Sanctuarians respond to July/August features

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2002:

Dharma donks

Thank you for including an item about our Dharma Donkey
Sanctuary activities in Sagroli village, south Maharashtra, India,
in your July/August 2002 edition.
On June 28, the day before our third annual donkey health
care and education camp, the police of nearby Biloli village
apprehended and jailed six men who were allegedly stealing donkeys
for slaughter at an infamous slaughterhouse just across the state
border in Andra Pradesh. As soon as we heard the news, we went to
meet the police. They were very excited that we came, and I took
lots of photos of the police captain, his staff, and the two
policemen who actually caught the donkey-nappers.

As they told the story, at 4:30 in the morning a policeman
and his driver saw the six men lifting donkeys up into a truck, even
moms and babies. Since donkeys are normally never lifted into
trucks, the police stopped and found out they had no bill of sale.
The suspects were immediately arrested. The 24 donkeys were taken
into custody for three days, the maximum allowed by law, while the
village people were notified that if anyone was missing a donkey,
he or she should describe the missing animal in detail, along with
describing where and when the animal was last seen.
We already had seven donkeys, our original permanent
residents, but accepted from the police 10 more donkeys, who were
walked to the sanctuary after the three-day waiting period. Seven of
the 10 were females, for whom we had to make a separate shelter and
corral, as our males cannot be castrated until after the monsoon
season, toward the end of August or in early September.
–Bonny Shah
AHIMSA of Texas
1720 E. Jeter Road
Bartonville, TX 76226


The July/August feature ‘Is ‘sanctuary’ an illusion?’ was
informative. Thank you for calling attention to the distinctions
between animal care centers which can truthfully be called
“sanctuaries” and those which are nothing of the sort.
I must take issue with your comparison of the growth of the
American Zoological Association as a representative body and that of
the two recognized sanctuary accreditation organizations in the U.S.,
the American Sanctuary Association and The Association of Sanctuaries.
You wrote: “…neither TAOS nor the ASA has ever even
approached the membership reach of the AZA, which from the very
beginning included the majority of the biggest, best-known, and
most influential zoos in the U.S.”
This seems to me an unfair comparison.
Of the AZA, you reported that, “20 years ago there were
barely 50 AZA-accredited zoos. There are now more than 180.”
The AZA was incorporated in 1972, TAOS in 1992, and the ASA
barely three years ago.
Currently, there are 45 TAOS-accredited sanctuaries and 39
ASA-accredited sanctuaries. Fifteen sanctuaries have dual
accreditation, for a total of 69 sanctuaries accredited between them.
Regardless of how you do the math, the sanctuary
accreditation associations include more than half again as many
members as the AZA had at a similar point.
The sanctuary accreditation associations are perhaps being
“exclusionary,” as Animal People claims. If this is the case, they
are merely doing their jobs. It is necessary for them to set and
maintain high standards which distinguish sanctuaries giving quality
lifetime care from scam-tuaries, dealers, breeders, and roadside
–Linda Howard
AESOP Project
511 Beryl Drive
San Antonio, TX 78213
Phone: 210 349 4649


I enjoyed your article “Is sanctuary an illusion?” very much,
but there are a couple of things I would like to address:
First I would like to make it clear that the recommended
standards in discussion at this time pertain only to big cats,
wolves and their hybrids, foxes, coyotes, bears, and all primates.
If one believes an animal will die or suffer without
handling, then handling should be kept out of public view with the
ultimate goal of un-imprinting the animal and introducing it to
others of its own kind.
My experience has been that many animals are heavily
imprinted on humans upon arrival, but I have never had any die, or
show extreme anxiety and suffering when being rehabilitated and
placed with others of their own kind. Sometimes one must seem a
little cruel to be kind. The ending product is by far better for any
exotic cat or primate than being treated as a household pet and kept
in solitary confinement in a sanctuary.
There is no educational value to children seeing these
animals on leashes or being cuddled by humans. This promotes the
false idea that they are cute and stay cute and cuddly, and can
always be handled safely, if one spends time nurturing and handling
When we used to take animals off premise, the statement we
heard most was, “I want one,” no matter how many times we stressed
that they don’t make good pets.
If the animals are taken out of their enclosures and used to
entertain attendees in return for donations, then this without a
doubt is commercial activity. No matter how you look at it, it is a
way of making money by using animals. If we condone this activity
for credible sanctuaries, what gives us the right to condemn the many
pseudo-sanctuaries for allowing photo opportunities with cubs and
other animals? And how can we honestly say it is wrong for animals
to be used in the entertainment industry?
Sanctuaries and the animals we serve cannot afford the
effects of these double standards.
–Carol Asvestas
P.O. Box 690422
San Antonio, TX 78269
Phone: 210-688-9038

ASA resignation

Your July/August 2002 article “Is sanctuary an illusion?”
stated that Carol Asvestas resigned from the American Sanctuary
Association board of directors when the standards that she proposed
were rejected. This is not entirely true. Asvestas resigned when
reminded by ASA president Tippi Hedren that she had circulated the
draft standards through the Internet and presented them to federal
agencies before the ASA board had either discussed or approved them.
–Wallace W. Swett
Board of Directors
American Sanctuary Association
and President
Primarily Primates
P.O. Box 207
San Antonio, TX 78291
Phone: 830-755-4616
Fax 830-755-2435

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