Volume 93, Number 5

November 2018

Unsafe Havens: Improving Third-Party Accreditation of Wildlife Sanctuaries

Simon J. Williams

A number of animal “sanctuaries” and “rescue centers” operate across the United States and, in spite of their sympathetic names that attract visitors and donors, in fact neglect their animals and commit egregious violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Since United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforcement of the AWA is extremely weak, third parties have begun certifying and accrediting different facilities of captive animal care. This Note addresses the work of such third-party accreditors and argues that, while they can indeed play a valuable role in regulating wildlife sanctuaries and educating the public, they can only achieve these goals effectively through a more detailed and comprehensive accreditation framework. Part I gives relevant background on the AWA and identifies how its ambiguities and enforcement deficit create informational and regulatory gaps in which third-party accreditors can take meaningful action. Part II analyzes the accreditors themselves, revealing the limited extent of their coverage, the ideological rifts that divide them, and important contrasts in their processes and standards for accreditation. Part III turns to potential solutions for addressing this fractured landscape. It proposes a tiered and detailed accreditation system that more effectively communicates relevant information to prospective visitors and donors. It also evaluates and critiques several alternative solutions.