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The Difference Between Sanctuaries & Roadside Zoos

We recently posted on our social accounts about the recent news of the escaped serval cat from a “sanctuary” in Ontario. We wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the importance of the language we use when talking about animal facilities - mainly what constitutes one which is a sanctuary (a true refuge for animals) and a roadside zoo (one which exploits them). It’s important we understand the difference and ask for regulations to protect exotic animals, that licence and regulate zoos, and demand news reports using appropriate language that accurately describes the situation at hand. Sanctuaries protect their animals, not exploit them. Check out the images we posted below (text & references to follow).

What is a sanctuary?

Sanctuaries are a safe refuge for animals where they can be free from exploitation. That means the animals' needs come first. What keeps them healthy and stress-free is paramount to all else.

What true sanctuaries don’t do. Aka: Red Flags

  • We’re not petting zoos. You should not be able to go into wild animal enclosures and interact freely with the animals.

  • We do no force our animals to undergo the stress of transportation for entertainment such as birthday parties.

  • We do not breed our animals. Ever. Period.

  • We do not purchase animals or take in more animals than we can reasonably care for and provide a minimum required standard of care.

Why you should avoid roadside zoos:

Ontario is the only province in all of Canada without legislation and regulations that govern exotic animals. There is zero licensing of zoos and wildlife

displays of exotic animals and minimal oversight. Inspections only occur when a complaint has been made, and even then, without legislation acts of neglect cannot be penalized. Roadside zoos have no accountability & can use animals for profit.

Let’s talk about Gizmo’s Escape.

Waddles'n' Wags Zoological Haven has multiple complaints.

  • They have been investigated by the SPCA at least 22.

  • They have been investigated by the PAWS Act (ON) at least 2..

  • They have been exposed in a W5 report.

  • There are images on We Animals Media documenting their poor living conditions.

  • This is not the first time an animal has escaped their (inadequate) enclosures.

  • Animals have been removed from their ownership.

Why does it matter? Standards are important.

When any facility, regardless how they treat, use, neglect or abuse their animals can call themselves a sanctuary it creates unrealistic expectations from the uninformed public on what standards of care are okay for animals. There is an unwritten assumption that a place that calls itself a sanctuary would put the care of the animals first. More people are likely to visit roadside zoos under the guise of sanctuaries, supporting them. When you support a for-profit business (even unknowingly) that exploits animals, you are enabling the exploitation to continue.

Why we should care about the term sanctuary.

News outlets are referring to Waddles’n’ Wags as a sanctuary. This is extremely damaging. Why? It sets a dangerous precedence that the activities that go on at roadside zoos (whom are under the guise of a sanctuary) such as exploiting animals for entertainment are okay. People who don’t know better might make the choice to support a place based on the sanctuary title. Then, when places like Waddles does awful things it tarnishes the name sanctuary.

But what can I do? Take Action.

  • Ask your MPP (find them here: for legislation protecting wild animals kept at roadside 200s.

  • Email Solicitor General Sylvia Jones for legislation protecting wild animals kept at roadside zoos:

  • Comment on any article you see talking about the missing serval with the facts in previous posts, educating others.

  • Email the article authors requesting they replace the term sanctuary with roadside 200.

  • Share this blog with your network!




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