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What is an Animal Sanctuary?

Who ever thought Florida would be ahead of the curve when it comes to animal protection?

When I first heard that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proposed a definition of "sanctuary" that includes a prohibition on breeding, selling or buying captive wildlife, as well as contact between the public and the wildlife, I was pleased.

Don’t think for a moment I missed the part about "wildlife" and the reality that farmed animal sanctuaries and companion animal sanctuaries were excluded, but I think that this is a small, positive step. As the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (yes, I know they do some welfare work, and no, I don’t agree with all of their campaigns) writes:

The new definition would help to identify genuine sanctuaries in Florida who provide care for abused or abandoned animals, where the welfare of each individual animal is the primary consideration.

The FWC is accepting public input on the proposed changes. Please contact the commission and express your strong support of the proposed new rule– "68A-6.0025 Sanctuaries"– and in particular it’s prohibition of breeding captive wildlife.

E-mail comments to:
(type "captive wildlife" in the subject line)

Mail written comments to:
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Attn: Capt. Linda Harrison
620 Meridian Street
Tallahassee, FL, 32399-1600

The deadline for submitting public comments is July 4.

I think about the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, which has educational programs that involve taking the wildlife out of their permanent home at the sanctuary for television appearances or "outreach" programs, and touts "interaction with live animals" (at, for example, the Wildlife Encounters Summer Camp). As you may know, Busch is also connected to Jack Hanna.

I am willing to bet my net worth that if indeed the new definition is adopted, somehow Busch will be grandfathered in or by some other means deemed a legitimate sanctuary despite the fact that it doesn’t meet the definition’s requirements. (Busch apparently does do great rehabilitation work with wildlife, but I don’t think it’s a sanctuary, and I don’t think it provides–or can provide–adequate space for some of its residents. The one or two panthers come to mind, in what is basically a cage smaller than my living room.)

I know that sounds negative and cynical, but I’ve been in Florida long enough, where by the way a recently-proposed statute that would prohibit sexual contact between people and animals was NOT passed (because it was not heard in the House), and I have yet to see an instance where sentient nonhumans were protected when there was a reason sentient humans might be able to benefit from their use.

Does anyone have a sanctuary definition in their state’s law that I might be able to use for comparison? I wonder if this type of action has a significant positive effect on wildlife. There are few things I like less than putting my time, energy and money behind something–only to have it pass–and then find out later that I made a mistake. (Can you say ban on gestation crates?)

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