Right Click HERE and then select “Save Target As” for an Excel Chart with a complete chart of Sanctuary Standards.
For Exotic Cat Care Standards go HERE.
To read the Federal Trade Commission’s charity checklist, click HERE.
How can you tell a real sanctuary from a fake?
It’s actually easier than telling a diamond from a cubic zirconium because if you look at them, under any light at all, they are easy to tell apart. The problem is that the fake ones insist on keeping you in the dark. Some legitimate sanctuaries believe that their animals should never have to see humans, other than for their daily feeding and cleaning, and are closed to the public. Pseudo sanctuaries use this same tactic to keep the public from seeing the deplorable conditions that their animals are kept in.
Fake sanctuaries often have wonderful websites full of self-serving documentation about all the wonderful ways your donations save lives. They rely heavily on direct mail campaigns and paid solicitors. New laws have enabled these mail houses to front the costs and then pay themselves, exorbitantly, from the proceeds making it that much easier for pseudo-sanctuaries to solicit funds. This means that even less of your donation is actually going to the cause (assuming any of it was before).
There are a few foolproof ways to know if the sanctuary you support is a real sanctuary or a fake:
- Real sanctuaries don’t breed or buy animals. If there are babies, they were probably bought or born there. People don’t get rid of them until they are too big to handle. If there is a baby, ask how it got there and ask for proof.
- Real sanctuaries don’t exploit animals. They don’t take dangerous animals out in public on leashes or in cages. Many pseudo-sanctuaries do and they say they are educating the public that these animals don’t make good pets, but when people see that they can be walked on leashes or taken out in public to be shown off or to make money, then they will want to buy one of their own. It is the equivalent of saying to your audience, “Do as I say, and not as I do.”
- Real sanctuaries adhere to the law. They will be licensed by the state, and usually by the USDA. They will be classified by the IRS as a nonprofit 501 c 3 charity. They will be licensed by the state to solicit donations, and every piece of solicitation that you see, from print to website, will have documentation of the fact that they are so licensed. Some states, such as Florida, go a step further and require that the percentage that goes to the program services of the cause be included in all solicitation materials. Big Cat Rescue spends 100% of its donations on program services (ie: taking care of the cats). We are able to do that because tour revenue pays all of the admin expenses of the sanctuary.
- Real sanctuaries meet the highest sanctuary standards. Fake sanctuaries will say that they don’t like the politics, or it’s a waste of donor’s money, or that they don’t want someone else telling them how to take care of their animals, but none of those are valid reasons for not meeting the highest sanctuary standards. Many fake sanctuaries are licensed by their state and by USDA and will tell you that these governing bodies are the watchdogs of the industry, but neither USDA nor any state law defines a sanctuary as being a place where animals are not bred, sold or exploited. USDA’s standards only require that an animal’s cage be big enough that he can stand up and turn around in it.
The Global Federation of Sanctuaries only accredits real sanctuaries. It only costs $100.00 – $500 per year, depending on the sanctuary’s income level, to be a member and the application is only four pages long, so it is not a huge investment of time and money. Accreditation is only granted after an on-site inspection if the facility meets the high standards of care and responsibility. The facility must continue to maintain those standards and be re-inspected regularly to ensure compliance. Membership provides real sanctuaries with a method of demonstrating their excellence to the public and donors. Membership also enables small sanctuaries across the nation to unite as one voice for the animals because The Global Federation of Sanctuaries is a member for the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition which is made up of 20 huge organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Animal Protection Institute, Peta and many more.
- Real sanctuaries spend your donated dollars on program services. This means they spend the money on the things that made you select them as your charity. GuideStar.com lists all nonprofit organizations and posts their tax returns so that you can see how the money is being spent. If you type in the keyword “animal” almost 15,000 organizations are listed, but only 23 of them are accredited by The Global Federation of Sanctuaries. The industry standard allows that charities spend up to 35% of their donations on soliciting and still be considered reputable. A search of the 990s on GuideStar will show that fake sanctuaries often spend as much as 75% of their donations on raising more money. In almost all of these cases, you will see that the biggest expense in the pseudo-sanctuary is in providing a salary to the founder. Big Cat Rescue’s founder donated millions of dollars to start the sanctuary and refused compensation for the first 20 years of the rescue’s growth.
As in every aspect of life, the truth is out there. With the right tools, you can discover it for yourself.
If you think a sanctuary may be a scam, check this list of facilities that have been caught, red-handed: http://911animalabuse.com/
How Big Cat Rescue Deals with Other Sanctuaries
Thinking about donating to a charity? The Federal Trade Commission advises that you consider the following precautions to ensure that your donation dollars benefit the people and organizations you want to help. They’re good practices whether you’re contacted by an organization’s employees, volunteers or professional fund-raisers, soliciting donations by phone, mail or in person.
- Be wary of appeals that tug at your heart strings, especially pleas involving patriotism and current events.
- Ask for the name of the charity if the telemarketer does not provide it promptly.
- Ask what percentage of the donation is used to support the causes described in the
solicitation, and what percentage is used for administrative costs.
- Call the charity to find out if it’s aware of the solicitation and has authorized the
use of its name.
- If the telemarketer claims that the charity will support local organizations, call the local groups to verify.
- Discuss the donation with a trusted family member or friend before committing the funds.
- Don’t provide any credit card or bank account information until you have reviewed all
information from the charity and made the decision to donate.
- Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax
- Understand that contributions made to a “tax-exempt” organization are not necessarily tax deductible.
- Avoid cash gifts. They can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check – made payable to the beneficiary, not the solicitor.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on wise giving, visit www.ftc.gov/charityfraud or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
Learn More About Big Cat Rescue
Meet the cats that call Big Cat Rescue home.
Learn about the issues Big Cat Rescue is passionate about.
Top five most Frequently Asked Questions
A great guide…..
Very important reading if you are supporting an animal sanctuary.
I found this very interesting because I know of a "sanctuary that isn't and people donate SO much money it amazes me.
This is SO informative and helpful! I've already sent a list of these questions to a local sanctuary and am curious as to how they respond.
just watched this video with my kitten (see pic) and he pounced at the big cats! pretty funny;)
People, both accredited inspectors as well as wells donors, should have a chance visit and to see how the animals are doing. If this is not an option they won't see my dollars going to them.