How Do I Start A Sanctuary?
By Carole Baskin, Founder of Big Cat Rescue
“How do I start a sanctuary?” This is one of the most frequent questions that we are asked. Hundreds of people have contacted me with the same question. In many cases, whether they realize it or not, they really want to know how they can have wild animals as pets and yet feel good about it by “saving them.”
If I knew back in 1992 what I know now about really making a difference for the animals I would not have rescued the first one. Emotionally, it is like standing under a waterfall of suffering creatures and having to play God as to who you will rescue and who you will turn away. All of your time and resources are then used to care for them and fund caring for them, limiting your ability to do the things that could stop the flow of abused and abandoned animals who need a sanctuary. To give them a good life with proper feeding, medical care, activity, sufficient space requires land, constant attention to the animals, constant attention to the property and massive amounts of paperwork. In addition, unless you plan to do everything yourself, whether you have staff, volunteers or visitors, it involves all of the issues managers have in dealing with people and the associated liabilities. Once you get beyond the few animals you can care for yourself, you end up dealing more with people than with the animals. And if you stay small, you worry about how the animals will be cared for if something happens to you, not to mention the difficulty getting any days off.
If you really want to rescue animals, there is a way you can spend your time, energy and money that will end the suffering. Learn everything there is to know about the animals and what causes them to need sanctuary. Then, critically, learn about the legislative process. You may be startled to find out the practical side of how laws get passed and how citizens can influence that process. Then, get involved with your local and federal elected officials. Arm yourself with all of the data that they need to know about the issues and help them effect better laws to protect the animals. The animals cannot speak for themselves. You can do the most for them by being their voice!
I can’t tell you how many people convince themselves that if they have a cougar as a pet, drag it around on a leash and call themselves educators, they are doing something good. Instead, they are encouraging others to believe that this is safe and fair to the animals. If you really love animals roll up your sleeves and go to work for them in a much smarter way. See a list of high profile places that tried and failed HERE.
If you are insisting that you want to have a yard full of exotic animals, then question your motives fully and ask if you are willing to give up any semblance of a life so that you can make the agonizing choices of who will live and who will die on a daily basis. To get an idea of the sorts of standards you will need to use to set up your sanctuary read our sanctuary standards and exotic cat standards. If you still think the only way you can rescue exotic animals is to have them in your home, then reading through the following pages of our website may be of help to you:
These pages require a $1.00 one time registration fee to see.