Whilst the reasons for starting a farmed animal sanctuary are entirely sound, the undertaking of such a mission must be very carefully considered. It must be understood that in order to provide the best level of care for the animals dependent upon your care, the dedication required is all-consuming.
As the person who is responsible for the entire functioning of the sanctuary, it requires that you spend varying amounts of time cleaning, medicating, socialising, feeding and watering the animals, answering emails and telephone calls, collecting animals, conducting the financial affairs of the organisation, co-ordinating volunteers, promoting your organisation, fundraising for the sanctuary, and a myriad of other day-to-day tasks that take up time, as well as catching a few hours sleep.
Not only does this require an enormous physical commitment but an emotional and financial one as well, not to mention an enormous amount of knowledge. The days are long and tiring and days off are few.
None of this is to say that the joy we can bring to these animals’ lives is not worth it, but in order for sanctuaries to provide the best lives they can to their residents, those who operate them must forego most of what most people would call ‘normal lives’.
The practicalities of starting an animal sanctuary are many fold. Firstly, it is essential to own land that is suitable for the animals who will live in your sanctuary.
You must also consult the local council to ensure your planned activity complies with council regulations and bylaws. You will also need to consider neighbours. Will they be receptive? The cost and practicalities of installing/erecting suitable housing and fencing may be different for each species, and must also be taken into consideration.
Your selection of land will be of critical importance. Things you will need to consider are, but by no means limited to; rainfall, carrying capacity, water supply, natural shelter, distance to veterinary assistance, accessibility, bushfire threats, existing use of the land, existing and proposed use of neighbouring land and current infrastructure.
Once you have the necessary infrastructure, you must have the necessary funds to ensure that you are always able to feed, water and medicate as necessary, all of the animals in your care with a back-up of at least two months’ outgoings in case of emergency. Securing funds involves fund-raising, establishing and encouraging monthly and one-off donations and applying for grants, all of which are labour-intensive.
The administration of a sanctuary must also be considered and this will include applying for, and operating under a not-for-profit or charitable status, obtaining tax-deductible status, and buying public liability insurance if you wish to allow people to visit your sanctuary. You must also ensure that financial matters are taken care of, including receipts for donations, fulfilling statutory requirements, payment of bills, purchase of supplies, etc.
Of course, you will also rescue animals to live in your sanctuary and they will come from many situations. You will hear about terrible situations of neglect, cruelty and abandonment, and you may rescue from stockyards and farmers who would otherwise slaughter the animals. The problem is not finding animals in need of rescue; it is hearing of those who desperately need help and being unable to offer it to them. You will receive many calls from people who want you to help them, and you may find, with a heavy heart, you will have to say “No”. You must know how many animals you are able to care for at any one time and not exceed this limit in order not to compromise the welfare of the existing residents. This will be one of your greatest challenges.
Record keeping will form a large part of your work, both for the sanctuary and animals you care for. For each rescued animal you will need to keep extensive records, where they came from, health status, other pertinent information along with any veterinary treatments you provide.
I hope this information is of use to you, but because of differing circumstances please don’t take it to be an exhaustive account of the requirements of establishing and running a farmed animal sanctuary. Each case will, of course, be very individual.
From experience, I can say with certainly that the mission I undertake now is the hardest path I could have taken in life. It requires dedication to the point of exclusion of many other aspects of life, and frustration, sadness, anger, despondency, tiredness and desperation are felt alongside the joy, satisfaction, pleasure and sense of privilege, that are experienced when spending all day, every day, working on behalf of rescued farmed animals.
Establishing a place of safety and compassion is one of the most rewarding undertakings you could consider. It will bring an enormous amount of joy into your life as well as an enormous amount of hard work. However, the most important thing to consider is that once the animals are in your care, they are your responsibility and they will rely on you for everything. You must never let them down. This is an enormous undertaking.
With very best wishes for your venture – the animals need as many compassionate people working on their behalf as possible. Please also consider lending a hand or interning at existing sanctuary first to gain valuable insights. For further resources and information about how to start a sanctuary please visit Open Sanctuary.
The legal requirements of establishing a not for profit group are very strict, and for good reason. If you are in Australia and would like more information on the legal requirements of establishing a not for profit group please visit http://www.nfplaw.org.au/beforeyoustart