(BREVARD COUNTY) — A central Florida animal sanctuary is racing the clock—and other charities—in an effort to raise money to keep its gates open.
Central Florida Animal Reserve is home to 45 rescued big cats. The Brevard County Board of Commissioners recently decided the lions, tigers, cougars, and other animals were too close to peoples' homes and gave the organization until March 2014 to move.
Central Florida Animal Reserve now has six months to raise $500 thousand dollars to make a move to Osceola County, and a little more than a week to win an online contest that would help get them to that fundraising goal.
"This is the first time we've actually participated in something like this and of the over 180 sanctuaries and community organizations involved, we're actually within the top 15," said CEO and senior vice president K. Simba Wiltz.
The Start a RYOT Challenge awards up to $75,000 in additional prize money to the three non-profit organizations that raise the most money on their own.
Wiltz said a lack of money at other sanctuaries—which struggled through the Great Recession—makes Central Florida Animal Reserve eager not just to move but to expand.
"It's extremely difficult to find homes for big cats these days," Wiltz explained. "Without the funding to be able to move all of [our conservation efforts go] away and these cats will either have to find another home or be put down."
Central Florida Animal Reserve is reaching out to donors through their Facebook and Twitter pages. The Start a RYOT Challenge lasts until September 25.