When it comes to the tragic fate of lions, tigers, and other exotic cats most people think of deforestation and poaching in their native habitats. While those atrocities are certainly accurate, you might not realize that there is rampant, homegrown abuse happening every day in the United States. And it’s all big cats—lions, leopords, cougars, lynx, ocelots, and pretty much any other exotic cat you can think of.

Life in a concrete cell is a terrible reality for tigers in circuses, zoos, and attractions.. You can help save them!

But this isn’t meant to be a depressing article about big cat abuse—it’s one of hope, because the tide is turning and you can take action to help stop the abuse of big cats today.I recently had the privilege to tour Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., where they care for over 100 big cats, ranging from the recognizable (tigers) to the obscure (caracal, anyone?). These cats, for the most part, are born right here in the U.S. as part of the exotic animal trade. The cats end up at BCR because they were…

  • Abused by owners and forced to perform in circuses, roadside attractions, or *high brow* Vegas acts (all performing is abuse, no matter what anyone tells you)
  • Saved from being slaughtered to make fur coats
  • Abandoned by dumbass people who thought they’d make good pets
  • Chained to the wall in a drug den as a line of defense from the police—seriously, this happens!!
  • Used as part of despicable cub-petting attractions and then grew up and weren’t useful money-makers anymore
  • In fake “sanctuaries” that were actually just zoos in disguise

At Big Cat Rescue the cats get to live out their lives in peace and happiness, with specially designed enclosures, stimulating activities and environments, and the best vet care. But it ain’t cheap to house and feed all these big guys!In addition to caring for the rescue cats, BCR is on a mission to stop big cats from being help captive in the U.S. They work tirelessly to educate the public because the abuse will only continue as long as there is demand. That’s where you come in!Here is how you can save these beautiful animals:Don’t attend big cat exhibitsYes, that even means zoos! These cats have been bred just for the purpose of earning money for their keepers, who have to sell you on a lie in order to make money. That lie is usually to say that you are helping to save big cats in the wild, or that the cub was orphaned or rejected by his mother, or that the cats were bred to preserve the species. Whenever people pay to support facilities or industries that make a living off captive cats, it diverts money from real conservation efforts.If you see traveling or roadside attractions involving big cats, including horrible cub-petting operations, or a tiger kept in a cage at a gas station (sadly, that’s a real situation) report it on Big Cat Rescue’s Facebook page so they can look into it. I don’t care how “good” it looks—you’re not seeing the traveling or nighttime enclosures, which are usually concrete and steel cells.Speak outThe Big Cat Rescue proposed federal bill would prohibit private breeding and ownership of big cats. This is the big kahuna—the one thing that could stop endless big cat suffering. Go to StopBigCatAbuse.com to add your support.

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Buy lip gloss!Every sale of The Body Shop Dragon Fruit Lip Butter supports national charities, including Big Cat Rescue!Now that you’re all jazzed to help big cats, I highly recommend watching them on the BCR YouTube channel so you can see exactly how your support is making their lives happy and healthy. And if you are ever near Tampa, go take a tour of Big Cat Rescue so you can see the amazing cats for yourself—it’s truly an inspiring and eye-opening experience you won’t forget.MORE: More Beauty Brands That Give Back