I won’t lie, I binge-watched Tiger King on Netflix and became instantly obsessed. I couldn’t get over Joe Exotic’s zany behavior, his many husbands, and his downright fascinating country music career—and don’t even get me started on Carole Baskin’s fashion sense, not to mention her alleged murder of husband Don Lewis. It’s the kind of show you can really sink your teeth into when times are dull and you’re stuck at home social distancing, and while I can’t say it didn’t entertain me, I won’t deny that it also left me feeling a little icky. I started to wonder if it was even possible to get through all seven episodes without stopping to look up how to help animals in captivity.
It felt wrong to enjoy this wild ride of a series without reflecting on the fact that so many tigers and other exotic animals went through hell in the background. While I can’t say I’ll be joining the United States Fish & Wildlife Service anytime soon, I have been doing a little research on places I can donate my coin to help animals in captivity. You know what they say, every penny helps, right? I don’t have a late husband who’s left me millions (ahem, Carole), but I do have enough to give a little bit to help out these incredible animals in need. If you’d also like to do your part, read on for some information about how to help, including a few organizations you can donate to that are working hard to save captive exotic animals right now.
1. Visit Animal Sanctuaries, NOT Roadside Zoos
Yes, some of the cub-petting scenes shot at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Farm looked adorable, but if Tiger King taught you one thing (besides the fact that Carole might’ve been involved with her hubby’s murder, I mean), it’s that roadside zoos are a big no-no. Zoo owners breed their captive exotic animals so there are always new cubs for visitors to play with—but when these cubs grow too old to cuddle, they become basically useless to their profit-focused owners. If you really want to see the beauty of wild animals IRL, consider checking out your local animal sanctuary instead.
3. Support Animal-Related Bills & Legislation
Read up on bills related to animal rights! Get the scoop on The Convention On International Trade In Endangered Species Of Wild Fauna And Flora, The Endangered Species Act and other important legislation—but don’t forget about your own state laws! Write to your local government and see if they have any animal-friendly bills in the works, or any bans on using animals in entertainment already in effect. If they don’t and you think your area needs them, it’s time to get proactive.
3. Donate To The Humane Society of the United States
Not everyone has the bandwidth to get involved with local legislature, and it’s possible that few of you reading this were stopping by roadside zoos in the first place. You can still do your part! Donating to incredible organizations is still a game-changing way to help animals in need, and The Humane Society of the United States is a wonderful option. The Humane Society is against any form of entertainment that exploits animals and keeps them captive (Cough, Sea World, cough) and they’ve gotten 50 animal-friendly laws passed since 2014.
4. Donate To Animal Legal Defense Fund
Another great option is the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which has been around since 1979. The people working for this fund strive to advocate for greater legal protection for animals, and there are a ton of ways to give. Donate from yourself, give a donation as a gift to a friend or in memoriam of a loved one, contribute a percentage of your Amazon Smile spending, gift an Animal Legal Defense Fund membership, or buy some stock. You can even donate a vehicle, if you have a spare car, truck, RV or boat lying around.
5. Say No To Businesses That Profit Off Of Animal Cruelty
It isn’t all roadside zoos and exotic animal breeding, folks. Boycotting all types of businesses that put animals in danger is important, and chances are, some of your favorite beauty products are tested on animals. These sweet, innocent bunnies are just as important as the majestic big cats you binge-watched in Tiger King! Look for products that are Leaping Bunny Certified, or consider donating to or fundraising for Cruelty Free International, an organization dedicated to stopping animal experiments worldwide.