About A to Z Menagerie

As Tampa's most inclusive animal rescue organization, our mission is to save the world one critter at a time.

Orphaned Racoons

A to Z menagerie is a collection of dedicated animal lovers who donate our time, our homes, and most of our money to animals in need. Our seven acre sanctuary is privately owned; the land, pastures, cage space, all donated by the organization’s president.

We accept most animals in need, as space and resources allow, and give as much love to an unwanted former pet rabbit as to a juvenile orphaned owl. With a state licensed wildlife rehabilitator among our volunteers, and local veterinary offices assisting with the medical care, we are able to provide for all of our animals needs. We seek out “forever homes” for as many residents as possible, never charging a fee, but often our animals are too mistrustful of people, or no longer “cute babies”, and must remain in our sanctuary for the duration of their lives.

Because most of our domestic animals have been neglected or mistreated by humans, or are wildlife preparing to return to freedom, we keep all outside human contact to a minimum. We are not a zoo and, for the happiness of the residents, only occasionally offer on-site tours.

Here the residents who are not releasable or able to be placed in permanent homes receive love, shelter, and daily care. Here they live out their lives in quiet contentment. But we desperately need your help. We receive no funding other than your generous donations. Every dollar you donate goes 100 percent to the animals, for food, caging, and vet care. Please see our “how you can help” page to help us take care of these formerly unwanted children.

Why We Do It

Perhaps this is best explained by relating the story of Amelia.

"Amelia"

People seldom consider the consequences of their actions upon others. Take, for example, someone with a rodent problem. Traditional traps are messy and often ineffective, so the popular solution is to use poison. This allows a person to completely remove himself from the act--just set out a package and, presto, no more rodents.

But consider the entire process. The rodent, and hopefully not a curious dog or cat, eats the poison. It is then driven to extreme thirst and so seeks the outdoors. This may be convenient for the person, no odor of decay or trap to empty, but what happens to a poisoned rat staggering outside in the yard? Often it is eaten by a hawk or owl. Such is believed to be the case with Amelia.

I received Amelia, a red shoulder hawk, from a veterinarian who had little hope for her survival. The normal course of action with an animal in this condition would be euthanasia; a quick and painless end to her suffering. But for some unknown reason we all held on to hope. She was not in obvious pain and had no broken bones or injuries, but showed symptoms of poisoning.

By the time I got Amelia home she had slipped into a coma. I knew she hadn't eaten in quite awhile and was afraid her blood sugar level had dropped, so I tube fed her some of my "special soup". Remarkably she revived a little and after days of ladling soup into her she was standing on her own and eating small tidbits from my fingers.

Days passed and her strength grew. Her balance, which had all but been destroyed, began to return and I was able to move her from a padded carrier to a larger cage with perches.

Time progressed with growing signs of improvement. She would perch, her intelligent eyes penetrating mine, watching every move I made. Her beautiful flight and tail feathers began to show signs of wear from brushing against the cage bars so I finally moved her into a flight cage, hoping soon to be able to release her to the wild where she could once again fly free.

That is when symptoms of the long term affects of the poison began to manifest themselves. Initially it was evident with her lack of coordination. She would lunge at her prey but miss by inches, a puzzled look on her face as she would try and miss again. Then came the seizures. They began as minor moments of disorientation but developed into full scale convulsions.

I was forced to move her back inside, into a smaller "safe cage", yet Amelia remained alert and seemed to be content. She continued to maintain a healthy appetite and would spend long hours on her perch preening, or watching the wildlife outside the window. But the seizures grew worse and more frequent.

It became obvious that Amelia was not intended to survive, the most heartbreaking reality a rehabilitator must face. No amount of veterinary care or love could fix what ailed her.

But Amelia was unique. She remained active and continued to eat heartily; even when her seizures grew so bad her cage had to be padded to prevent injury. It broke my heart to see her unable to live the normal life of a raptor, but she clung so strongly to life that I could not have her euthanized. It is so easy to choose to take a life, but until we have the power to give one, that choice should never be made lightly. She never refused a meal and, when a seizure would pass, she almost seemed to say "Phew, that was a bad one; so, what are we going to do today?" I would bring her outside to sit on a bench in the yard where she could watch the squirrels and birds play and at these times she always seemed at peace.

Finally came the day I feared. It was the first time she refused to eat and the expression on her face changed to one of hopelessness. It was time. Of course these moments always happen on a Sunday when the veterinarian's office is closed. I wrapped Amelia gently in a towel and brought her outside to our bench to enjoy the warm, fall morning. We sat there together for a long while, watching the mist rise off the pasture beyond the tree line. She seemed once again at peace, and with no ability to escape or way to hurt herself, I left her there on the bench to have a few moments to herself, free again and in the wild.

When I returned about fifteen minutes later Amelia had passed away. She was in the yard next to the tree where the wild hawks perch, overlooking the squirrels and songbirds. Her face looked serene.

I buried her in that place and created a small memorial garden around it, with a gazing ball in the center and a fountain to one side. I wish I could say that she rests there alone, but unfortunately in the life of a rehabilitator there are always those whose time has run out. More statues and markers dot the yard; more fountains and benches surround them. But in between can be seen the scurrying figures of busy creatures and in the trees loom the silent figures of hawks and raccoons--the survivors.

No effort is too great when trying to save a living being. Sometimes our efforts are in vane, but we reassure ourselves in the knowledge that a life did not pass alone, in pain, and with no comfort. And then there are the successes; the greatest triumphs of seeing a creature whose life has all but passed, who is broken and damaged, but with care and love restored back to its former glory. The greatest joy in the world is the day that animal is brought to its final release site and the cage door opened for the last time. To see nothing but a tail as it slips out of sight back into the wild--that is a tale worth remembering, and a reason to try again, and again.

How You Can Help...

During these difficult financial times we are desperately in need of monetary donations to maintain the over 75 animals we currently house. We are an I.R.S.-approved, non-profit agency and all donations are tax deductible. We also welcome donations of gently used linens, cages, animal and construction supplies, and donations of all varieties of animal feed.