Sunday, June 28, 2015

Animal Sanctuaries as Alternatives to Marineland

PHOTO BY Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Children are naturally curious and fascinated with animals.  Marineland exploits a child's innocent love for animals through their marketing to kids and parents while providing no educational value or conservation efforts in their endless pursuit of profits.  No money spent at Marineland goes to help any animals in the wild and visiting the facility actually hurts animals by enabling Marineland to capture, import and exploit more of them until they die in captivity.  It is difficult however for parents to resist their child's pleas to take them to a zoo or aquarium.  Parents want their children to experience that special connection to animals and nature.  Taking them to Marineland may be well intentioned but it is a bad form of education and a choice based in no compassion.

There are many alternatives to taking your children to a zoo and aquarium, ones that still allow children to make that connection with animals without the destructive side effects of funneling your money to for profit facilities.  Animal sanctuaries are abundant throughout the world and more specifically in Ontario and Western New York which falls within the radius of a family day trip to Marineland.   Animals sanctuaries, unlike zoos & aquariums are true non profit organizations which almost always rely on donations and help from the public in order to provide much happier homes for saved, abused, neglected, exotic or what would have been otherwise discarded animals.   They put the needs of the animals first rather than the whims of visitors like at Marineland.

While it's true you likely won't see a whale or dolphin at a local sanctuary, there are a wide variety of animals your children can see that have been rescued.   Your visit whether it be through a limited tour or even 'working  visit' (where you can pitch in to help) will be designed to assist animals truly in need.  Your children will come away with a much better educational and personally compassionate experience.  Choosing to support a sanctuary is one of the best things true animal lovers can do and it will help foster a better relationship with animals than your child staring at animals through bars or glass.

Within a few hours drive of Marineland in Niagara Falls you can find the following animal sanctuaries that are very much worth supporting.  There are many more throughout the province of Ontario and State of New York as well. 

Cedar Row Sanctuary is located near London Ontario and has been rescuing animals since 1999.  The sanctuary is home to goats, pigs, donkeys, turkeys,  chickens and ducks.   They welcome volunteer working visits to their sanctuary, where people can help contribute to the much needed farm work to be done, as well as get to visit the animals. 

Ralph's Retreat located in Norfolk County Ontario and is home to an assortment of rescued farm animals and domestic animals including pigs, horses, ponies, dogs, cats and chickens.   It's a small family run sanctuary that specializes in special needs visitors such as children who are autistic.  You can call ahead to arrange a visit and learn what kind of experiences are offered.

The Farm Sanctuary at Watkins Glen New York was established in 1986 and is home to cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and more.  Visitors can even stay at a lovely Bed & Breakfast on site and learn about farm animal issues.

Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary near Rosseau Ontario rescues and rehabilitates nearly 500 animals a year and is home to bobcats, coyotes, lynx, bears, wolves and deer.  The sanctuary has an extensive educational component on how people can peacefully co exist with these animals often found in rural areas.


The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada located near Guelph Ontario is the largest animal refuge in the country.  They are home to 75 donkeys who can roam free on most of the sprawling 100 acre farm and have found themselves there because of abandonment, abuse or  neglect.  Education and safe interactions are offered to visitors.

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