Animal sanctuary

Last updated
Farm Sanctuary's shelter in upstate New York provides a home to hundreds of rescued goats, sheep, cows, pigs, poultry, rabbits, and other farm animals. FarmSanctuary.JPG
Farm Sanctuary's shelter in upstate New York provides a home to hundreds of rescued goats, sheep, cows, pigs, poultry, rabbits, and other farm animals.

An animal sanctuary is a facility where animals are brought to live and to be protected for the rest of their lives. [1] Pattrice Jones, co-founder of VINE Sanctuary defines an animal sanctuary as "a safe-enough place or relationship within the continuing hazards that menace everybody". [2] In addition, sanctuaries are an experimental staging ground for transformative human–animal relations. [3] There are five types of animal sanctuaries reflective of the species-belonging of the residents: 1) companion animal sanctuaries; 2) wildlife sanctuaries; 3) exotic animal sanctuaries; 4) farmed animal sanctuaries; and 5) cetacean sanctuaries.


Unlike animal shelters, sanctuaries do not seek to place animals with individuals or groups, instead maintaining each animal until their natural death (either from disease or from other animals in the sanctuary). However, they can offer rehoming services, which can include veterinarians' help. [4] 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. Additionally, no parts of nor secretions from the animals are commodified, such as eggs, wool, or milk. The resident animals are given the opportunity to behave as natural as possible in a protective environment. [1]


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.

Most sanctuaries are not open to the public in the sense of a zoo; that is, allowing unescorted public access to the facility. A legitimate sanctuary avoids activity that would place the animals in an unduly stressful situation. [5] Most sanctuaries are also not government-funded and are usually nonprofit. Public help is accepted by sanctuaries in the form of volunteering, monetary contributions, donations of food and materials, spreading the word, and in some cases, adoption. [6]

One of the most important missions of sanctuaries, beyond caring for the animals, is educating the public. The ultimate goal of many sanctuaries is to change the way that humans think of, and treat, non-human animals.

On the basis of the types of animals being cared for, sanctuaries are of five types:

  1. Companion animal sanctuaries
  2. Wildlife sanctuaries
  3. Exotic animal sanctuaries
  4. Farmed animal sanctuaries
  5. Cetacean sanctuaries

Farmed animal sanctuaries

Farmed animal sanctuaries (FAS) provide care, shelter and advocacy of farmed animal species such as chickens, cows, goats, fish, horses, pig, turkeys, and sheep. The farm sanctuary layout tends to resemble traditional farms however functions differently. [7] FAS as a movement began with Gene Baur, the co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, the first official farm sanctuary that opened in 1986. [8] The daily tasks of a FAS involve the primary guardians, volunteers and at time visitors. Each day is structured by routines such as feeding, care and health procedures, as well as cleaning and maintenance. Points of conflict for sanctuaries include human intervention in matters of sterilizing animals and species segregation. Moreover, effective altruists have critiqued the efficiency of FAS's ability to reduce animal suffering as demonstrated in the "arithmetic of compassion", a utilitarian measure of advocacy that applies mathematical formulas to reduce the most suffering in light of individual lives. [3] Jon Bockman of Animal Charity Evaluators, states, "expending too many resources on direct rescue results in less money directed toward education and a lower overall impact in helping animals, and all advocates should give consideration to this concern when deciding how best to help animals". [9] FAS has, in some ways, evolved to more actions such as re-homing to increase sanctuary capacity and rescuing farmed animals in criminal or domestic cases.


The educational role is a secondary role of FAS. Investing in transforming visitors' and volunteers' perspectives on animal agriculture is a key component of FAS, enlisting farmed animal residents as "ambassadors" of their species to serve a fundraiser role. [10] [ clarification needed ]

FAS models

Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka have outlined two different types of FAS models. FAS can be distinguished by ascribing to either refuge and advocacy model or intentional community model. [7]

Refuge- and advocacy-based models

Refuge- and advocacy-based models are the most standard. These sanctuaries are found in traditional agricultural communities in part because of the physical and legal infrastructure. Six characteristics of this model include: duty of care, support for species-typical flourishing, recognition of individuality, non-exploitation, non-perpetuation, and awareness and advocacy. [7] The latter characteristic has launched a series of questions into the effectiveness of the educational component of sanctuaries.

Intentional community model

The intentional community model addresses the shortcomings of the standard sanctuary model by focusing on movement building that includes a spectrum of speciesist issues such as developing farmed animal veterinary care that exist outside of standard practices that have aimed at meeting animal agricultural interests. [11] The six characteristics of the intentional community model include: belonging, absence of fixed hierarchical relationships, self-determination, citizenship, dependent agency, and scaffolded choices and reconfigured spaces. [7] These characteristics redress some of the critiques of the refuge and advocacy model by grounding sanctuary practices in animal agency and expanding the geographical boundaries of where animals can live. Expanding the geographies in which farmed animals are found serve as a corrective to forming human-farmed animal friendships. [12]

An example of the intentional sanctuary model can be found in the Microsanctuary Movement started by Rosemary and Justin Van Kleeck. [13] The Microsanctuary Movement encourages city-dwellers to rescue farmed animals to expand what species are considered to be companion animals.

Similarly, Darren Chang, co-founder of the Riverdale Farm Sanctuary Project has launched a campaign to transform Riverdale Farms, an urban farm in Toronto into a FAS advocating for: 1) Animal Rescue, Refuge, and Advocacy, 2) Compassion and Nonviolence, 3) Ecological and Food Justice and Compassionate Interspecies Community.

Expanding beyond the traditional role of a safe haven for farmed animals, sanctuaries can also be understood as playing political roles in transforming the political and spatial lives of animal residents and their broader species communities leaning into pioneering a less-speciesist future.

Cetacean sanctuaries

Cetacean sanctuaries are designed for autonomy and well-being, enabling as natural a life as possible in ocean water.  Lifetime of care is provided for these whales, dolphins, or porpoises. Like other wild animals who have spent much or all of their lives in zoos, cetaceans who have lived in marine parks for most or all of their lives are potentially poor candidates for reintroduction and, therefore, sanctuaries are an alternative to living on display or in entertainment facilities. [14] Sanctuary site selection, as far as size, water quality, protection from hazards and weather events, and more, introduce unique considerations for finding a location. [15]

The need for cetacean sanctuaries is  quickly emerging due to shifting regulations and changes in public attitudes toward cetaceans in captivity. [16] [14] With an estimated 3,600 cetaceans in captivity globally, [17] the need for spacious natural ocean environments that provide feeding and care is increasing, as globally marine parks and aquariums move away from whales and dolphins in their facilities. A primary criticism of commercial facilities is that animals are expected to perform unnatural behaviors for audiences in spaces that are small and cannot adequately approximate a natural setting. [14] [18]

The first cetacean sanctuary for belugas opened in August 2020 by SEA LIFE Trust, as two belugas "Little Grey" and "Little White" were transported 6,000 miles from an aquarium in China to the first open-water whale sanctuary for belugas in Iceland. [19] The Whale Sanctuary Project is creating a coastal sanctuary for beluga whales and orcas in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia and plans to welcome their first residents in late 2023, assuming the project gets the required federal and provincial permits. [20] The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, is seeking a Caribbean location to create a warm water seaside dolphin sanctuary to become the permanent home for the dolphins currently at their facility. [21] And the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is planning to create the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary for previously captive dolphins on the island of Lipsi, south of Samos in the eastern Aegean Sea. [22]

Like other animal sanctuaries, cetacean sanctuaries adhere to a set of principles that put the animals first above the needs of the public, researchers, donors or other stakeholders. In cetacean sanctuaries, each animal's physical and mental well-being is the priority and the mission is to provide an environment where the cetacean residents can thrive. [14]

Services provided

A veterinarian examines her patient's teeth to check hygiene status. Dover Air Force Base Veterinarian Treatment Facility 150227-F-PT194-044.jpg
A veterinarian examines her patient's teeth to check hygiene status.

Animal sanctuary services include spaying and neutering, hygiene, and physical well-being. [23] These services are mainly performed by licensed veterinarians. Other positions that can be held by people at sanctuaries include specialized animal trainers, groomers, and volunteers. [24] When it comes to new residents, they are typically not used to living with a large population of their kind and can be easily overwhelmed or agitated. Because of this, they can be held for a certain amount of time before being admitted to the general public. In this time, veterinarians study the new animal's behavioral and dietary habits and try for a smooth transition into the sanctuary's environment. Also, some species of animals, dogs for example, are social creatures. In isolation they get lonely and become depressed. Animal sanctuaries often accommodate these types of animals by putting them in living quarters where they're in groups or pairs that they fit well with. [25] Enrichment activities are also available for the residents.


There are two primary organizations that provide accreditation and support for animal sanctuaries: the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the American Sanctuary Association. In the United States, sanctuaries must also be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and regularly inspected by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cetacea</span> Infraorder of mammals

Cetacea is an infraorder of aquatic mammals belonging to the order Artiodactyla that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Key characteristics are their fully aquatic lifestyle, streamlined body shape, often large size and exclusively carnivorous diet. They propel themselves through the water with powerful up-and-down movement of their tail which ends in a paddle-like fluke, using their flipper-shaped forelimbs to maneuver.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dolphin</span> Marine mammals, closely related to whales and porpoises

A dolphin is an aquatic mammal in the clade Odontoceti. Dolphins belong to the families Delphinidae, Platanistidae, Iniidae, Pontoporiidae, and possibly extinct Lipotidae. There are 40 extant species named as dolphins.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Whale</span> Informal group of large marine mammals

Whales are a widely distributed and diverse group of fully aquatic placental marine mammals. As an informal and colloquial grouping, they correspond to large members of the infraorder Cetacea, i.e. all cetaceans apart from dolphins and porpoises. Dolphins and porpoises may be considered whales from a formal, cladistic perspective. Whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to the order Cetartiodactyla, which consists of even-toed ungulates. Their closest non-cetacean living relatives are the hippopotamuses, from which they and other cetaceans diverged about 54 million years ago. The two parvorders of whales, baleen whales (Mysticeti) and toothed whales (Odontoceti), are thought to have had their last common ancestor around 34 million years ago. Mysticetes include four extant (living) families: Balaenopteridae, Balaenidae, Cetotheriidae, and Eschrichtiidae. Odontocetes include the Monodontidae, Physeteridae, Kogiidae, and Ziphiidae, as well as the six families of dolphins and porpoises which are not considered whales in the informal sense.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Porpoise</span> Small cetacean of the family Phocoenidae

Porpoises are small dolphin-like cetaceans classified under the family Phocoenidae. Although similar in appearance to dolphins, they are more closely related to narwhals and belugas than to the true dolphins. There are eight extant species of porpoise, all among the smallest of the toothed whales. Porpoises are distinguished from dolphins by their flattened, spade-shaped teeth distinct from the conical teeth of dolphins, and lack of a pronounced beak, although some dolphins also lack a pronounced beak. Porpoises, and other cetaceans, belong to the clade Cetartiodactyla with even-toed ungulates.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beluga whale</span> Species of whale

The beluga whale is an Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean. It is one of two members of the family Monodontidae, along with the narwhal, and the only member of the genus Delphinapterus. It is also known as the white whale, as it is the only cetacean to regularly occur with this colour; the sea canary, due to its high-pitched calls; and the melonhead, though that more commonly refers to the melon-headed whale, which is an oceanic dolphin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Whale watching</span> Viewing cetaceans in their habitats

Whale watching is the practice of observing whales and dolphins (cetaceans) in their natural habitat. Whale watching is mostly a recreational activity, but it can also serve scientific and/or educational purposes. A study prepared for International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2009 estimated that 13 million people went whale watching globally in 2008. Whale watching generates $2.1 billion per annum in tourism revenue worldwide, employing around 13,000 workers. The size and rapid growth of the industry has led to complex and continuing debates with the whaling industry about the best use of whales as a natural resource.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Risso's dolphin</span> Species of marine mammal

Risso's dolphin is a dolphin, the only species of the genus Grampus. Some of the closest related species to these dolphins include: pilot whales, pygmy killer whales, melon-headed whales, and false killer whales.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oceanic dolphin</span> Family of marine mammals

Oceanic dolphins or Delphinidae are a widely distributed family of dolphins that live in the sea. Close to forty extant species are recognised. They include several big species whose common names contain "whale" rather than "dolphin", such as the Globicephalinae. Delphinidae is a family within the superfamily Delphinoidea, which also includes the porpoises (Phocoenidae) and the Monodontidae. River dolphins are relatives of the Delphinoidea.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Toothed whale</span> Parvorder of cetaceans

The toothed whales are a parvorder of cetaceans that includes dolphins, porpoises, and all other whales possessing teeth, such as the beaked whales and sperm whales. 73 species of toothed whales are described. They are one of two living groups of cetaceans, the other being the baleen whales (Mysticeti), which have baleen instead of teeth. The two groups are thought to have diverged around 34 million years ago (mya).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cetacean intelligence</span> Intellectual capacity of cetaceans

Cetacean intelligence is the overall intelligence and derived cognitive ability of aquatic mammals belonging in the infraorder Cetacea (cetaceans), including baleen whales, porpoises, and dolphins. In 2014, a study found for first time that the long-finned pilot whale has more neocortical neurons than any other mammal, including humans, examined to date.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">SeaWorld</span> American theme park chain

SeaWorld is an American theme park chain with headquarters in Orlando, Florida. It is a proprietor of marine mammal parks, oceanariums, animal theme parks, and rehabilitation centers owned by United Parks & Resorts. The parks feature orcas, sea lion, and dolphin shows and zoological displays featuring various other marine animals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Melon-headed whale</span> Species of mammal

The melon-headed whale, also known less commonly as the electra dolphin, little killer whale, or many-toothed blackfish, is a toothed whale of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). The common name is derived from the head shape. Melon-headed whales are widely distributed throughout deep tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, but they are rarely encountered at sea. They are found near shore mostly around oceanic islands, such as Hawaii, French Polynesia, and the Philippines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military marine mammal</span> Marine animals trained for military purposes

A military marine mammal is a cetacean or pinniped that has been trained for military uses. Examples include bottlenose dolphins, seals, sea lions, and beluga whales. The United States and Soviet militaries have trained and employed oceanic dolphins for various uses. Military marine mammals have been trained to rescue lost naval swimmers, guard navy ships against enemy divers, locate mines for later clearance by divers, and aid in location and recovery of equipment lost on the seabed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dolphinarium</span> Aquarium for dolphins

A dolphinarium is an aquarium for dolphins. The dolphins are usually kept in a pool, though occasionally they may be kept in pens in the open sea, either for research or public performances. Some dolphinariums consist of one pool where dolphins perform for the public, others are part of larger parks, such as marine mammal parks, zoos or theme parks, with other animals and attractions as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vancouver Aquarium</span> Aquarium in Canada

The Vancouver Aquarium is a public aquarium located in Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In addition to being a major tourist attraction for Vancouver, the aquarium is a centre for marine research, ocean literacy education, climate activism, conservation and marine animal rehabilitation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marine mammal park</span> Type of amusement park

A marine mammal park is a commercial theme park or aquarium where marine mammals such as dolphins, beluga whales and sea lions are kept within water tanks and displayed to the public in special shows. A marine mammal park is more elaborate than a dolphinarium, because it also features other marine mammals and offers additional entertainment attractions. It is thus seen as a combination of a public aquarium and an amusement park. Marine mammal parks are different from marine parks, which include natural reserves and marine wildlife sanctuaries such as coral reefs, particularly in Australia.

Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums is an accreditation and advocacy organization representing zoos and aquariums within Canada. The organization states that its member zoos and aquariums care for more than 100,000 individual animals representing over 2000 species of wildlife, observed by an estimated 11 million visitors each year. The organization is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Orca Welfare and Safety Act</span>

The Orca Welfare and Safety Act is a bill passed in the U.S. state of California in 2016. The bill phases out the holding of killer whales in captivity and establishes standards for treatment of all remaining captive orcas in zoos.

<i>Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act</i>

The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act is an act of the Parliament of Canada. Passed into law in 2019, the Act bans the capture and keeping in captivity of cetaceans. There is a grandfather clause for cetaceans in captivity when the law first came into force, and other exceptions, such as where a provincial government has issued a licence to keep cetaceans for research purposes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hvaldimir</span> Beluga whale found with a camera harness

Hvaldimir is a male beluga whale that fishermen near Hammerfest in northern Norway noticed in April 2019 wearing a camera harness. After being freed from the harness, the whale remained in the area and appeared used to humans. Speculation that he had been trained by Russia as a spy whale led to his being dubbed Hvaldimir, a portmanteau of Norwegian hval (whale) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. As of 2023, Hvaldimir's range appears to have expanded to include areas of the south-western coastline of Sweden.


  1. 1 2 Tom Regan (2006). Jaulas Vacías. El Desafío de los Derechos de los Animales (in Spanish). Barcelona: Fundación Altarriba. p. 111. ISBN   978-84-611-0672-1.
  2. "About Us". VINE Sanctuary. 2010-11-27. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  3. 1 2 Pachitat, Timothy. "Sanctuary". In Gruen, Lori (ed.). Critical Terms for Animal Studies. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 335–355.
  4. Successful rehoming requires a coordinated and cooperative approach, and it is important that research establishments, rehoming organisations, animal welfare organisations and veterinarians work together to achieve an appropriate outcome for animals at the end of their use in research.
  5. "How To Find A Real Sanctuary - Horizon Guides". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  6. "Donate or Sponsor an Animal | Home for Life". Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Donaldson, Sue; Kymlicka, Will. "Farmed Animal Sanctuaries: The Heart of the Movement? A Socio-Political Perspective". Politics and Animals. 1 (1): 50–74.
  8. Baur, Gene (2008). Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food. New York: Touchstone.
  9. Bockman, Jon (2015-09-24). "The Value of Sanctuaries, and How to Maximize Their Impact". Animal Charity Evaluators. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  10. Abrell, Elan L. (2016). Saving Animals: Everyday Practices of Care and Rescue in the US Animal Sanctuary Movement (PhD dissertation). Graduate Center, City University of New York.
  11. Baur, Gene; Kevany, Kathleen May (2019-08-15). "Shifting perceptions through farm sanctuaries". Plant-Based Diets for Succulence and Sustainability. pp. 123–138. doi:10.4324/9780429427138-8. ISBN   9780429427138. S2CID   210288939 . Retrieved 2020-04-15.{{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  12. Scotton, Guy. "Duties to Socialise with Domesticated Animals: Farmed Animal Sanctuaries as Frontiers of Friendship". Animal Studies Journal. 6 (2): 86–108.
  13. "Microsanctuary Resource Center". Microsanctuary. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Parsons, E. C. M.; Rose, Naomi A. (2018-08-16). "The Blackfish Effect: Corporate and Policy Change in the Face of Shifting Public Opinion on Captive Cetaceans". Tourism in Marine Environments. 13 (2): 73–83. doi:10.3727/154427318X15225564602926. ISSN   1544-273X. S2CID   150061071.
  15. Magazine, Hakai. "The Hard Sell of Whale Sanctuaries". Hakai Magazine. Retrieved 2022-11-23.
  16. "Blackfish". Blackfish. Retrieved 2022-11-23.
  17. McCarthy, Niall. "The Countries Keeping The Most Dolphins In Captivity [Infographic]". Forbes. Retrieved 2022-11-23.
  18. Grimm, David (April 19, 2011). ""Are dolphins too smart for captivity?"" (PDF). Science. pp. 526–529. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  19. Grantham-Philips, Wyatte. "Beluga whale couple travels 6,000 miles to be freed at world's first open-water sanctuary". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2022-11-23.
  20. "North America's first whale sanctuary is taking shape in rural Nova Scotia - Halifax |". Global News. Retrieved 2022-11-23.
  21. PBS NewsHour | Dolphins moving from concrete tanks to seaside sanctuary | Season 2016 | PBS , retrieved 2022-11-23
  22. Kokkinidis, Tasos (2022-04-16). "World's First Dolphin Sanctuary Founded in Greece". Retrieved 2022-11-23.
  23. "Best Friends Animal Clinic". Best Friends Animal Society. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  24. Shepherd, Allan (2001). Careers Working with Animals. Kogan Page Publishers. ISBN   978-0-7494-3644-5.
  25. "Dogtown". Best Friends Animal Society. Retrieved 2020-04-14.