How your unwanted holiday decorations can help dogs and (big) cats

Published 8:26 pm Thursday, December 30, 2021

ROCKWELL — It’s still the most wonderful time of the year for the big cats at Tiger World.

The nonprofit wildlife reserve located in Rockwell is currently accepting live Christmas in exchange for free admission to the park. Tiger World is home to over 110 animals and more than 40 big cats, including tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars. This is the 13th year Tiger World has hosted the tree recycling event, which runs through Jan. 16.

“We love seeing all the families hauling down and bringing their trees to join in the fun, while also taking advantage of one free admission per tree,” Tiger World President and Founder Lea Jaunakais said.

Tiger World will only be accepting chemical-free trees with no ornamentation, no flocking and no tinsel. Trees can be brought to the park’s admission area. Before the trees are rolled into the enclosures for playtime, the staff at Tiger World strips the trees of any lingering decorations.

The big cats that call Tiger World home treat the trees as toys and get hours of enjoyment playing with them. While each animal reacts differently to the trees, most enjoy nuzzling them or tossing them around. For the primates, Tiger World staff members hide food in the trees for them to forage.

“Our program began because an important part of animal management is stimulation and enrichment,” Jaunakais said. “Enrichment is a way to enhance animals mental and physical stimulation for optimal well-being.  The Christmas trees provide seasonal fun enrichment. The animals love them.”

Tiger World is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day besides Wednesday. More information about the reserve and its tree program can be found at tigerworld.us. Rowan County is also offering free live Christmas tree recycling at its landfill located at 789 Campbell Road. Trees must be devoid of decorations, tinsel, nails, stands and bags. Artificial trees cannot be recycled.

While Tiger World is accepting Christmas trees, Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary is currently accepting old, broken or unwanted holiday lights. Located at 220 Grace Church Road, Faithful Friends was founded in 2007 and provides a safe haven for abused and abandoned dogs and cats, providing health care, spay/neutering services, protection and care while the animals await adoption.

Faithful Friends is primarily funded through donations, but owes a portion of its budget to the collection of donated aluminum cans throughout the year. The same team that collects cans also collects Christmas lights. Faithful Friends accepts all kinds of string lights, from LEDs to old-fashioned bulbs.

Unwanted Christmas lights and aluminum cans can be dropped off at the following locations:

• Hudson-Miller-Tatum VFW Post #3006 (all hours drop-off) – 1200 Brenner Ave.

• The Garden Greenhouse (drop-off during business hours) – 4070 Woodleaf Road

• Speedwash Laundromat No. 3 (drop-off during business hours only) – 1337 W. Innes St.

• Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary – 220 Grace Church Road

• Critters Cards and Gifts (during business hours) – 125 S. Main St.

• West End Plaza (all hours drop off on the Belk side of the old mall) – 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd.

More information about Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary at faithfulfriendsnc.org.