It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month. Here’s Where to Go Instead

As kids, my mom would take my brother and me to the zoo at least a couple of times a year. I enjoyed looking at the animals, but mostly it was the candy floss, peanuts and bus ride to the other end of the city that I loved.

Looking back, my prevailing memories of those visits are of the solitary brown bear that sat forlornly at the bottom of its concrete cage. Year after year, the bear would be there. I vaguely remember the other animals we saw, but the image of that bear remains clear in my mind.

June is National Zoo Month, so what better time to talk about the problem with zoos and how kids can learn about – and meet! – animals without doing them harm?

What’s the difference between a zoo and a sanctuary?

According to Why Animals Do The Thing, a zoo is a business that keeps exotic animals for the primary purpose of public exhibition. A sanctuary, on the other hand, is a non-profit organization that provides rescue animals with a permanent home.

Conservationists argue that zoos are way to save endangered species, but animal rights advocates argue that individual animals still have the right to freedom even if they are endangered. If zoos truly want to protect animals, they would not capture any animals purely for exhibition. In essence, they’d become full-on animal sanctuaries.

What about aquariums? If we’re honest about it, they fall into the same category as zoos. Whether or not you believe fish have feelings, they’re still being held against their will.

There are plenty of arguments for and against zoos. Personally, I’m against them. I think if you’re looking for a fun family day out, a much better plan is to visit an animal sanctuary.

Sanctuaries teach children compassion for animals. They’ll learn to see animals as living beings with feelings and emotions, rather than ’things’ put there for solely for their own entertainment.

Finding a Sanctuary to Visit

Want to visit a sanctuary this summer? Here are some great ones to check out, plus a resource to help you find an animal sanctuaries, no matter where you live.

Farm Sanctuary

animal sanctuaries

Photo Credit: Farm Sanctuary

Founded by Gene Bauer in 1986, Farm Sanctuary aims to raise awareness and understanding around farm animals as well as combat the abuses of factory farming. To date, the organization has rescued thousands of animals.

Farm Sanctuary plays host to hundreds of rescued cows, pigs, turkeys, and other farm animals, each with their own special story. Stories of struggle and survival that provide insight into the harsh realities farm animals face.

The sanctuary’s residents love receiving visitors as much as your kids will enjoy meeting them. What better place for children to interact with animals than in a loving environment, where care and comfort are the order of the day?

Farm Sanctuary’s Northern California shelter is currently closed for tours through the end of the year, but their New York and Los Angeles shelters are both still open to the public. Be sure to check them out if you’re in either of those areas.

Happily Ever Esther

animal sanctuaries

Photo Credit: Happily Ever Esther

Happily Ever Esther, located in Ontario, is the happy result of a rash decision. When Steve agreed to adopt his friend’s miniature pig, he had no idea he’d soon have a 600-pound animal cavorting in his yard.

Fortunately for Esther, Steve and his partner Derek decided against rehoming her. Instead, they did what any normal couple would do and opened a sanctuary for abused, neglected, and abandoned farmed animals.

Along with offering a loving home to its many residents, the sanctuary also serves as a way to educate the public. They offer tours, volunteer programs, works days and special events. Check out their calendar to find out more.

Lions, Tigers and Bears

animal sanctuaries

Photo Credit: Lions, Tigers and Bears

Bobbi Brink founded Lions Tigers and Bears as a way to help victims of the exotic animal trade. Located on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County, the 93-acre sanctuary provides a safe and caring environment for the many abused and abandoned exotic animals in need of a home.

LTB offers guided educational tours of the sanctuary, giving you a chance to meet some of lions, tigers, bears and other animals they play host to. The sanctuary has a strict no-contact policy, which is good to know for more than just human safety reasons.

Where Else?

Humane Decisions

Photo Credit: Humane Decisions

These are hundreds of animal sanctuaries in the U.S., so you’re sure to find something close to you. Compiled by Human Decisions, the in-depth list includes only sanctuaries accredited by the American Sanctuary Association (ASA) or the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS).

Wherever you decide to visit, make sure to do your due diligence first.

Related at Care2

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Lesa D
Past Member 7 months ago

#126075 petition signed...

thank you Angela...

Paula A
Paula A8 months ago

Thanks for this

michela c
michela c8 months ago

Zoos are prisons for animal. Boycott zoos, go to a sanctuary instead

Leo C
Leo C8 months ago

Thank you for posting!

Colin C
Colin C8 months ago

Yes go to an animal sanctuary instead of a zoo. Zoos are jails for animals

Trish K
Trish K8 months ago

Zoo's are very sad places to visit. At least there is peace when I visit the graveyard.

Michele Santos
Michele Santos8 months ago

I have not been to a zoo since I was a young child, I did not enjoy it then and have no intention of supporting any zoo's , it may or may not be true that zoo's have changed, but the bottom line is they still exploit animals as entertainment to fatten their bank accounts. I would much rather support a sanctuary.

Melanie S

I haven't been to the Zoo in ages.

Marija M
Marija M8 months ago