Here are some frequently asked questions regarding our animals, donating, visiting, volunteering and more.
Ill-equipped owners often abandon their exotic pets, not knowing where to turn for help. Sometimes owners simply move away, leaving the animal chained up with no food, water or realistic hope of survival. Federal agents who confiscate these animals put them on a waiting list for placement within a sanctuary, such as Safe Haven, for zoos will not accept them. Only a limited number of sanctuaries are accredited, legitimate and equipped to provide permanent placement and lifetime commitment to their care. As such, these facilities fill up quickly. If placement is not available, animals are euthanized.
All species demand a range of necessities in order to survive. For the sake of answering this questions, let us use the cougar as an example. Cougars can live up to 20 years in captivity and require:
Over time, consistently providing these things for one’s exotic pet can become both very expensive and terribly difficult.
We are located two hours northeast of Reno in Imlay, Nev. For further directions, please visit our Visit page.
Volunteers may work as often as they like from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., seven days a week. We do have limited overnight housing available to those traveling long distances that would like to volunteer consecutive days.
Safe Haven is open from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., seven days a week.
Every day, people yield to the temptation and purchase a “big cat” or other unusual, non-native species. One problem feeds the other, and soon the growing demand for these animals results in more breeding and more unwanted animals. Exotic animals of this nature are also often sold as targets in “canned hunts.” Licensing requirements and laws regulating wild pet ownership vary from state to state, leaving loopholes through which such animals may still be obtained.
Many former pets arrive at sanctuaries suffering from:
Most illegal pets are non-native species that cannot be released into the wild. Even those that belong to indigenous species are rarely releasable due to:
Safe Haven is a state- and federally-licensed organization that is trained and experienced in care for these types of animals. Our move to Nevada was largely prompted by the increased demand for placement of animals in need, many of which were confiscated illegal exotic pets. For more information about the illegal pet trade, please visit TRAFFIC: the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Yes. Safe Haven provides rehabilitative services for rescued animals that are eligible for return to the wild. When we receive calls from the public regarding baby animals, our volunteers assist the callers in returning them to the nest or den in the hope that the mother will return for the baby. When all attempts fail or if the orphan is injured, we then accept the animal for placement. Advice is given to the caller regarding temporary care only until we are able to safely transport the animal back to our sanctuary.
It is not our policy to provide information regarding the raising of wild animals. It is illegal for any unlicensed person to keep wildlife.
Yes. Safe Haven provides the highest-quality care for a number of permanent placement residents. Some of these animals were confiscated illegal pets, while others received injuries in the wild that have rendered them non-releaseable. Meet our current residents.
If their nest has been damaged, remember it can be repaired. Look for a shallow depression lined with grass and fur. Place babies in the nest, cover them with a light layer of grass and leave the area. Mother rabbits return only at dawn and dusk. If you find healthy bunnies that are four to five inches long, able to hop with eyes open and ears up, they do not need your help. They are mature enough to be able to survive on their own. Please leave them alone.
On an instinctive level, environmental enrichment is something that improves the quality of a captive animal’s life. But more specifically, environmental enrichment increases the behavioral options available to the captive animal and draws out species appropriate behavior by:
Experts in the field of environmental and behavioral enrichment study ways to provide captive animals with environmental stimuli to compensate for the absence of a rich and challenging natural habitat.
Training, also referred to as operant conditioning, is often included within a definition of enrichment. Although not a natural behavior, many captive animals seem to enjoy the attention of their keepers/trainers and appear to find these activities enriching. Operant conditioning programs reward behaviors that can improve the quality of the captive animal’s life, training them to allow the handling necessary for examination or the administration of medication, or to be moved to a selected location such as a lockout for safety.
In their natural habitat, animals encounter a wide spectrum of environmental stimuli every day as they carry out the tasks essential for survival. They are “busy” all the time. For their individual survival, they must find food and shelter as well as avoid predators and other hazards. For species survival, they engage in mating and infant-rearing activities. From the moment of birth, animals in the wild develop and refine the skills essential for survival.
Captive animals have the same instincts and the same energetic need to respond to their environment as their counterparts in the wild. However, without the need to engage their environment and struggle for survival, their instincts and repressed energy can manifest itself into obsessive, stereotypic, counterproductive and even self-destructive behaviors.
No matter how ideal, a captive environment can never fully replace the vast range, challenging terrain or dietary authenticity and variety an animal encounters in its natural habitat.
Some animals living in captivity may become frustrated and/or bored with their surroundings and respond by:
Safe Haven believes that environmental enrichment contributes to the welfare of captive animals by helping them to maintain good physical and psychological health. Environmental enrichment at Safe Haven is designed to proactively encourage the expression of healthy, normal behaviors, as opposed to a reactive approach in which undesirable behaviors are negated. Safe Haven endorses a behavioral engineering approach to environmental enrichment, with the addition of operant conditioning programming. We have specific enrichment programs for our big cats and foxes.
The intent of environmental enrichment at Safe Haven is twofold:
Environmental enrichment is built into the design and furnishing of our animal enclosures. These include:
Many captive animal enrichment activities center on foraging and hunting behaviors, such as:
For more information, please contact our Executive Director, Lynda Sugasa at (775) 538-7093 or visit our Donations page.
We love visitors, but ask that you request a tour up to 24 hours in advance. For more information about booking a tour, please visit our Visit page.
We offer a variety of tours, including personal, education and photography. Tours are offered seven days a week, up to twice a day, depending on the season and are available by appointment only. For more information, please see our Visit page.
For more information regarding our various tours, please see our Visit page.
As of right now, our volunteers do not assist with direct animal care or feedings. To see a list of volunteer responsibilities, please visit our Volunteer page.
Yes. Our staff supervise and assist our volunteers. Volunteers are given clear safety guidelines and trained in emergency procedures. We also maintain an extensive library of manuals and other resources on-site.
At Safe Haven, help is always only a phone call away. Volunteers will be given the emergency contact numbers for our director, veterinary assistance, animal welfare offices as well as fire and medical assistance.
Yes, it can be. But at Safe Haven, our first priority is always personnel safety. Volunteers are trained prior to working inside the fenced perimeter. Staff will work directly with any volunteers that need to enter an animal enclosure, assuring that the animals are locked out and there is no risk of contact.
Yes. We are always looking for volunteers with special skills. From construction to marketing, we encourage individuals from all walks of life to donate their time and talents. To get more information and to see a list of volunteer specialties needed, please visit our Volunteer page.
For more information, please contact our director by email or by calling (775) 538-7093.
Yes. Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. We are a charitable organization and rely completely on the generosity of public donations and support. We do not receive assistance from any state or federal agencies.