Why Start a Sanctuary

Sybil Erden - Benson AZ – March 27, 2013
Vice President – American Sanctuary Association
Founder/President – The Oasis Sanctuary
Co-founder - Cochise Canine Rescue

While there are numerous articles and how-to’s about the logistics of beginning a non-profit, little is written, or understood, about the mindset of people who start animal sanctuaries.

Animals are the least cared for sentient beings on this planet. Non-profits for children, the poor, the elderly, establishments such as schools, food banks, hospitals, even environmental issues…all have a fair number of public and private grants provided by humanitarian foundations, and people can readily identify with the suffering of their fellow humans. But in our society animals, even companion animals, are the discarded, the forgotten.

With arguably 7 million companion cats and dogs euthanized at so-called shelters annually, and literally billions of domesticated animals used for food, killed annually, thoughtlessly, in slaughterhouse factories throughout the US…. with exotic animals in the top three or four most lucrative forms of illegal trafficking in the world (along with drugs, guns and human-trafficking)….it is still surprisingly difficult to convince people that these lives are worth the time, effort and most critically, funding, to save.

It is to end this waste of lives that a small number of animal activists throughout the US have, independently, begun relatively small facilities providing life-care for every imaginable species from farmed animals, cats and dogs, reptiles, to exotic parrots, primates, big cats, wolves and many more.

But who are we ? What sort of person begins a facility ?

We are, for the most part, not wealthy. Many of us work two jobs in order to establish our facilities, while others liquidate their assets whether homes, retirements, bank accounts.

All of us have made and could be making far more money than we will ever see doing the day-in-day-out work we do.

We are motivated. Each of us has compassion for the animals we care for, and often for many species besides the few in our care.

We recognize the individual spirit, the self-aware being in the eyes of the animal and we connect.

We wear many hats….from cleaning up poop, preparing specialized diets for our charges, dealing with people needing help and staying up nights nursing a sick animal.

We become specialized veterinary technicians…often the first or only medical care available in emergency. We learn how to run an expensive and under-capitalized business. We study fundraising, grant writing. We interact with corporate foundation heads. We write and speak about the animals in our care.

We are their voice…

Our human relationships often suffer. Marriages dissolve as the animals take precedence over our spouse. Old friends fall be the wayside until all our friends and associates are in the animal welfare world…

We work 24/7…more than simply 8 hours a day. Whether it is a recue or a sick animal, fundraising and traveling…our time, our lives are completely intertwined with the sanctuary, with the animals.

In 1998 the American Sanctuary Association was founded to set standards for animal care and housing. Actress and animal activist, Tippi Hedren, founder of The Shambala Preserve, was elected as the first President.  The goal of ASA is to link together sanctuary directors and founders in order to share experiences and to enable an ever growing number of unwanted animals to find safe-haven. 

We are open to the application for membership from other non-profit life-care facilities, which care for animals of every type in the US.

Join us.
Become a Member.
Become a Donor.

Help ASA and the incredible people who care for the animals help even more….

Click here for a sanctuary startup guide (pdf file).

Love and Loss in Rescue





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