8 Ways to Tell if an Animal Sanctuary Is Safe

Before you donate your hard-earned money to an animal sanctuary, you should determine if the sanctuary puts the welfare of the animals first before anything else. Use these eight criteria to help make an informed decision.

Baby Animals


Legitimate sanctuaries have no baby animals on site. Sanctuaries that serve as breeders or buyers of exotic animals are part of the problem. If there are rescued baby animals, they should be completely separate from the adults.

Truly Wild Animals


These are wild animals that live in animal sanctuaries. Animals should not perform unnatural tricks as if they’re in a circus or traveling show.

Room to Roam


Animals should have enough room to move around. Wild cats need a lot of space to prance around and explore their surroundings. Bears should have some trees to climb or rub up against. Use your judgment when looking at caged creatures that don’t have a lot of room to roam or act naturally.

Staff Interaction


Staffers should never get in cages or enclosures with animals except in emergencies or for feeding. Interactions between wild animals and humans endanger both parties.

Visitor Interaction


Visitors to sanctuaries should never pet wild animals. It’s different when there are special petting zoos that have farm animals, but wild animals are completely different.

Endangered Species


If you see endangered species at the sanctuary, the facility might have obtained them illegally. Staffers at the sanctuary should be able to prove from whom or from where they got the animals.



Verify if the sanctuary is part of a larger organization. Facilities should have a license to operate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other organizations, such as Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, monitor facilities to make sure staffers truly care about conserving animals.

Physical or Mental Illness


See for yourself whether animals have some kind of physical or mental illness. Zoochosis occurs when animals pace back and forth nervously due to their confinement. These animals are anxious and bored, so they may appear ferocious and predatory as they walk back and forth. Look for any signs of physical illness that denotes poor living conditions. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether an animal sanctuary is worth your time and money.

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