Some tips on starting a small animal sanctuary

Recently, a reader wrote to ask for advice as he is interested in starting an animal sanctuary.

Coincidentally, ever since we handled the Kawan-and-Hoarder case, I have asked an officer in an animal shelter to share some tips on starting and managing a shelter/sanctuary.

Here it is:

Things to consider before you start a small animal sanctuary.

1)      Location and size of your land. 

If you are situated in a housing estate and you have neighbours, please take into consideration the noise and the smell that your neighbours may have to put up with if you have too many animals in your sanctuary.

The size of the land will also determine the number of dogs and cats you should have, eg a large dog should have at least 16 sq feet of land and 9 sq feet for a medium size dog.

Cats will need about 6 sq feet each.

Always have some space for the quarantine of newcomers. Never allow them to mix with the your existing resident dogs and cats in your sanctuary unless you know the medical background of that animal. Even if you do, caution is advised.

Always check for ticks and fleas before you bring them into your sanctuary. If possible, give them a tick and flea wash before putting them in.

2)      Feeding. 

Learn about as many types of animal feed as possible and find out which brand is best for them. It is not possible to have all of them on different brands of dog food or cat food and never stick to just only 1 brand for the rest of their lives. Change the brand every few months or better still, change the brand every month.

If you are giving them homecooked food, read up about it. It is not just simply cooking rice with some chicken. Read up on some basic homecooked meals and how to make it as nutritionally balance as possible.

There is the BARF diet; BARF means Bones And Raw food. This is the best but your animals must be able to take it and you must have the time to prepare this food. It is best you read up on it before you try it on them.

Whichever diet you choose to use, remember, always to have plenty of fresh water at all times for them and the bigger the variety of foods the more balanced the diet will be.

3)      Housing and Sanitation. 

Proper housing must always include proper drainage. It is best to have the whole area cemented/concreted. It is easier to maintain cleanliness with the floor cemented and there is better control of external parasites too. Do not just flush the waste down the drain. The smell will sure to catch the attention of your neighbours. Always pick it up regularly and dispose of it properly.

The animal enclosure must be covered to protect the animal from the weather. If it is too hot, they might get heatstroke and they will catch a cold if the weather is wet and cold. But at the same time, it is not good to have a fully covered shelter. They need to have some sunlight and fresh air too. If the animals are kept in cages, they must get some execise. Never cage an animal for a long period of time. They can become neurotic.

4)      Medical 

All the animals must be vaccinated and neutered in the shelter. Without these, you will surely have a population boom and outbreak of disease. If you handle these animals yourself, you will know their behaviour and if you notice any “abnormal” behaviour, ie. something is wrong or they are sick, seek medical care immediately.

5)      Funds. 

No money means no sanctuary/shelter. Always make sure you only house so many as far as your funds allow you. You do not want to starve your animals or deny them the medical treatment when it is needed.


Disclaimer: The above tips are by no means legal guidelines in starting an animal sanctuary. For proper guidelines, please consult the relevant authorities.


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