An animal sanctuary is a facility where animals are brought to live and be protected for the rest of their lives. Unlike animal shelters,
sanctuaries do not seek to place animals with individuals or groups,
instead maintaining each animal until his or her natural death. In some
cases, an establishment may have characteristics of both a sanctuary
and a shelter; for instance, some animals may be in residence
temporarily until a good home is found and others may be permanent
residents. The mission of sanctuaries is generally to be safe havens,
where the animals receive the best care that the sanctuaries can
provide. Animals are not bought, sold, or traded, nor are they used for
animal testing. The resident animals are given the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible in a protective environment.
What distinguishes a sanctuary from other institutions is the
philosophy that the residents come first. In a sanctuary, every action
is scrutinized for any trace of human benefit at the expense of
non-human residents. Sanctuaries act on behalf of the animals, and the
caregivers work under the notion that all animals in the sanctuary,
human and non-human, are of equal importance.
A sanctuary is not open to the public in the sense of a zoo;
that is, the public is not allowed unescorted access to any part of the
facility. A sanctuary tries not to allow any activity that would place
the animals in an unduly stressful situation.
One of the most important missions of sanctuaries, beyond caring for
the animals, is educating the public. The ultimate goal of a sanctuary
should be to change the way that humans think of, and treat, non-human
There are several national and international organizations that have
taken the responsibility of supervising numerous systems of non-profit
animal sanctuaries in order to provide a general system for sanctuaries
to follow. Among them, The American Sanctuary Association monitors and aids in various facilities to care for exotic wildlife.
Their accredited facilities conform to high standards and rigid
application processes to ensure that the animals under their care are
enthusiastically cared for and maintained.