All Animals’ Essential Needs

          At our annual meeting in May Rob Laidlaw, the Founder of Zoo Check Canada, shared his convictions about satisfactory standards of animal care.  Rob is a tireless advocate for better animal welfare and he crisscrosses our country annually in his efforts to improve the quality of life of animals that are in confined environments.  Over the years, he has seen an extraordinary variety of living arrangements.

          As Rob pointed out, legal requirements for animal care in Canada centre around the needs for adequate food, water and shelter.  What these criteria fail to consider, however, is the psychological well being of animals, those conditions that must be in place additionally so that all creatures, pets and otherwise, can live natural, positive lives.

          According to Rob, and we agree with him entirely, there are 4 additional needs that are essential in any environment designed to provide humane treatment: 

SPACE – Cargo, an 8 year old Standard donkey living here at the Sanctuary Farm, is a perfect example of one who must have enough space in which to live.  Cargo is always on the move, roaming in our fields, encouraging games of play, and quick to go up and welcome visitors.  In a confined paddock or pen, he would be frustrated and restless all the time.  In a stall, he would soon develop self-destructive behavioural habits.

Freedom of Choice – Making decisions should not be a luxury for animals.  They know very well what they need for a satisfactory life.  Summer, our oldest donkey at 41 years of age, selects very clearly her activities.  On Open Days, she will walk up to specific visitors and give them her attention.  Then, when she has had enough, Summer goes to a shady corner, where she can stand alone and rest.  Summer tolerates going into a stall for her special meals and then, when she is finished, she brays most definitely that it is time to open the door.  We are convinced that this ability to shape her own environment is an important factor in the list of reasons why Summer has lived so long as she has.

Proper Social Context – Before Jacques was brought to the DSC, this dark brown Standard donkey was made to live with a herd of horses.  Their natural tendency is to establish a hierarchy and Jacques, as a donkey, had been pushed to the bottom and ostracized.  He would stand for hours, alone in the corner of the herd’s field, clearly frightened and overwhelmed.  Once he was brought to the Sanctuary farm, however, Jacque’s behavior changed completely.  He became playful, lively, always ready to frolic with his gelding donkey companions.  Over the years, we have seen time and again that donkeys like to live together.  As with all creatures, human and otherwise, they are most comfortable with their own kind.

Things to Do – There are few things so desperate looking as an animal, confined to a cage or tied to a chain, alone with a rubber tire that is supposed to be a source of entertainment.  Animals are curious and their intelligence is almost always underestimated by human beings.  Jimmy and Reno, two of our mules, are always ready for something new.  Their hearing, eyesight and sense of smell are dramatically superior to those of a human being.  They thrive on diversion and they explore every inch of their grazing pasture that has hills, trees, open areas and dirt patches for rolling.  At other times, their interactions with human handlers provide opportunities for socialization and problem solving while, in the Fall, they will stand most patiently under the apple trees waiting for a windfall.  For our mules as well as for all animals, variety is the spice of life.

          Indeed, there are seven essential needs that must be met if animals are to live healthy, contented lives: food, water, shelter, space, choice, social context and things to do.  By satisfying these requirements, the matter of humane care takes on a whole new meaning.

Sandra Pady, Executive Director


7 thoughts on “All Animals’ Essential Needs”

  1. Hi Sandra and all the wonderful staff at the sanctuary! It really touches my heart to hear once again of the fantastic work that is done there…my heart goes out to the donkeys and to all animals in this world. I too agree that all animals deserve respect and environments that make them happy. If I can help in some way from afar here in Victoria, B.C. other than the donations we do, please let me know…maybe there is something we can help with. From three distant supporters. Jo-Ann Payne , Al Payne and our old english sheepdog puppy…Morley Payne.

  2. Thanks for this beautiful post. In addition to being reminded of animals’ needs, it’s nice to learn about some of your residents.

    I’m really looking forward to meeting them in a couple of weeks!

  3. I hope to visit this Sunday, weather permitting. I think that the DSC has so much to teach the rest of Canada about caring for animals, here in Toronto we have several terrible situations (High Park Zoo, Riverdale Zoo) where the standards you have mentioned above do not apply. Naturally I have contacted Zoocheck Canada everytime I spotted something I did not like. I think it’s helpful for more and more people to speak up – via social media or the mainstream media – for animals.

  4. Hi Sandra:
    I love your blog now I have discovered it…the get the very essence of these magical creatures who can teach us so much like all the Animal Kingdom.

    My friend and I had the pleasure of visiting the Sanctuary yesterday and were charmed as always by the residents…I visited Summer in her stall several times during my visit and indeed she brayed on the last chat and made her frustration known that she could not nuzzle. I told her I would be back soon and she had to have rest for her abscess…..wonderful lady!

    We missed “our” Paco and “Chiclet” especially as “Chiclet” had been the first donkey I petted 3 years ago when I discovered you all. Standing by her tree by the Mule paddock, I fell in love and “Chiclet” was always engraved in my heart. Little Paco was eating vociferously at the manger during our Christmas visit and that is how I will remember him. Dusty Rose was less known to us but we had met and were sorry that she has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

    Monte and Chaplin have captured my heart especially, and we spent a lot of time with Chaplin who was standing near Chiclet’s tree….Chaplin comforted me on Chiclet’s loss.

    I had a lovely talk with Kim yesterday and I said how much I love the Facebook page, we miss you all when we cannot visit but with these electronic messages can stay close. Hopefully you will be seeing a lot of us this summer we can’t stay away.

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