A common activity for visitors to town or kids that most people don’t pause to think much about is visiting the zoo. Zoos do an amazing job of putting images of “happy animals” in their advertising to make us want to visit.

Unfortunately, zoos are not happy places for the animals. Many are stolen from their mothers in the wild as babies, and none are in enclosures large enough to represent their natural habitat. No matter how natural their environment may look, it is a prison for them created purely for human enjoyment.

However, there is good news! If you wish to see animals, there are sanctuaries throughout the US and the world where amazing people provide these animals with a better life. Unlike zoos where the animals are purchased or bred to be on display, the animals at sanctuaries have been rescued. These animals are most commonly rescued from zoos or circuses, were unwanted exotic pets, or have been discarded from testing laboratories. Sanctuaries also rehabilitate injured wildlife that can then be released back into the wild.

You may have to travel a bit to get to these sanctuaries, but it is a wonderful experience to plan a vacation around. Here are just a few examples of some in the United States:

The Elephants Sanctuary – Tennessee

Big Cats Rescue – California

Born Free – Texas

Jungle Friends – Florida

There are thousands of sanctuaries for everything from farm animals to horses and reptiles. Simply search for “sanctuary” and the type of animal you wish to see, and you will find many options online.

Also, be aware that not all sanctuaries are created equal; some are zoos in disguise. Do a quick search for reviews for the sanctuary on sites like Trip Advisory. You can also visit www.sanctuaryfederation.org to see a database of sanctuaries that have been approved by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Their database of sanctuaries is small, but any sanctuary that has made this list is the best of the best.

If you find a sanctuary you aren’t sure about, feel free to post here, and we will be happy to take a look and help you decide. Enjoy!