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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Recent issues with exotic animals in Pender County have some residents worried about a potential new sanctuary that may be coming to the Cape Fear.

Scott Lope is an animal activist who started an organization based in Wilmington. The catch? We’re not talking about dogs and cats. We’re talking about lions and tigers and bears.

Lope says Wilmington is the perfect place for a new exotic animal sanctuary. The 2009 Animal Planet Hero of the Year says it’s his mission to help animals in need, and the climate, location and easy access to an airport make Wilmington the perfect place to set up shop, but New Hanover County has regulations about exotic animals in the county.

“A Board of Health regulation states that it’s unlawful to own any animal that belongs to the zoological order Carnivora besides a domestic dog and cat,” county spokesman Charles Smith said. “An exception to that would be any organization that was regulated and approved by the USDA.”

Lope has worked with other sanctuaries in the country, so he knows what it takes to get that type of facility up and running within the rules.

“I’m used to following the laws and regulations and permitting processes to the highest degree, so that hasn’t really been a consideration,” he said. “We’ll comply with any kind of regulation that we need to, and we’ll actually go way above and beyond especially with the safety requirements.”

Lope says the community has nothing to worry about when it comes to the sanctuary.

“It would be quite different than a private owner that has a private collection of his animals in makeshift cages in his backyard. That’s what we’re trying to prevent. These animals are not pets, and my biggest platform is that these animals are not pets,” Lope said.

Lope says right now the exotic animal sanctuary is in the beginning stages. He says Wilmington would not get the facility for a few years at least.

Comment on this Story

  • TopCat

    Scott Lope is NO hero…He is a fraud and has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt; all verified!!!
    Every effort should be made to prevent him from opening!!!
    Interesting that he’s chosen a state with such few regulations…Why not Texas which is an animal rights state?!? Can’t he meet the regulations in Texas…Do not assume anything with this man…In my opinion, he is a liar and thief…
    Someone needs to give him a real strong suggestion to move on!!!
    Hos plan is to open an extremely large facility housing any number of animals…City Counsel needs to make contact and learn his plan; I don’t believe they will be to happy with what they find out about Lope with a few simple searches t get to the truth rather than his PR and to see his 20 year plan.

  • Debra Darcey

    No one gives up 10 years of their life, 24/7/365 at minimum wage to manage a sanctuary expecting to make money. They do it for LOVE and because they BELIEVE in what they are doing. How many of you are so blessed?
    You really think that Scott is reaping in the bucks? Look at all the streaming video, look at all Scott’s sacrifices, look at his track record, how he lived his life out of a camper while managing BCR, what he’s done for these animals. How much awareness of this problem he has propagated, how much good he has done!
    Have you met him? Have you spoken to him? Have you seen him interact with these animals? Have you seen his eyes and his face when he is around these animals? Have you seen the love he has and respect he has for these animals every time he looks at them? Have you seen him down trees and dig dirt to expand the areas where these animals live??
    Have you experienced his obvious passion for them? Have you seen the personal physical danger he is willing to put himself in to care for these animals? IF NOT, THEN YOU SHOULD NOT CRITICIZE AND JUDGE HIM!
    I HAVE SEEN HIS EYES, FACE, PASSION AND LOVE FOR THE ANIMALS AND THE CAUSE!! MANY TIMES! I believe in the truth of his passion, commitment, determination and loyalty to the animals and their cause. Often the ends justify the means. If a TV show gives his beliefs access to the masses, who are we to judge? The fact that this brings the problem to the forefront, makes people aware and makes people commit their dollars and political support to the cause is NOT a travesty. It accomplishes a purpose.
    Perhaps if more criticizers went out and committed themselves as Scott has to this problem, the problem would not exist and some species would not be near extinction. Perhaps others would not be living in squalor and abusive situations. Perhaps these animals would not require human intervention to end the abuse and suffering that humans are causing them.
    Life is not always black and white. Sometimes grays have to exist so that THINGS HAPPEN and causes are successful. That does not mean that a person is a fraud. It means that persons adjust to the needs of getting their point across and succeeding in making their cause a success. They are willing to accommodate and modulate to get someone else to give their cause credence. It’s called being flexible and adjusting to reality.
    If any of you are as successful in your lives and to a cause as Scott is, then criticize. But make sure your commitment and endeavors and track record meet what people like Scott Lope are doing and are as successful in getting the cause recognized and the laws changed and the problem worked on. Criticizing means you can do better. Maybe you can. BUT DO YOU? OR DO YOU JUST WRITE CRITICAL INTERNET COMMENTS? THAT’S EASY AND COSTS YOU LITTLE TIME AND NO ENERGY OR COMMITMENT! WHAT SCOTT DOES IS ACTUAL AID TO THE ANIMALS AND THE CAUSE. CAN YOU SAY THE SAME ABOUT YOUR ACTIONS?!

  • Concerned Citizen

    Serioously?! Expert? I beg to differ, this man got his start at big cat rescue in tampa fl, which is known to have been started as a back yard private breeders. I could hardly call animal planet a reputable channel, it’s all sensationalism & choreography with them. Wilmington would do well to send him packing.

  • Guest21

    Geez……where are these people coming from?

  • TopCat
  • Joe Exotic

    This would not be good to have in NC as if you look on line most of the board members from Big Cat Rescue in Tampa are the same as the board members at this place. Carole Baskin is suspected in her husbands disappearance and his own kids are quoted in People Magazine that she fed him to the tigers. Scott lope worked for her than and they had many escapes and injuries to people, one women had 451 stitches to save her arm. Do you think Ohio was bad, wait it will not be good for NC either. Carole Baskin stretches the truth on every story to get money out of people about fake rescues and stories, she paid 94 thousand dollars for some of the animals she posses as rescues and Scott told the same lies for her. Dont support this fraud

  • Debra Sandlin

    Scott Lope is FAR from an “expert” on exotic animals. He is merely a front person for an animal rights group HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa Florida. To learn where he achieved his “experience” with big cats go to bigcatrescuelies.blogspot.com. Then find out the truth about HSUS, go to Humanewatch.com. North Carolina does NOT want this headache, this state was chosen because of its’ lack of regulations and permitting requirements. Currently there are a total of 173 large carnivores regulated by USDA in NC. Tigers total 67 housed in 7 different facilities, Leopards 8 in 3 facilities. Lions 45 in 7 facilities, Jaguars 0, Cougar/Puma/Mountain Lion 2 in 1 facility, Cheetah 0, Chimpanzee 2 in 2 facilities, Bear 43 in 7 facilities, Baboon 6 in 5 facilites. These numbers include the large Zoo animals. As you can see there is NOT an exotic animal problem in NC, however if this organization is permitted to set up shop the problems will soon begin. They will bring in exotics from all over the USA falsely claiming they are “rescued from horrible situations” . They will then depend on donations to feed and house the MANY LARGE animals they will bring into NC. They will then seek to ELIMINATE any other facility (private or otherwise), by attempting to destroy their reputation so they can have a monopoly! You will NOT be permitted to view the animals they take in and will have to rely on what they tell you they have. There will suddenly be stories of escapes (not theirs of course), injuries and stories of mistreatment of animals at existing facilities. Commissioners and congressmen,senators as well as other authorities will be FLOODED with complaints via CAP WIZ urging them to take action! Please look into this before it is too late. I would hate to have to say that I told you so.

  • Donna

    The thing that Mr Lope is an expert at is lying to the public. His show, Wild Animal Rescue, was canceled in part because of hundreds of complaints that he claimed to be ‘rescuing’ animals from ‘private owners’ when in fact the animals were being moved from an accredited sanctuary in Texas much like the one he managed for many years, Big Cat Rescue Tampa Fl. While in charge of the Big Cat Rescue in Florida, Lope was founder Carole Baskin’s puppet, repeating lie after lie to the public about animals there being rescued from ‘abuse and abandonment’ when in fact they were bought by Baskin to be bred. It is thought that Baskin is also behind this new venture. Please go to bigcatrescuelies.blogspot.com before allowing these unethical people to run their scam in your state.

  • Chea

    So I don’t have cable and have never seen the show until now you know the first of 2 episodes on netflix state that they are relocating animals from a “financially troubled sanctuary”? Just saying…… I haven’t seen a lie yet and this is the place with the 22 bears….

  • VCheveyo

    Scott why don’t you join Carol Buckley’s lead and start a sanctuary in the country of origin for some of those animals that desperately need experts such as yourself to save them there; instead of beautiful Wilmington area.

    Myth is sanctuaries are not safer than zoos and in fact, are probably not as safe as 90% of the private owner of these beautiful animals. Troubled lions and tigers are not magically cured by a magical gate when they enter into any rescue.


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