ROCK SPRINGS, Wis. - A nonprofit organization in Rock Springs that provides a home for big cats is planning to move.
Currently in Rock Springs about 25 minutes southwest of Lake Delton, the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Education Center takes in big cats like lions and tigers who have nowhere else to go.
“The goal is to be able to take care of them, give them a life and place to live out their life in peace and quiet,” founder and owner Jeff Kozlowski said. "Each one of my cats has a different personality. Getting to know that personality, it's just like having kids, technically, just a lot bigger."
Kozlowski knows his 27 big cats live a better life now than they did before.
"Some came from backyard breeders, private owners. Some came from zoos that shut down,” he said.
After what he called a good 11 years, he said the big cat sanctuary is starting to feel too small.
"We do turn down cats every year,” he said.
Kozlowski is planning a move to a bigger site just outside Lake Delton on County Highway A owned by a man who stopped by the center years ago and wants to help.
"(It has) a lot more property, bigger cages, in-ground pools for the cats, so it's an upgrade for everybody, really,” he said. “We’re pretty excited.”
The plans also include 100 sites for tents, RVs, and cabins.
"The Wisconsin Dells/Lake Delton area is very successful because we have an unbelievably diverse attraction product,” Lake Delton village board member Tom Diehl said. "(Kozlowski) found a location on Highway A which is perfect. It's not near anybody or anything, and he hopes to add another diverse product to the Lake Delton mix."
While a village board’s committee approved the project’s concept designs, Diehl said a campground planned near an animal sanctuary raised some initial concerns.
"The planning commission, that was one of the key questions to make sure whatever he did was safe,” he said.
Kozlowski said the campground will be separated from the cats' cages by 75 feet of woods, and he's planning for plenty of fencing and enhanced security.
"We've been here 11 years and no cat has ever gotten out or attempted to,” he said. “They're pretty happy there."
Kozlowski thinks they'll be pretty happy at their next life in Lake Delton, too.
"We'll give them a good home,” he said.
Kozlowski and his wife currently live on the site, so they’ll be building a new house to live on the new location as well, along with entirely new shelters for the cats.
He said they hope to move by Memorial Day of next year.