Florida stories: Lions and tigers and panthers, oh my!

But they're all in cages. It's very hard to see beautiful wild animals cooped up. It's so wrong, every bit of me cries for them and the injustice that brought them to this point.

I have always admired people who work for important causes like Big Cat Rescue (BCR), who give selflessly of their time and energy to help. The woman standing in front of the cage is Jennifer, the volunteer staff member who gave us our tour. She knows her stuff and she made our visit really wonderful.

This is Shaquille, a male leopard who has been at BCR for 12 years. He came from a Vegas circus act where he was brutally beaten. His partner in the act didn't survive the cruel treatment.

Caracels can perform unbelievable acrobatics -- jumping high enough to swat birds out of the sky. There are two at BCR, both born there.

There are several leopards at BCR: the black Shaquille, some spotted leopards and an amazing snow leopard (we'll get to her, don't worry). They've been rescued from breeders, the entertainment industry or private owners who figured out that they weren't pets.

"At Big Cat Rescue our philosophy is that NO wild animal should be bred for life in a cage." Bred for life in a cage is how Hercules started life, but because there was a "surplus" of his blood line, he had to be taken out of the mix of animals used for breeding. He now spends his days at BCR with Cloe, a female who was purchased as a gift and then abandoned.

Here ends part one of our adventures at Big Cat Rescue. More later.