You might have heard The Performing Animal Welfare Society, founded by Ed Stewart and Pat Derby, brag about their 2300 acre sanctuary (Ark 2000) for elephants in which the pachyderms have access to 100 acres of land and a Jacuzzi, or The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado and their 700+ acres for various large carnivores.
And you’ve probably definitely come across the rhetoric of Big Cat Rescue of Tampa Florida, whose founders have the biggest mouths but the smaller cage spacing of the three, and their statements about the terrible conditions of which felines in the exotic pet trade are subjected to and the superiority of their facility.
One of the most blatant examples is their campaign to force the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Louisiana to give up his elderly cat and send it to their sanctuary where he will be given a “beautiful lakeside enclosure with a hillside cave, pool…”.
Unlike some of Big Cat Rescue’s highlights of ridiculously atrocious facilities, Tony the tiger does not live in deplorable conditions; he has, like millions of dogs and cats, a non-‘perfect’ reasonable owner who cares for him and deserves to continue to. Tony’s setting meets his needs even though it is located at a truck stop—such criticism is likely stemming from privileged activists who get to play animal psychic by knowing with certainty that the presence of vehicles is traumatic for the tiger.
Animal rights sanctuaries like those listed above accumulate massive support by perpetuating the domestication myth, then their founders, most who were rich to begin with, collect giant donations from their sympathizers so they can create extravagantly luxurious facilities.
They show their followers how well their animals are living compared to the comparably poor animal owners with no donators.
They suggest that they deserve to take possession of people’s animals because they have this luxury, and that enormous amount of space.
Because so-called exotic animals are viewed as ‘too special to be pets’ no one bats an eyebrow. What if this manipulative tactic was done to them?
What if the owner of a farm with acres of land claimed that your apartment dog is living a cruel existence? These sanctuaries are essentially claiming the following:
This is your hamster cage. This cage is not luxurious, but it is adequate. It has what your pet needs.
Look at our superior luxurious cage! Hamsters run 5 miles a night in the wild, our gigantic cage more closely resembles the space they would have if it wasn’t for your evil decision to confine them. Send your hamster to us. Let us give it a chance at a decent life.
Most people wouldn’t stand for this belittling approach. Not all animals, domesticated or otherwise, are kept in the most sparkling and extravagant-mansion equivalent of caging, yet I’d bet my bottom dollar that many are ‘happy’ or at least content if they live in a reasonable environment.
What’s worse, many would suffer if dropped into a strange environment that the human is bent on believing the animal must love, while it actually probably wants to stay in the comfort of the space it is used to.
Sanctuaries certainly have their place, but they overstep their bounds when attempting to abduct animals that already have caring owners for the sake of their egos.