company. 

Bobbie traveled 5000 miles to North Carolina where a couple had rescued four bears–two Silvertip Grizzlies and two Himalayan Black Bears–from two roadside zoos in North Carolina.  These bears had been sold, traded, and exploited.  All four bears had been declawed and had received no medical care in years.  One bear’s shoulder is damaged from being confined in a tiny cage as a cub.  The couple wanted a more suitable home for the bears.  Happy at Bobbi’s, she is building them a new six-acre habitat.

The sanctuary has about 55 animals and about 17 species including one miniature burro, horses, miniature horses, leopards, peacocks, mountain lions, and a host of other species.  Many of these animals were near death or so traumatized it took months for them to acclimate to a spacious environment, medical care, companionship of other animals, and proper food. 

Lions, Tigers & Bears is fully accredited by both the Global Sanctuaries Federation and the American Sanctuary Association (ASA). The Global Sanctuaries Federation provides worldwide certification for animal sanctuaries, rescue centers, and rehabilitation centers through verification and accreditation.  The American Sanctuary Association gives their accreditation only to sanctuaries that meet the high standards of quality care for animals.

They also actively find sanctuary for abandoned, seized, or abused exotic animals.  In addition to providing the best possible care for the animals, ASA prohibits its member sanctuaries from breeding, selling, trading or using the animals for any commercial purposes.  Lions, Tigers & Bears also holds a Better Business Bureau Charity accreditation.  This sanctuary also prohibits human contact unless the animal is being rescued or is receiving medical or dental care.

If you are planning to donate to a Sanctuary, please make certain that it is accredited by these organizations.  An organization like this is not only home to animals that need one; it also rescues animals from fires, flood, and other disasters.  Lions, Tigers & Bears has access to machinery, full-time veterinarians, scales, and whatever equipment is needed for its myriad operations.  As the founder of Lions, Tigers & Bears, Bobbi says, “To animals born in captivity and fated to be ignored and abused, I’ve dedicated this organization.”

September 26 will be devoted to revitalizing your garden.  It is also time to renew your membership: $35 for one year’s single membership and $50 for a couple.

For more information on Lions, Tigers & Bears, visit

Bobby Brink is shown with one of tigers on site at Lions, Tigers & Bears that is entrusted in to her care.

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Category: Animals, Business, Education, feature, Local News

About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.