The best darn animal sanctuary EVER!
December 11, 2014 2:43 PM   Subscribe

A long-held dream of mine has been to start an animal sanctuary. Of course, I know that doing such a thing would take a lot of time, effort and money. Setting those issues aside for the moment, I am looking for people to point me to existing sanctuaries that are on the cutting edge in terms of how they house their animals, how the animals' lives are enriched (I.e., do the animals get to do something other than sit in their pen or paddock every day?), how they operate (e.g., is it a standard "take in, adopt out" scheme, or do they do something else), and maybe even how they fundraise.

By "cutting edge" I suppose I mean that the sanctuary is atypical in some way with respect to any/all of the issues mentioned above...and this atypical thing the sanctuary does is something that is demonstrably beneficial for the animals (in terms of their welfare, quality of life, etc).

To anticipate some questions, at the moment I am thinking primarily of domestic animals, whether pets (cats, dogs, etc.) or farm animals (goats, pigs, etc.). Still, if you know of a really innovative wildlife sanctuary, I'd appreciate hearing about that too.

And of course I would plan to read books and talk to experts about keeping X, Y, and Z animals happy and healthy.

Assume I am already aware of Best Friends in Utah, the brand-new Happily Ever Esther sanctuary in Canada, and Black Beauty ranch in Texas. The sanctuary you nominate could be big and well-funded or just an excellent mom-and-pop operation.

SO: if you could give me a name, link (if available), location (city, state/country), and summary of what makes that sanctuary different (in a good way) from most others, I would greatly appreciate it.

The basic idea is that I might take all of the innovative/best-practice elements and put them together to make "the best animal sanctuary EVER!" :D I might also want to visit some of them to see their facilities first-hand.
posted by Halo in reverse to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have an animal-rights activist friend who loves Farm Sanctuary (so much so that she had her wedding guests give them donations in lieu of gifts).
posted by General Malaise at 3:07 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

My gf is a big fan of Horse Plus Humane Society, for a couple of reasons.

One, they train their rescue horses - they have a full-time trainer on staff. They don't release horses until they're sure they're safe to be around and sound enough to ride.

Two, they are not a no-kill rescue. If a horse is too old, ill, or dangerous to find a safe and long-term home, they put the horse down. This focuses their attention on cases where they can do the most good, and keeps the others out of the (wildly inhumane) slaughter system. Putting a horse down humanely and disposing of the remains is actually quite expensive, and much kinder than shipping it to a dog-food plant.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:23 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have only good things to say about the Indiana Coyote Rescue Center. I've always found them to be friendly and very responsive. They've shown interest in networking with like-minded facilities, along with assisting facilities that are under development. They might be able to help you develop an education program if that interests you. Here is one of the reasons why I like them:

"Indiana Coyote Rescue Center desires to protect, restore and improve the habitat and environment of the coyote population and to teach and promote animal handling methods which promote a better quality of life for captive animals. All this, with a view of contributing to the education and enjoyment of living animals by the general public which normally has only limited access to this information, but who as individuals are called upon as voters to make decisions affecting the very quality of life of all animals and ultimately humans as well."
posted by quiet earth at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2014

My parents live next door to PIGS in Shepherdstown, WV, which isn't just pigs (they have a whole cathouse for cats with FIV!), but does take in a lot of pigs both rescued from farms and given up from pet homes when the pet owners belatedly realized there is no such thing as a tiny easy-to-care-for pig.
posted by anotherthink at 3:42 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best Friends is a top line rescue center. You can see it if you Google.
Woodstock Animal Rescue and Catskill Animal Sanctuary are in the Catskill Mountain area and
are recent start ups.
posted by donaken at 3:42 PM on December 11, 2014

Rolling Dog Farm.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:48 PM on December 11, 2014

I used to volunteer at Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary. They're on a farm, so they had enough space to take in 500 basically feral rabbits from a huge backyard hoarding situation out in Nevada, house the well socialized ones with their other adoptable rabbits, and give the others a big fenced-off outdoor home to run around and dig warrens in. As a volunteer I came for a couple of hours every week to pet and feed some of the adoptable bunnies so they'd stay accustomed to human contact. (It was awesome.)

I have a colleague who is obsessed with FFRC. Let me tell you all the things I know about it just from sitting next to this person (and we don't work in a related field, she just loves cats): They're no-kill, cage-free (the building is cleaned three times a day), volunteer-run, and known for willingness to take in cats with cerebellar hypoplasia. They have a big online community centered around the chat stream that's attached to their 24/7 webcam. That's probably where they get a lot of donations and volunteers; people travel from all over the country just to visit.
posted by clavicle at 3:51 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the nominations so far, keep 'em coming!

Just to give another example of the kind of thing I'm talking about, the Caboodle Ranch in Florida offers a "forever home" to hundreds of cats: they will never be adopted or put down simply for existing. And the man who started/runs it has built a sort of "cat city" outdoors, complete with little painted houses.

Check it out here.
posted by Halo in reverse at 3:52 PM on December 11, 2014

You might find this previously helpful: I want to estimate the cost of an animal shelter.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:55 PM on December 11, 2014

I've heard nothing but good things about Cat House on the Kings, which is a no-cage, no-kill, forever-even-if-there's-no-adoption kind of place. Pretty sure they're been featured on the blue, as well.
posted by rtha at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wild Animal Sanctuary
posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:40 PM on December 11, 2014

Pandemonium Aviaries is an interesting case - they started as a bird rescue organization and they have become a world class breeder/protector of certain endangered species.
posted by metahawk at 4:41 PM on December 11, 2014

Pandemonium Aviaries is an interesting case

Oh, I'm so glad you mentioned that organization -- Diane Rehm interviewed Michele Raffin, and it's a terrific look at how Pandemonium got started.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:06 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone with about 10 years of experience working in this field, I would urge you to instead seriously consider helping an existing shelter (by volunteering or working there) or forming a group like PAWS, a local grassroots organization, or Emancipet (its CEO Amy Mills is awesome and has great advice and ideas) and focus on education, keeping pets in their homes, and helping reduce pet overpopulation.

Also, about Caboodle Ranch: They, like a large number of "no-kill" shelters/sanctuaries (no, I'm not saying all), let things get out of control -- 700 cats were way too many to care for, and the proper procedures weren't being followed. People like that can get overwhelmed and, although their original goal was to help animals, they can end up causing overcrowding, disease, and other problems (1, 2, 3 examples) after trying to save too many animals, not adopting out enough, and not accepting that there is a fate worse than (a humane) death.

If you pursue the goal of starting a new organization, I would urge you to subscribe to Animal Sheltering magazine and read everything you can on ASPCApro. The UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program and Association of Shelter Veterinarians also have great resources about how to properly run an animal shelter. Petfinder has some good info on this as well. I would recommend ignoring Nathan Winograd and HumaneWatch/CCF, but that, to paraphrase my textbooks in high school, is beyond the scope of this post.

Thank you for wanting to help animals.
posted by trillian at 5:20 PM on December 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

Noah's Ark. Make sure to read about the BLT.

I found out about this sanctuary via a Facebook post - I have never actually visited. What I find exceptional is their use of social media to show me the personalities and make me care (enough to repeatedly donate) about the animals (via FB posts, etc).
posted by ainsley at 8:42 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Indiana
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 3:04 AM on December 12, 2014

I like Tabby's Place.

Echoing trillian about Caboodle Ranch: it's a sad story.
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 6:40 AM on December 12, 2014

The Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, FL is basically a retirement home for Orangutans and Chimpanzees that have been used in movies and television (although not exclusively, they also take in other rescues).

I haven't been (yet, but soon!) but there's an Endangered Wolf Center just outside of St. Louis that provides sanctuary for Mexican Gray Wolves, Red Wolves, Maned Wolves, Swift Foxes and African Painted Dogs. Everybody I know that has visited has said it's a very well-run, first-class facility.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:42 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Crossroads Campus, in Nashville. It's not a land-rich sanctuary, more "shop and adopt," but it combines an information-rich pet store (in a converted old home) with safe places for cats and dogs selected from Animal Control (i.e., scheduled for euthanasia), with a program integrating kids from the local "orphanage." The kids are taught to work with training dogs, and to work in the business/store side of the operation. They are now fundraising so that a few kids will be able to live above the store rather than in the institution. Not sure what the status of their women-in-prison project is.
posted by mmiddle at 6:46 AM on December 12, 2014

Rancho de Chihuahua in Chimayo, NM. Also read more about their beginnings and philosophy in A Small Furry Prayer.
posted by Barnifer at 7:21 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are a number of pit bull-type dog rescue organizations. Small groups like Handsome Dan's Rescue care for and train shelter dogs in order to improve adoption rates. Handsome Dan the dog is a Vicktory dog. I follow a number of those dog groups on Facebook. Lovely, wonderful group.
posted by feste at 10:35 AM on December 12, 2014

In Central Illinois, we have a new (2-3 years old) place called Hospice Hearts that takes in the pets of terminally ill people. It's a wonderful thing, and it's flourishing.
posted by tully_monster at 10:38 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hospice Hearts' Facebook page is a lot more informative.
posted by tully_monster at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2014

The Roundout Valley Anmials for Adoption (RVAA) is quite amazing: The animals are handled and played with every day. Their "Train to Adopt" program is nationally recognized as top-notch.
posted by apennington at 12:58 PM on December 13, 2014

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