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Taft estimates the cost of caring for each animal at $3,000 a year. They eat a lot of meat, more than 3,000 pounds a day, much of it carved with a chainsaw from the carcasses of horses and cows that die on area farms.

He said increasing fence height by 4 feet is unnecessary and would cost $28,000. Rebuilding the enclosures would cost a few million, he said, and would require bulldozing trees and vegetation, stressing animals by displacing them from established habitats.

Taft can come across as gruff, and most days prefers the company of big cats to humans. He cares about them down to his core, knows their names and habits and what needs to be done to care for them.

Knowing his cat population, Taft said, qualifies him as capable to manage the facility. But he’s beginning to realize he’s got inspectors on his heels and challenges to contend with if the Exotic Feline Rescue Center is to survive.

His loyalty, always, lies with the cats.

“The work, it’s hard. It’s dirty, and it’s unending.” It’s his life.

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Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com