Heather Miller and her family travel from Ohio to Pittsboro, North Carolina every month so Miller can volunteer at Carolina Tiger Rescue. She's been an animal care volunteer for about a year.
"Animal care volunteers like Heather have a minimum 16 hour per month commitment and she has not missed a single month," said Maryssa Hill, Carolina Tiger Rescue Volunteer Coordinator.
Miller is among more than 150 volunteers at Carolina Tiger Rescue, a 55-acre sanctuary for wild cats such as lions, tigers and cougars. Most of the animals were personal pets, used in roadside zoos, or rescued from failing sanctuaries.
"We have a no-touch policy," Hill said. "We do not touch any of the animals at all. The only time that we physically have hands on an animal is when they are sedated for a medical or veterinary procedure. I think our mission and values aligned beautifully with hers."
Miller checks the enclosure fences for safety, prepares food for the wild cats and even cleans up after them. She said the monthly 7-hour drive each way is worth it, knowing she's taking care of the animals.
"It's kind of like my happy place," Miller said. "All my stress of everyday life goes away as soon I walk into these fences and I see these animals."
Volunteers must go through extensive training and be at least 3 feet away from the animals. Miller said she likes Carolina Tiger Rescue's strict attention to safety.
In fact, Miller enjoys volunteering so much, she and her family are considering moving to the area. She's always wanted to be an animal keeper.
"I'm chasing after what want to do in life," Miller said.
Carolina Tiger Rescue is always looking for volunteers.