The truth about some exotic cat sanctuaries is, unfortunately, a disturbing one. There are plenty of reasons why animal sanctuaries aren't always good. Ever been to an animal sanctuary that let you pet a baby tiger? Then you've might have been to one of the bad exotic cat sanctuaries that drug tigers so they'll be docile when handled. Ever been to a sanctuary that houses far more babies than adults? That's a sanctuary that might be engaging in unethical breeding practices. Some so-called animal sancturies even go so far as to euthanize their animals without any medical reason to do so.While some animal sanctuaries truly do help animals, others are basically fake animal sanctuaries and do nothing but harm. If you want to visit, donate to, or volunteer with an animal sanctuary, do your research, and make sure that the organization you choose actually cares for its animals.
Private Sanctuaries Are Unregulated By The Federal Government
Most publicly funded sanctuaries are regularly inspected by the government to ensure that they are complying with the Animal Welfare Act. As such, you can reasonably assume that these institutions will be sanitary, and will provide the animals with appropriate food, enclosures, and veterinary care.
The same cannot be said for private sanctuaries. While many private sanctuaries do in fact meet animal welfare standards, others do not. Without inspections from a disinterested third party, there's no way to verify that the animals are being treated properly. This means that any harmful activity is often allowed to continue unchecked.
Some Sanctuaries Obtain Their Animals Illegally
Before you decide to support a particular animal sanctuary, you need to know where their animals are coming from. While many are involved in legitimate rescue efforts, others obtain their animals through less ethical means. For example, some sanctuaries illegally remove animals from the wild, sometimes separating baby animals from their mothers. It can be difficult for outsiders to determine whether or not animals are there because they actually needed to be rescued, or because they were snatched from the wild to fill a quota.
Many Sanctuaries Breed Their Animals
Sanctuaries should not, in general, have large numbers of baby animals present. Some are acceptable, since sanctuaries sometimes have to rescue babies and pregnant adults. That said, animals should be neutered or spayed upon arrival to a sanctuary. If an animal sanctuary breeds their exotic animals, it's possible that they don't have the animal's well-being in mind.
Some people argue that breeding is necessary for the conservation of endangered species. While such breeding programs can be useful, this is rarely true of the breeding programs that exist in most sanctuaries. Most animals in sanctuaries are either crossbred or inbred, and are therefore not especially useful for maintaining genetic diversity in the species as a whole. Also, breeding animals in captivity means that their offspring may be adapted for captivity, which makes returning them to the wild impossible. Sanctuaries that engage in breeding often do it to sell the offspring, or encourage tourism.
Animals Are Trained To Perform Tricks
Wild animals are not like domestic animals. They do not naturally obey the commands of humans, and they can't be trained to do so without negative reinforcement. So, while it can be fun to ride elephants or watch monkeys do tricks, that fun can be at the expense of the animal's well-being. Negative reinforcement can mean whips, chains, food deprivation, and other techniques which are arguably abusive.
If you're looking for an exotic animal sanctuary to donate time or money to, make sure that they don't force animals to do tricks.