The Tiger Missing Link Foundation, an Ohio organization founded by the Werner family in 1995 received its official charter in April of 1996. The purpose of the Tiger Missing Link Foundation was to start documenting tigers in captivity outside of accredited zoos. The first tiger that Werner had acquired participated in the first genetic testing of tigers through the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the results astonished everyone. The tiger turned out to be an Indochinese tiger, a species of tiger that not many zoos even have. This led to the theory that we cannot discard tigers that are being kept in captivity; whether in sanctuaries, small zoos or in private hands, and label them as generic or "junk" tigers. "These captive tigers are more genetically diverse than both wild tigers and those located within the nation's zoos. If we are going to save a species from becoming extinct, we must look at every individual out there that represents that species because every tiger matters" (Brian Werner 1995).
Subsequently, Werner realized that the exotic market boom of the late 1980s through 1990s was leading to a significant number of big cats being abandoned, abused, neglected and displaced.
After the military service, in 1993; Mr. Werner and his family of five moved onto the property and lived in a small red cabin, off the grid and with no running water. They started clearing land by hand, building small cages and preparing a place for unwanted tigers, as they recruited any volunteer that they could find to help build and care for the cats.
At first, Tiger Creek could only afford small enclosures, it was understood that this wouldn't be permanent, but for the time being, it would work. There were struggles and some challenges were overwhelming, but they knew there was no turning back.
With nothing but a passion for animals and a concern about the plight of the tiger, Brian Werner and his family started the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge (Tiger Creek) in 1997. By 1998 Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge opened its doors on the 25 acres that Mr. Werner had purchased in 1989 while home on Christmas Leave from the U.S. Navy.
As the public started to show interest in Tiger Creek the Werner's wanted to allow visitors entry but had limited funds crucial to creating the remarkable experience intended for guests. They were nervous that they would not have the support needed to continue the success in changing the lives for these big cats, but over time they garnered support from people across the globe. People love what the Werner's do for these big cats and that's why Tiger Creek is still here today.
With small steps the family soon moved out of the little red cabin and turned it into an intermediate feed room. That little red cabin has now been scheduled to be a part the tour for the visitors as a reminder of Tiger Creek's humble beginning.
A small kiosk was added that served as a check in point for visitors and offered a few souvenirs. The family was thrilled when a local Coca-Cola representative approached them about a soda machine they had with a picture of an African Lion on the front. It's still standing next to the gift shop today.
Tiger Creek has seen a lot of changes over the years as it continues development and builds habitats exceeding industry standards. Each new habitat houses an area where cats can escape the elements or receive medical treatment when needed. The exterior of each house is finished in stone which remains cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Automatic watering systems provide fresh water around the clock and every house has lounging platforms. Black coated chain link helps our guests see the cats more clearly in a natural setting with trees, grass, room to run, tubs of water to cool off in and platforms to lounge on. The original old parking lot has since been converted into a small cat section. Cougars, servals, and other smaller felines like to climb and lounge up high while looking down on everyone, and they can do just that in these new habitats.
Tiger Creek no longer has the cramped little red cabin filled with freezers; instead, a walk-in cooler and freezer provides a space to prepare and store food for the big cats.
In 2014 more land was acquired and now provides frontage road property on FM 14 and FM 16, this land has been a key element in Tiger Creek's expansion.
To help numerous species of animals in 2017 Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge was rebranded as Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary. To expand these services the company underwent a name change as well. Tiger Creek now serves under the National Foundation for Rescued Animals.
Our passion for tiger conservation is never ending. We will always continue to network with conservationists, biologists, and zoos to help protect and save this endangered species. Since our early days of the first genetic testing of tigers, we continue to push for more genetic testing and work with organizations such as Texas A&M, the National Institute for Health, and various research stations around the globe by providing blood samples to further develop the conservation genetic database, testing and research. We look forward to the expansion of services for all animals. Together we are all "Saving Animals One by One".