'I've gotten some outrageous texts': Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue founder on Tiger King

ROCK SPRINGS, Wis. (WMTV) -- The Netflix docu-series Tiger King has become what many people stuck at home during quarantine are binge watching, but what you might not know is that Wisconsin has its own big cat sanctuary in Rock Springs.

The founder Jeff Kozlowski said he watched the show with his family all in one day, but he wants people to know his sanctuary, Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Educational Center, is not affiliated with any of the organizations on the show.

Kozlowski said when he first watched the docu-series, he did not think it would impact his own sanctuary, but he soon found out he was wrong.

"I've gotten some outrageous texts," Kozlowski explained. "We've gotten emails and calls where they give us bad reviews."

Kozlowski said he has to explain to people that Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue, which he started almost 15 years ago, is not related to the Florida-based Big Cat Rescue shown on Tiger King. He hopes people do not make up their mind about all sanctuaries based on the show.

"I'm for anybody that's looking out for the care of the animals don't get me wrong, I'm not against [that]. But there is an extreme to go to," Kozlowski said about the show.

Right now, Kozlowski is focusing on his own business. The coronavirus outbreak forced him to postpone opening the sanctuary to the public this year. Usually, he is open by the end of March.

"All of our school groups have cancelled, we probably had 10, 15," he said.

For a nonprofit that runs on admission fees and donations, that can be a hit. Kozlowski said he is doing okay so far, but he might need to find a new source of food for his cats.

"Our food is taking a hit because we get a lot from the food pantries for a low price, or it's what they throw out," he explained.

Kozlowski said he is prepared with a stockpile of meat for his cats, even if the outbreak continues into the summer season.

"It's not to the point where we're not going to be able to care for the animals," he said.

However, he said he know people have questions about sanctuaries like his after Tiger King became a phenomenon.

"You can ask me anything, we'll show you anything, we're transparent as you want us to be," Kozlowski said.

He also hopes the show will encourage people to come and learn more about big cats and what his rescue does.

"I think it will open a lot of people's eyes, and there's going to be a lot of people that are going to go to them just to judge, to see if what they saw in the Tiger King is happening here," Kozlowski said.

Once Kozlowski can open his rescue, he has a unique opportunity for guests to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the work he does to care for the cats. Over the winter, Kozlowski worked to build two cabins on the property where guests can stay overnight and see how the cats are fed and taken care of.

For more information about Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue, visit their website.