Love of animals brings exotic rescue to Fair Bluff

Volunteers spent the Sept. 11 working on new fences at the wildcat rescue. (submitted photo)
Volunteers working on new fences at the wildcat rescue. (submitted photo)

When you think of Fair Bluff, usually exotic animals aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. 

Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping animals held in captivity and in the wild. They are in the process of building a safe haven for animals rescued from private ownership, breeders, circuses and other poor conditions.  

Lions, tigers, snow leopards, cougars, ocelots, servals, bobcats, caracals, wolves, bears, and other apex predators will be able to live out the rest of their lives in a comfortable and safe natural habitat. Some of the animals lived in conditions so severe that they have never even touched grass or walked around anywhere other than in a cage. North Carolina is one of the four states in the United States that has no laws governing the keep of exotic animals.  

The fences at Shizzy’s will exceed USDA regulations for all the animals that will eventually be housed there. (submitted photo)

Shizzy’s was first started in 2013 in Greensboro by Shazir Haque. Rescuing animals has always been his life’s work and his life’s dream. 

Haque was looking for someplace to build a sanctuary, and Rhonda Billeaud (who is now co-chair of the organization) and her daughter pointed him in Gary Lanier’s direction. Lanier is the Economic Development Director for Columbus County.

Lanier found 56 acres of land in Fair Bluff next to wetlands with access to the Lumber River, and it mimicked the perfect natural environment for big cats who surprisingly have a huge love of water. The wildcats may not be taking a dip in the river, but they will still be able to smell and hear the flow of the water. 

It also gives the organization a chance to bring something positive to an area that has seen some serious hard times.  

Fair Bluff suffered catastrophic flooding during both Hurricane Matthew and Florence. The wildcat rescue is building with floodwaters in mind, and they are taking measures to keep the animals safe and dry. The sanctuary is being built with the latest technology including mobile air-filled dams for many of the buildings, and all the habitats are being raised above the flood line level. 

Moving cages have been purchased to evacuate the smaller animals who don’t enjoy the water like the big cats do. 

“We are aware and ready for Mother Nature,” said Billeaud.  

Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue currently receives calls weekly about animals like wolves and wolf breeds, Billeaud said, so volunteers are desperately needed to build habitats.  Seven structures need to be completed as soon as possible so the sanctuary can open. They are currently rehoming animals from as far away as the west coast until they can be brought to North Carolina. Open volunteer days are regularly held where folks can raise and hook fences. 

Covid has hit the organization hard, Billeaud said, so as many hands as possible will be a welcomed sight to Shizzy’s. 

Billeaud has the utmost faith that people in Columbus will support the refuge. 

“Everyone has the power to make a difference. We want to inspire people to do good,” she said.  

All types of volunteers will be needed for different projects at the sanctuary including landscapers, and even teenagers can volunteer for an all-sites educational program. Youngsters will have the opportunity to work booths at festivals, and bring information to the general public about exotic animals.  

Sponsors and donations are always welcome, but the biggest request that Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue has is for the community to reach out with any questions or concerns. 

“We want people to understand that we are a sanctuary for animals and not a zoo for people,” Billeaud said. “We are not associated with any zoo or any other organization. We hope the community will love the animals as much as we do.”  

To volunteer at Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue, find out more information, make a donation, or become a sponsor, contact Rhonda Billeaud  at 910.840.1886 or email at [email protected].  

The rescue announces its volunteer schedule on its Facebook page. Additional hands are always needed. No experience is necessary. (Submitted photo)
About Jefferson Weaver 2106 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].