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RAPS to open dog sanctuary

By Eyal Lichtmann

Published 12:26 PST, Tue January 5, 2021

Do you know the difference between an animal shelter and an animal sanctuary? 

An animal shelter is a temporary place where animals are cared for after being surrendered, rescued while at large or apprehended from a situation of neglect or abuse. Ideally, the animal will spend as little time as possible at the shelter, being reunited with their people, or fostered, or adopted into a suitable forever home. 

An animal sanctuary is quite different. While the term is often used flexibly, a true animal sanctuary is a place where animals that are unlikely to find a forever home live out their lives surrounded by comfort and all the care they require and desire. As a rule, sanctuaries do not adopt out animals. However, that rule can sometimes be broken. For example, the RAPS Cat Sanctuary is home to hundreds of felines who have been assessed as unlikely to find a forever home. This may be because of behavioural issues—a cat that cannot control its bodily functions or that simply can’t seem to be trained to use a litter box has very little chance of being adopted, for example. More commonly, our residents have health issues, such as diabetes, FIV, leukemia or other factors. These animals are capable of living long, happy lives. But the plain reality is that, with the number of cats and kittens seeking forever homes, those with any sort of extenuating challenge face an uphill battle in being chosen by a family to come home with them. These cats would be euthanized in some jurisdictions, but not at RAPS.

Now, RAPS is planning to open a dog sanctuary, hopefully in 2021. This is an example of where the terminology gets blurry. By nature, cats can live very happily surrounded by hundreds of other cats and cared for by a staff of humans. Dogs are, by nature, far more dependent on human interaction and bonding with an individual or family. By and large, they are unlikely to find happiness in an institutional setting—no matter how pleasant. Our dog sanctuary will be a sort of hybrid. It will be a delightful, enriching, beautiful place where dogs who are with us for extended period will receive all the care, socialization and rehabilitation they require. But the ultimate goal will be for them to eventually progress to a point where they can be adopted into a home or, at least, be fostered long-term. The dog sanctuary will welcome residents from jurisdictions where they might face euthanasia because of challenging health or behavioural issues. Just like our cat sanctuary, this will be place of joy and comfort. Unlike our cat sanctuary, the end-goal will be to find the residents forever homes—even if that takes months or years.

We hope to open the RAPS Dog Sanctuary in 2021—with your support! 

One thing that is inflexible: Our commitment to do the right thing for every animal in our care, no matter their special needs, issues or medical requirements. What differentiates RAPS is the collection of assets consisting of the RAPS Animal Hospital, the Cat Sanctuary and the soon-to-be Dog Sanctuary. We hope to make the community proud of our efforts.

Happy new year!

Eyal Lichtmann is CEO and Executive Director of the Regional Animal Protection Society.

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