Wildcat sanctuary urges community not to fear animals

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by NATASHA RYAN / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 19, 2011 at 9:38 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 19 at 10:11 PM

NEAR HARSTINE ISLAND, Wash. -- The roundup in Ohio has one Washington sanctuary preparing to answer questions about how they secure their animals.  In Washington state it is illegal for individuals to buy, own or breed a potentially dangerous animal. 

Tucked away down a grave road on Harstine Island sits the state's only sanctuary for wildcats.  Thirty-two of them, each with a different story and each rescued by Shelleen Mathews and her husband Mark.
 
Mathews can handle these exotic animals because she's licensed to and has decades of experience.
 
"This is a lynx, less that 50 in Washington state," said Mathews.
 
To take care of these cats, Mathews says you must first be educated on how to secure them.
 
"We have to have an eight-foot tall perimeter fence and make sure all things are secure at all time," said Mathews. 
 
She and her husband Mark designed this cougar enclosure with the USDA.  It's complete with an electrical fence.  
 
"Hi honey, yes, good boy," said Mathews.
 
No matter how loving, Mathews says they can still be unpredictable.  For that reason, she cautions anyone wanting to own even the smaller exotic cats.
 
"Seems like 4.5-years-old is the magic number when they're looking for new homes," said Mathews.
 
She says most of the unhappy endings are the result of people not understanding what they were getting into.
 
While there have been minor reservations on the island but Mathews says she has an open door policy.  And given the Ohio situation, Mathews is guessing more people will be using it.
 
"Anyone that runs a facility, I'm sure there are going to be a lot of what ifs," said Mathews
 

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