People hear the terms animal shelter and animal sanctuary a lot. However, many people do not understand the difference. To add to the confusion, animal sanctuaries share characteristics of animal shelters. But they are not the same.
Animal shelters tend to be more temporary and more intrusive. On the other hand, animal sanctuaries tend to serve a more long-term purpose and tend to intrude less on the animals’ natural lifestyle.
Animal shelters are primarily designed for homeless, lost, or abandoned animals. Animal shelters are not always glorified in today’s society. Derogatory names such as “dog pound” are used to describe animal shelters.
Shelters often allow people to adopt animals for personal use. In fact, some shelters will euthanize animals, particularly cats and dogs, if they are not adopted within some time-frame. This approach is becoming less popular in recent years as many shelters are now adopting a “no-kill” policy. “No-kill” animal shelters are gaining popularity since the late 90s. The main issue with the “no-kill” policy is that some animal shelters do not have enough resources to many house animals simultaneously. Most shelters primarily house dogs and cats and rarely have exotic or rare animals such as wildcats living there. However, that is not always the case. Rare domestic cats and dogs frequent certain shelters periodically. In many locations, animal control agencies bring animals to the shelters.
Unlike animal shelters, wildlife sanctuaries provide a permanent residence to animals. Their goal is not adoption and they will not euthanize any animal just because it was there for too long. Wildlife sanctuaries tend to house rare and endangered species rather than domestic cats and dogs. An example of an animal sanctuary is the Catty Shack Wildlife Sanctuary in Jacksonville, Florida. This sanctuary houses threatened wildcats from all parts of the world.
Sanctuaries such as Catty Shack try to be very non-intrusive. Many but not all animal sanctuaries allow visitors. The sanctuaries that do allow visitors exercise more supervision of visitors than zoos and shelters do. Some animal sanctuaries allow researchers to visit. However, testing on animals is almost always forbidden. Since the main purpose of sanctuaries is to provide safe-haven for endangered animals, wildlife sanctuaries rarely sell, or trade animals. Some wildlife reserves allow “adoption”. However, adoption at sanctuaries typically involves donation rather than a physical removal of the animals from their habitat.