An exotic cat sanctuary in the Ark-La-Tex faces more challenges in its seven year struggle to grow and thrive. The latest obstacles facing "Yogie and Friends" come from new state laws and 'mother nature.'
Jenny Senier is Yogie and Friends' Executive Director. Pointing inside one large cage she said, "that's 'Pooty Tat.'" In fact, from that tiger, to their lion cub 'Moses,' Senier gave us the grand tour of this exotic cat sanctuary that she simply calls 'Yogie,' located in Frierson, Louisiana, about 10-miles south of Shreveport.
Senier explained that new state regulations ban private ownership of such exotic animals, except for sanctuaries. "And we are a sanctuary. But they said sanctuaries can't open to the public you know, so I couldn't do the school tours, because my big thing is let people know why they're not good pets."
Senier fears other new regulations will effectively lead to the demise of 'Yogie' through attrition. "Based on what we're reading and interpreting, if we can't rescue as our animals die off, basically that's a way to kill 'Yogie.'" So, they're working to re-classify 'Yogie and Friends' as a lower-tier zoo, to keep it open to the public.
Further compounding some of the challenges for the sanctuary is the fact that it was raining for much of the late spring and early summer and that means less money. "We couldn't open on those Saturday's when it rained because it was so bad out here." A majority of their $87-thousand annual budget comes from visitors.
And to make matters even worse, their liability insurance is jumping 250-percent, said Senier. "If they say we can't open to the public to do the school tours, that's our bread and butter." With their long-term goal of moving to a larger property, where 'Yogie's' 20-exotics cats can feel more in their natural habitat, these latest hurdles could push that dream a little farther down the road.
Yogie and Friends is open to the public every Saturday.. From 10 am to 5 pm, weather permitting. Cost of admission is 5-dollars for those 13- and older. It's 4-dollars for children 4- thru 12. And children 3 and under are free. School tours are made by appointment for weekdays.