In 2004, the Colorado legislature amended its wildlife statutes, formally recognizing the existence of private, non-profit wildlife sanctuaries under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW). Opponents to the 2004 amendments and CDOW staff have repeatedly expressed concerns that private sanctuaries should not be authorized in the absence of regulations and enforcement mechanisms sufficient to protect the animals and the people who come into contact with them. In implementing the sanctuary statute, CDOW has followed a familiar pattern, relying on the accreditation program of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (AZA) to provide the basis of its regulations. In doing so, CDOW has failed to understand that the AZA standards are wholly inappropriate for sanctuaries; they are inadequate to protect the safety of animals and humans; and they are overly burdensome and even diametrically opposed to the status and goals of private, non-profit wildlife sanctuaries. Instead, CDOW could have acknowledged the stringent, comprehensive, extensive standards promulgated by The Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS), which are carefully tailored to the operations of sanctuaries. This article considers the plight of Colorado wildlife sanctuaries, which is by no means peculiar to the state of Colorado, and carefully examines the standards promulgated by the AZA and by TAOS. The article concludes that the TAOS accreditation program would have provided a significantly better basis for sanctuary regulation, and that by failing to take advantage of this, CDOW has missed an important opportunity to create a nexus between trust, compassion, and regulation.
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