Lions Tigers and Bears is a sanctuary for abused and unwanted big cats and exotic animals, located a short 30 minute drive from downtown San Diego in Alpine, CA. I had purchased a Living Social deal for two one-day passes (which included helping feed the animals!) for my sister and me, and as two huge animal lovers we were beyond excited to redeem them! The drive up to the sanctuary is easy and beautiful and mountainous; it’s hard to believe you were just in the city
As stoked as we were to see the animals, we were not expecting the sad story behind the sanctuary. Did you know that exotic animals are some of the most trafficked “goods” in the US, only behind drugs and guns? Or that people buy animals like bears and tigers as pets, and when they realize they can’t care for them they hand them over to hunting ranges to be killed for sport? Or that these beautiful creatures are sometimes caged for life in minuscule spaces, used as cheap entertainment at truck stops and remote gas stations? We watched an informational video before the tour and it brought tears to my eyes. It makes me so sad when innocent animals are abused and used for human pleasure. It’s just so wrong. Luckily, there are sanctuaries like this one that take in these poor creatures and help them live in peace for the remainder of their lives.
(Note: there were two fences for each enclosure and we had to stand outside both of them, which is why blurry fence appears in front of the lens in some of these!)
The tour began with the bears, and their stories were some of the saddest. They spent their whole lives being passed around from private owners incapable of caring for them to entertainers using them as props. The dark brown bear in the below picture could only walk a few steps at a time before needing to lay down because he had suffered neurological damage from his ordeals. The blonde looking one could walk, but it was a really strange looking walk that was clearly disabling.
Like the bears, the cats had sad backstories, mostly consisting of being rescued from homes where people tried to keep them as house pets. I can’t fathom the idea of people trying to contain a wild animal in a backyard or home…these animals are meant to have space to stretch their legs and they don’t deserve to be locked up, no matter how well-intentioned an owner could be.
I was super excited to see the tigers. They’re such stunning animals and so majestic. I have always felt bad for Shere Kahn in the Jungle Book for being portrayed so villainously haha. Anyway, Erica chose to feed one of the tigers at the sanctuary and I got to in with her and see them up close. They were roaring and growling…which was obviously incredible.
I opted to feed a lion (we planned it this way so that we could get up close to two different cats haha). These three were SO CUTE…they were siblings and clearly got along super well. I fed the male lion and was literally like three feet from his face, which was probably two times bigger than my head.
In addition to these cats, they also house a mountain lion, a jaguar, and a serval. The jaguar was absolutely beautiful with the most piercing eyes, but those pictures all turned out too dark unfortunately. After the tour, we got to visit with the farm animals (and PET THEM TOO, which was awesome because after seeing so many cute animals and not being able to touch them we were dying for some fur contact haha).
This was one of the best Living Social deals I’ve ever purchased. Not only was the experience unforgettable, but the money supports a great organization that helps rescued animals live the rest of their lives in peace. Next time you’re in San Diego, this is a half-day trip is unique and perfect if you love animals!