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The ups and downs of owning and running an Animal Sanctuary

Discussion in 'General Topics & Support Issues' started by DogAndBigCatMomma, Jun 20, 2008.

  1. DogAndBigCatMomma

    DogAndBigCatMomma New Member

    I just thought now that I have the time to type this out I would. First off this is not to scare anyone away from starting a sanctuary. But for anyone who has some romantic view of it well.....this is your reality check lol. Take from someone who has been running one for 12 years.

    First is the process to get your sanctuary. This is gonna be long so get comfy.

    First are those famous questions.

    What kind of animals are you wanting to shelter? Domestic animals (Dogs, Cats, Birds, Horses ect)? Or Wildlife (Big Cats, Wolves, primates, ect)?. Once you have decided do your research. If your going to rescue domestics consider what breeds you will have. You want to keep in mind what that specific breed requires in the form of exersise, space, and attention. If your going into wildlife you also need to do your research. If you can even plan a trip to an already running sanctuary and spend time with the animals. Learn about their temperment what they will need in interaction, stimulation, food, exercise, and space. You know what you can provide and that can narrow down your list. Just like I would love to rescue Tigers someday but I know we don't have the space. Maybe someday and no matter how much I want to bring home cubs when I hear about some in need I know its best to leave them for someone with the proper facilities.

    Where do you plan to house the animals? At your home/property? Or are you planning to buy a plot of land and build enclosures on it? Or do both as we have?

    Who will be there to help you 24/7 seven days a week? Because you surely can't do it on your own.

    The main point is to stay realistic. It is far FAR from cheap to run a sanctuary. Which is why many despite good intentions go under do to financial problems

    Getting the land can also be tough. It depends on your county what kinds of animals and how many you can have on your property. It also dictates what kind of enclosures you can build. If the land is approved now consider if the land prone to flooding? Does it have water and power running or a way to do so?

    This is also a golden rule. You want your sanctuary to be fairly secluded away from neighbors. We live out in the middle of the woods and we live on a private road so we do not disturb those around us. If your animals do disturb your neighbors they have the right to call the police and report you. And your facility can and will be shut down.

    Now that you have your land and it is properly zoned and in great condition you can start construction on enclosures and buildings. First off your going to want to research the specific housing requirements for your desired species. And then you pour out even more of the cash lol for the proper fencing. And then if your like us with wildlife and you have the room then it would be best to mimic their natural habitate the best you can. Just some examples. For Skynard our Snow Leopard almost his entire is made up of boulders and rock work we brought in. Same with Chaos and Carina's inclosure. The Bobcats inclosures are just bits of the woods fenced it with some boulders brought it. The servals and buddy have special tall grass covering almost their entire enclosure good for daytime naps. They also have cute little bamboo huts as well. It is again far from cheap and sometimes you have the feeling your in over your head. But then you remember its all worth it and you move on.

    It is also nice but not required to have a indoor medical building. It should have a few enclosures inside for the sick, young, and those waiting for the vet. Like I said its not required but its a nice thing to have.

    Speaking of vets lol.

    When my husband and I decided we were going to run a big cat sanctuary we knew it would be tough to find a big cat vet. We also knew we wanted to have more than one on call. And we also knew we would end up with some domestics as well so we wanted to have regular vets lined up as well. And so we got to work. We contacted as many sanctuarys and zoos we could asking who gave them vet care and if they would be willing to help us. Being a non profit sanctuary as most are it can be tough to find a vet who will work for little money. But we got lucky and found three great vets for our future big cats and other wildlife. We also lined up two vets for our domestics. We actually just last year got lucky enough to get a volunteer worker who has been a vet tech for 5 years and has been kind enough to donate almost all her spare time to working with our cats. She helps out with the day to day but she is also here for the minor scraps and medical issues.

    Being a big cat sanctuary we don't really ask for donations of food. And so that weighs heavy on our wallet as well. Though the man we buy our meat from occasionally donates some which is helpful since our cats can eat up to 20lbs or more of meat a day individually lol. It can also be tough when running a big cat or any wild carnivore sanctuary to find the proper food for them. We found a great butcher who not only does cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and horse. But also does a number of wild game. Donations of food work best for domestic sanctuarys.

    If you plan to have visitors or volunteers you will want Liability Insurance just for peace of mind. It is also required you have workers compensation insurance. And not just wildlife Sanctuarys require these. I also highly reccomended with all the legal and financial aspects of running a sanctuary they you get both an attorney and accountant who are well versed in non profit organizations. Though that also is a kick to your pocket book I can't imagine not having either. They have both been a huge help all these years.

    In the case of donations it all depends on your preference. Around our town everyone knows about us and though we airn't open to the public like a park some are happy to donate just knowing what we do. We often receive donations in the mail or by email. We do however do wildlife education chats with grade school kids with the servals, buddy ,and sometimes Carina and the schools donate what they can. There are also five shops in town who offered to set up donation boxes in their store for our sanctuary. Really word of mouth has helped us. Also we welcome people who have donated multiple times to come and visit. But that is rare as we are not a park and our animals have been through so much we don't like to stress them out. We are now in the process of getting a website put together. When its done I will post it here for those interested.

    And now for the flat out reality check :eek: . LOL

    And so here you are five years down the road your animals are all happy in their enclosures. And your living the happy content life of someone who is helping save lives right? WRONG!! Lol well aside from the happy part.

    The day starts here at 5am every morning and no one is excluded. Family rule: all animals eat before us". It may seem extreme but growing up on a horse ranch I was raised under that same rule. And so at 5am we are all up and dressed and its feeding time for not only the big cats and wolves but also our dogs and domestic cats. Is it easy and are will all bright faced? Lol certainly not but it has to be done.

    And I mean those cats have each other so they must not get bored or destructive right? WRONG! They also need our daily interaction for it to continue to be safe for us to handle them. With our children only our 17 year old son in allowed in the with cats and even then he is not allowed in with our Black Leopard or Snow Leopard. The rule when raising cubs the kids can interact and we around them. But once they hit about a year and half and are moved to their enclosures 24/7 they can no longer do so. along with my husband, son, and myself. We have three volunteers who are authorized to be in contact with the cats. Each cat gets 2 hours of interaction and a play a day. Does that take away from personal pleasures like watching tv and such? Yes but its entertainment in its own form and its benefitting them. Our dogs get the same as they are not forgotten lol.

    Of course with this cats living so closely with humans they surely are safe to be around! No way! My husband and I never forget no matter how domesticated they may be they are still wild animals. Though they all know what No and STOP mean that doesent mean they don't slip up. Cash one of the Servals is known for getting too rough with his play from time to time. Chaos is anouther one who as inflicted a few nasty bites and scratches. Though they were never in the intent to hurt or kill just in play it is still dangerous.

    And oh taking care of cubs is all gum drops and rainbows! Lol once again NO WAY. Cubs take up more time than anything else they are just as needy as human babies and when you have more than one its like triplets. With hourly feedings which result in hourly expressing of poops and pees, which also results in burps and spit up. And boy can they ever cry and thats when you learn ear plugs are your friend! It is however wonderful to watch them grow and learn and play. I have seen beautiful results in Highway and Cowboy...But then there are those heartbreaking moments. Those times when you wonder if your doing the right thing. Those times when you lose a cub. Not because you did anything wrong but just simply that cub wasent supposed to make it. But still it doesent dull the hurt.

    The good news? The good far out weighs the bad :). I wake up every morning knowing that I am living my dream. This is what I have wanted to do since I was a little girl and im doing it. Did I get into it with a romantic notion? Oh yes I most definately did. But I wouldn't trade it for the world :).
  2. halaroo

    halaroo New Member

    Thanks for the insight on your interesting life. You're doing a great job!
  3. HDrydr

    HDrydr New Member

    There is alot to think about and to do for a sanctuary!! But the info was great to read!! I am jealous I would love to be that close to them, to be able to watch and learn from them..... I'm glad that you are living your dream.
  4. vene

    vene New Member

    Not many people can put their big dreams into reality. You are both amazing! :eek: Thank you for the insights!

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