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’Tiger King’s’ Carole Baskin among other celebrities to appear at Alaqua Animal Refuge’s virtual fundraiser, webcast – News – The Destin Log


“She’s like Alaqua for big cats. She takes ones that have been abused in circuses or otherwise would not have a place to go. We just developed a friendship there.”

FREEPORT – When Laurie Hood was searching for celebrity guests for Rescue Me, a virtual fundraiser for Alaqua Animal Refuge, she called up a friend, Carole Baskin.

RELATED: Alaqua Animal Refuge to hold webcast, virtual fundraiser

Baskin is one of the major players in “Tiger King,” a Netflix docu-series about zookeeper and convicted felon Joe Exotic. Hood met Baskin about 10 years ago while lobbying for the Big Cat Public Safety Act bill in Washington D.C.

“I wanted to choose celebrities who people would really enjoy seeing,” Hood said. “Of course Carole Baskin came to mind because of the insane popularity of that show. I’ve known her for years. I reached out to her and she said she’d love to do it.’”

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Baskin and other celebrities, such as comedian Kenan Thompson, will participate in a live webcast from their respective locations at 5 p.m. Saturday. To register and receive a link to the webcast, visit RescueMe2020.ggo.bid. Registering does require a credit card, but nothing is charged unless the viewer decides to bid in the auction or donate.

The Rescue Me online auction fundraiser featuring spa treatments, wine and other items, launched Thursday on the same site and will close Sunday night. The Alaqua Animal Refuge will also accept donations via the site to help compensate for two fundraisers canceled because of the coronavirus.

RELATED: CORONAVIRUS FLORIDA: Alaqua keeps up fight for abused, neglected animals

Proceeds will benefit Alaqua Animal Refuge’s operations and programming. Alaqua is a no-kill animal sanctuary founded in 2007 and located on a 10-acre farm in Freeport.

Hood was honored Baskin agreed to participate because it’s been a struggle since “Tiger King” aired. It didn’t do Baskin justice, Hood said.

Hood rattled off a few statistics to help bring awareness to Baskin’s plight.

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“In the United States, there’s about 200 pure bred tigers in accredited zoos,” Hood said. “There’s about 300 mixed breed, which means they mix like a Bengal and a Tibetan and they still look like tigers. Guess how many are in those Joe Exotic type places? Twenty-thousand. That’s more than there’s left in the wild.”

Those cats aren’t being properly cared for, she said. Hood doesn’t think the story in “Tiger King,” was told the way it should’ve been.

“It’s a shame, because it’s the cats who are the ones suffering,” Hood said.

After they met in Washington D.C., Baskin stopped everything to give Hood a private tour of Big Cat Rescue, she said.

“She’s like Alaqua for big cats,” Hood said. “She takes ones that have been abused in circuses or otherwise would not have a place to go. We just developed a friendship there. When I reached out to her, she was happy to help. She really is doing a great thing.”

The show’s celebrity guest list is filled with familiar names. Chef Emeril Lagasse was the first one Hood thought of, because he was scheduled to cook a large lunch for an event that benefits Alaqua, but was canceled because of the coronavirus.

“I called his wife and Emeril and they called me back together and said, ‘We’d love to do it,’” Hood said. “‘We’ll be live from our kitchen at home with our kids and everybody can see our kitchen and what we cook.’”

The list grew from there.

Like Lagasse, Brian Kelley, one half of the country musical duo Florida Georgia Line, and his wife, Brittney, a designer for their Santa Rosa Beach clothing brand Tribe Kelley, have connections to Alaqua.

“They are just the nicest people,” Hood said. “They are so down to earth. They came after the hurricane and actually helped us move dogs and got dirty.”

Musicians Eric Lindell, Billy Dawson and Jon Nite also agreed to participate. Another celebrity, Jon O’Hurley has hosted Purina’s National Dog Show for years and will host the Beverly Hills Dog Show, which airs Sunday night on NBC.

“Saturday Night Live” comedian Keenan Thompson had a connection with one of the Alaqua Board members and will also be featured during the fundraiser.

“The tie-in with him is he is going to be the voice of the new animated ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog,’” Hood said.

Others on the list are surprise guests and supporters of animal welfare.

Hood ultimately hopes the star-studded webcast will make a positive difference for Alaqua Animal Refuge.

“It’s just going to be a super entertaining show that we hope will bring attention to all of our work and maybe get us known on a national level and hopefully help us to continue our big vision and mission,” Hood said.

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