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CALEDONIA, Miss. (WCBI) – The exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. It is also difficult to regulate, and many wild animals become mistreated. But, Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary in Lowndes County is protecting these animals.

The day starts early for Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary. At the break of dawn employees are feeding lions, cleaning enclosures, and changing the tiger’s water. The sanctuary was incorporated in 1992. It all started with a cougar for sale in a newspaper ad, and now it’s grown to 20 acres of Caledonia land that hundreds of cats, dogs, birds and pigs call home.

“We’re just here to take care of these guys and make them feel at home, make them feel wanted and loved again. We’re keeping it a peaceful, tranquil environment, and that is the basis of their happy life,” said Michelle Potter, the exotic animal caretaker.

“This is a home for life. They don’t have to worry about being mistreated or starving, cold or hungry, any of that,” said Cedarhill public liason, Khristina Booth.

The sanctuary is licensed by the USDA and accredited by the American Sanctuary Association. It’s purpose is to protect the animals and treat them like family, so it is not open to the public. Many of the animals come to Cedarhill from traumatic situations.

“Val came to us a few years ago from Minnesota. He had been living in a barn with no light or sunshine. The only food he got was road kill, and he had been de-clawed in a very bad way. When we got him here he was completely covered in his own feces, he hadn’t had fresh water to drink or real food to eat his whole life. Grass scared him, and for the king of the jungle to be scared of grass, it is a very sad and tragic thing to witness. Now Val is a very happy 10-year-old male lion. He’s grown into his own,” Potter said.

It is clear to see these animals receive much love and attention. Over 100 domestic cats enjoy their home-like space and every animal has a name. Cedarhill operates entirely on donations and it takes a lot to run something of this size.

“We go through about 4,800 pounds a month of beef and chicken. With our litter, it’s about 200 pounds every couple of weeks. We have 20 plus acres our groundskeepers take care of, to mow, weed eat and clean. We have employee salaries, dog food, cat food to buy, and we travel to the vet 20 to 30 miles away each week. We also travel to MSU for our exotic animals and we spend three to 5,000 dollars a visit. We have a lot of costs and it’s overwhelming at times,” Booth said.

“Our main goal is to always be here to take care of the animals in need,” said Potter.

You can contact Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary at 662-356-6636, or http://www.cedarhillanimalsanctuary.org/. And find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cedarhillanimalsanctuary.

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