Relocating the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Educational Center to Lake Delton is what’s best for the cats, said Jeff Kozlowki, Big Cat Rescue owner.
Kozlowski, founder of the Big Cat Rescue, along with his wife, Jenny, have operated the Rock Springs non-profit organization since 2005 and currently have 27 lions, tigers, and leopards under their care.
“That was the hardest decision to move from Rock Springs,” Kozlowski said. “A special thanks to Rock Springs, but we have been offered the chance to make it (the rescue), how we wanted since the beginning.”
That offer came from Joe Palumbo, a Lake Delton businessman, who offered Kozlowski just over 100 acres to house his cats.
The village of Lake Delton Plan Commission unanimously approved the first phase of concept d…
“Five years ago, I went to Big Cat Rescue with my kids and grandkids and fell in love with the place,” Palumbo said. “I am an animal lover and those are all rescue animals that would not be alive without Jeff. Due to that fact, I am trying to give him a location where he can be more successful. It’s a bigger and better space with more room to move around, and it’s a location where his business can fly and expand.”
The concept design was presented to the Lake Delton Plan Commission by Kory Anderson, vice president and project manager at General Engineering Company located in Portage, and was unanimously approved.
So far, the concept design includes many new ideas for expansion, such as a campground — which is slated to be named Camping with the Big Cats — that will offer three different types of camping: upscale safari tents, five-star cabins, or RV sites, Palumbo said.
Future plans also include a petting zoo with several different types of animals, including: goats, camels, chickens, ducks, cows, horses, alpacas and ponies for pony rides, Palumbo said.
As for the cats, they will also get bigger and better cages, Palumbo said.
“The cats’ cages will be bigger and nicer and will have a swimming pool in the cages, which they do not have now,” Palumbo said.
Sponsorships will soon be available for those who want to help with the costs of food or veterinary services.
“They will also have video cameras in the cages,” Kozlowski said. “People can sponsor the cats for food and vet care, and get 24/7 access to their cat.”
Palumbo said he hopes to be able to start construction as early as this week, and Kozlowski said he’s optimistic that the rescue will have a grand opening celebration on Memorial Day 2019.
Regardless of the projected dates, construction will be completed in two phases. The first phase is to build cages for the current cats, and then, relocate them to Lake Delton.
The second phase will consist of building more cages, and rescuing more animals, but not just cats, Palumbo said.
“All kinds of animals need to be rescued,” Palumbo said. “I care about animals and I want to save as many as we can. Even bears need to be rescued.”
However, Kozlowski’s wife, Jenny, would like to rescue one animal in particular.
“Jeff’s wife, Jenny, loves giraffes; we have been discussing, for the future, a giraffe area,” Palumbo said. “Giraffes need to be rescued also.”
So far, the Lake Delton village board appears to be on-board with the concept plans for the Big Cat Rescue.
“They have been easy to work with,” Kozlowski said. “They seem to be for the rescue coming over here.”
“I work in development and the village of Lake Delton is the best I have ever worked with,” Palumbo said. “And, I have dealt with 50 different municipalities in my life.”
Kozlowski said that the village board and the people of Rock Springs understand his decision to move.
“They know we’re coming somewhere that’s better for the cats,” Kozlowski said. “They’re happy for us.”
And both Kozlowski and Palumbo assert Lake Delton residents that they won’t be seeing any escaped lions, tigers or panthers roaming freely.
“The federal government regulates Jeff,” Palumbo said. “He has been there for 11 years and has no problems. There is a perimeter fence. Even if they get out of their cages, they can’t get out of the property. It’s a triple enclosure that they cannot escape.”
Kozlowski also assured everyone not to worry about cats escaping.
“People of Lake Delton don’t have to worry,” Kozlowski said. “It will be safe. No big cats will be roaming in your backyard.”
Follow Belen Markovich on Twitter @belen_markovich or contact her at 608-847-7341 ext. 233.
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