Shelters and Sanctuaries
Shelters and sanctuaries play an important part in animal welfare. By supporting local police and other forces of law and order and by raising public awareness for the conservation of nature and biodiversity.
There are many reasons why animals are taken to a shelter or sanctuary. Exotic animals (native and mostly wild animals) are often kept as pets, used in the entertainment businesses (e.g. circuses, audio-visual companies, bars and nightclubs, or part of street entertainment) or kept in dilapidated zoos.
There’s conclusive evidence of the poor conditions of animals kept at zoos that don’t comply to legislations  or at circuses that work with animals . Research shows that there’s a real threat concerning the biodiversity and ecology, the health and safety of the buyer, and the health and welfare of the animal when exotic animals are kept and traded . The diversity of exotic animals, which are kept as pets, consist more than a thousand different species and include invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals (non-human primates included). Our native wild animal kingdom has suffered irrevocably by the interference of humans and the consequences of air pollution by traffic, destruction of their natural habitats and local climate changes.
A lot of the animals taken in by animal shelters and sanctuaries suffer from severe physical and psychological injuries. Professionally managed shelters and sanctuaries play a specific part in animal welfare. They provide the necessary facilities and specific diet requirements for each species to stimulate natural behaviours, and store a good physical and psychological health.
- An animal shelter provides short term accommodation, care and rehabilitation while looking for an appropriate and lasting place somewhere else.
- Rehabilitation centres provide accommodation, care and rehabilitation before releasing the native wild animals back in nature.
- Sanctuaries provide long term accommodations, care and rehabilitation.
Most facilities combine the different methods.
Forces of law and order
Animal shelters and sanctuaries facilitate not only the individual animal welfare, but play a few other important parts. Although animal shelters and sanctuaries show by their existence alone that there’s a problem in the application of the Animal Welfare Act, the centres also support the national and regional efforts of the police forces by taking in seized animals. It is noticeable that in places where there are no animal shelters or sanctuaries, there are fewer efforts made by the government to stop the illegal trade and the keeping of wild animals. Confiscated animals are used as evidence in smuggling cases and cases of animal cruelty or atrocities. The animal carers at the shelters or sanctuaries serve as expert witnesses and help the police, customs and the authorities with exotic wild animals to prosecute smugglers people involved with animal abuse. The individual or organization has to believe there’s a clear risk of being caught, that the punishment of the violations is severe and serious, and that the punishment outweighs the benefits of ignoring the restrictions. It’s only then that the law has an effect. By arresting, prosecuting, imprisoning and informing the public about the crime, potential offenders can be stopped. It also facilitates the reporting of criminal activities and hopefully it increases awareness of the fact that trading and keeping exotic animals, and acts of animal cruelty are all criminal acts with consequences. Animal shelters and sanctuaries play an important part in imposing laws about animal welfare by providing a place for confiscated wild animals and by supporting the police forces.
Locally, the animal shelters and sanctuaries are open to the public, allowing visitors to be informed about the animals and why they were taken to the centres. The importance of education to raise empathy and a better understanding about nature and biodiversity is recognized worldwide. Shelters and sanctuaries are ideal for this purpose, but only if animal welfare remains their top priority. Not all shelters and sanctuaries are open to the public, but can still help to make the people more aware of all this by means of effective communication, networking and participation in campaigns and research.
Nature conservation and biodiversity
Shelters and sanctuaries support nature conservation and biodiversity on a national, regional and international level by supporting the police forces and raising public awareness about these issues. The work of animal shelters and sanctuaries concerning native wildlife can help restore biodiversity by placing the animals back in their natural habitat.