The argument about whether animal sanctuaries being supported instead of zoos is controversial. Especially after three lions, three tigers and five bears at were euthanized at Lion’s Gate Sanctuary in Colorado this past April. In retrospect, the real reason this topic upsets people is because they do not understand the difference between zoos and sanctuaries. They also can’t understand why animal advocates strive to garner support for sanctuaries.
According to National Geographic, an animal sanctuary takes in and cares for any animal that has been abused, neglected, or abandoned for life and has no chance at being released back into the wild. For example, orphaned baby black bears who were raised in captivity and no longer have the necessary skills to survive on their own in the wild or declawed and detoothed Florida panthers who were once pets. These animals find peace in animal sanctuaries.
An animal sanctuary enclosure should be spacious enough for multiple species of animals to interact with one another, and a vet should always be on call. However, the public should be limited and not allowed to wander freely as if the sanctuary were a zoo.
According to National Geographic, sanctuaries are regulated by federal and state laws and, like zoos, must comply with the Animal Welfare Act. The act states that sanctuary animals must have sanitary, sufficient enclosures, proper vet care and suitable feeds. However, private sanctuaries that do not exhibit the animals are not regulated by the federal government. Also, there is a financial responsibility associated with sanctuareis. Just like any establishment, maintaining the sanctuary can be very expensive so it is very important to have financial stability when running an animal sanctuary.
For example, the euthanization of the Lion’s Gate’s animals came as such a shock to the public because the sanctuary quickly ended the animals’ lives soon after their motion for relocation was denied by the Elbert County Board of Commissioners. According to Fox News, a statement was released by three separate county commissioners that Keenesburg Wild Animal Sanctuary had publicly offered to take in the animals from Lion’s Gate if that facility was no longer able to properly care for the animals.
The actions of Lion’s Gate shocked the public because, despite the motion being denied, there were willing sanctuaries that were financially stable and able to care for the animals, yet Lions Gate opted to euthanize instead of relocating the animals to another sanctuary.
A positive aspect of having an animal sanctuary is that the average land area in a sanctuary, according to Animals and Entertainment, runs from 30 to 2,000 acres. That gives the animals, especially —lions, tigers and bears—the freedom to roam and act on their natural instincts, such as hunting and survival, with little interference from human life.
Unlike sanctuaries, a zoo collects animals from their natural habitat for potential scientific research and exhibits them to the general public. According to National Geographic, unlike sanctuaries, zoos buy, sell, borrow, loan out and breed animals. Whereas sanctuaries do not capture animals from the wild, but instead, acquires them when they can no longer survive in the wild on their own. That may include injured wildlife; confiscated illegal exotic pets; exotic pets surrendered by their owners; and animals from zoos, circuses, breeders, and laboratories that close down.
According to National Geographic, animal welfare advocates oppose zoos because despite the potential educational purposes of zoos, the animals are still exploited by keeping them in closed captivity.
Many zoos take part in extensive breeding programs for endangered species, according to ThoughtCo’s website. However, the best way to save an endangered species is not to capture the animals and place them in a confined space, but rather to help preserve their natural habitat. The important thing to understand is that shelters and sanctuaries rescue animals, whereas zoos do nothing but exploit the animals for profit.
Despite the fact it may be more difficult visiting animals in sanctuaries, people must consider what is in the animal’s best interest. The benefits of supporting sanctuaries instead of zoos is the animals have limited human interaction and there is a possibility of animals being re-released if they are able. Sanctuaries offer life long protection for those injured and unable to live in their natural habitat. Zoo lovers may argue that sanctuaries are more expensive and take up more space, but if that helps animals live as normally as possible then we should all be on board. The nearest sanctuary is The Exotic Feline Rescue Center, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.