A typical day for Molly Schneider includes checking the locks on enclosures for big cats and other exotic animals.
Schneider, 24, is an animal care intern at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, an accredited sanctuary for abused and exploited animals. Turpentine Creek focuses on rescuing big cats but rescues other animals, such as bears, as well.
In addition to checking the locks on the enclosures, Schneider’s responsibilities include cleaning the enclosures, building enclosures and providing enrichment and food for the animals.
Schneider grew up in Reisterstown, where she attended Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and Towson High and belonged to Beth Tfiloh Congregation. She studied marine biology and minored in psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. In addition to Turpentine Creek, she has interned or worked at the Virginia Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, the New York Aquarium and an animal shelter in Manhattan.
How did you get connected with Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge?
When I was in college, I did an internship at the Virginia Zoo. My internship coordinator there, I said to her, “Hey, I want to do what you do. How did you get here?” She told me that she had started out at Turpentine Creek, so I Googled it. The deadline to apply was two days from that day, so I quickly got all my stuff together and applied.
Why are you interested in working with animals?
I’ve always loved animals. When I was little, we’ve always been members of the National Aquarium in Baltimore. My dad would take me there all the time, and that’s where I fell in love with dolphins. I thought my whole life that I actually wanted to work with dolphins. When I was little, I went to a program called Breakfast with the Dolphins with my dad, and I asked the keepers if the dolphins spoke Hebrew. I’ve always just been fascinated with animals since I was little. My dad always had fish tanks in our house, and I grew up having fish and learning how to take care of them. I gradually ended up evolving toward loving big cats, but I still have a love for the ocean and the animals that live in the ocean.
What would be your dream job?
My dream job would be being an animal keeper at an accredited facility, whether it’s an accredited sanctuary or an accredited zoo. I want to be a keeper for animals. I love big cats, but I really love all animals, so I would really love to work with any type of animal.
What’s special to you about big cats?
Big cats are just amazing, how they’re at the top of the food chain, how they’re incredibly smart but also extremely big. I feel like they’re very predictable if you know the specific cat. If you get to know an animal and know maybe their tics or what they love, they’re pretty predictable. They’re also extremely dangerous, and the ability to work with such dangerous, amazing animals — obviously, we’re safe around them — but being in the presence of such an amazing apex predator is just really cool.
Do you feel like there are any Jewish values that inform your passion for working with animals?
This field is a lot of hard work, and it’s not always rewarded in the way that other jobs would be. You’re working a lot of hours, and you’re not making much money, especially in sanctuaries or in accredited zoos that are working for conversation. You’re doing a mitzvah every day by giving this animal, who didn’t have a choice to be here, you’re giving them the best possible life you can. Every day, I feel like we’re doing mitzvahs here. Especially here [at Turpentine Creek], animals came from horrible situations, and we’re working our butts off.