End Animal Abuse in Poorly Regulated ‘Sanctuaries’

lion cub

Target: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture

Goal: Protect animals from abuse by requiring regular inspections of animal sanctuaries nationwide

Animal sanctuaries are meant to keep animals safe, healthy and happy. Unfortunately for the animals that end up at some ‘sanctuaries,’ such as the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation in California, this is not always the case. Former volunteers at the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation have recently come forward to report animal abuse, neglect, and deaths.

The sanctuary owner, Roberta Kirshner, has been accused of failing to treat sick and injured animals to the point that many animals died, as well as inflicting (and instructing volunteers to inflict) injuries on the animals. Alleged victims of abuse include a female clouded leopard who was reportedly ‘disciplined’ via repeated punches to the chin that caused nosebleeds, a bear cub young enough to have not yet opened its eyes ‘disciplined’ by blows violent enough to knock it backwards, and a lion cub that visitors were allowed to handle despite its having broken bones. The lion cub was also reported to have been hit with a broom handle—likely another example of abusive discipline.

Thanks to the recent actions of understandably concerned individuals, this supposed ‘sanctuary’ is currently being investigated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. While this can be seen as a victory for the animals, how many more sanctuary owners are hiding behind the pretense of animal protection in order to collect donations that they fail to use in the animals’ best interests? This is a question that requisite, regular inspections of animal sanctuaries nationwide might be able to answer.

Because funding for animal sanctuaries should be going to animals in need and not to irresponsible sanctuary owners, sanctuaries across the nation should be monitored by way of regular inspections to ensure that any sanctuary engaging in animal cruelty is duly shut down. Animals suffering under conditions similar to those reported at the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation are owed another chance at living a full life in a safe and caring environment. Sign the petition below to help make this goal a reality.


Dear Secretary Vilsack,

Even in states in which animal cruelty prevention has been made a high priority, animals are relatively unprotected from the unscrupulous behavior of sanctuary owners with their own best interests in mind. Immediate action in the form of regular inspections of such sanctuaries is required to prevent further illegal activity from taking place.

Recently, former volunteers at an animal sanctuary known as the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation in California (a state with an impressive number of animal protection laws in place) came forward to report animal abuse, neglect and preventable deaths. Among the abuses were vicious attacks on pre-adolescent animals including a bear cub too young to have opened its eyes and a lion cub with broken bones, both of whom were aggressively ‘disciplined’ via violent blows and a brutal attack with a broom handle. A female clouded leopard was also allegedly disciplined via blows to the face that continued until her nose bled.

In the interest of animals such as these, I urge you to implement rules that require regular inspections of animal sanctuaries nationwide. With your help, we can ensure that funding for animal sanctuaries goes to animals in need and not into irresponsible and inhumane sanctuary owners’ pockets.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

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  1. caryl Sawyer says:

    I’ll take Vilsacks job at half his salary and get things done. Oh, wait. I’m not one of The Good Ole Boys.

  2. Is it me or sanctuaries were created to care for wild animals? What is happening? Where can they be secure if not in sanctuaries?

    • Sanctuaries are no longer safe for animals as we have seen an uptick in the animal abuse at just those sanctuaries that are suppose to care for an protect the animals.

      Now it is just a way for the person at the top of the ladder at sanctuaries to make a buck! It appears that anyone can open a non-profit and/or sanctuary and not be responsible for their actions because they report to no one but themselves.

  3. deb spanhake says:

    key word here is sanction sanction the welfare and protect the animals so why is this not being done? then monitor these sanctuaries to do right we owe it to the animals it is our duty to be responsible for their fate and future

  4. Barbara Griffith says:

    Well this isn’t any different than puppy mills. USDA was supposed to send inspectors to the farms or whatever you want to call them every six months but a lot of them were never inspected at all. That’s how thousands of dogs and puppies ended up neglected and starved. Rescues along with local police raided these places all the time. The people just moved and set up business somewhere else. It should be easier to expose these people because of the animals are considered wildlife but it depends on the inspector.

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