May 2022

New, Revised Ape Standards Coming Soon

GFAS has developed and maintained a set of animal-specific and operations standards that we use to promote excellence in animal care and evaluate organizations’ operations, providing the basis for GFAS Accreditation and Verification. The GFAS Standards are considered living documents, as practices continue to progress and change through advancements in knowledge.GFAS has revised our Ape Standards to improve consistency and clarity, regarding what is required for GFAS Accreditation and Verification and what is recommended/preferred practice.

Additionally, as GFAS expands our global reach, we recognize that there are different ways to meet our Standards that may be impacted by national laws and other circumstances; these revisions aim to bring more ease of application, emphasizing the purpose of each Standard and the outcome it seeks to achieve.  A detailed overview of revisions, timeline for implementation, and FAQ’s can be found here.

Webinar Reminder – Protecting Endangered Species: The Vital Role of Sanctuaries

Join us on May 19th at 11 am EDT for an early celebration of Endangered Species Day that you won’t want to miss! We’ll be joined by three GFAS accredited sanctuaries as they discuss how they are working to protect species including pangolins, gorillas, and sun parakeets. Our presenters are:

  • Torie Curr Smith, Head of Wildlife Rehabilitation, Lilongwe WIldlife Trust, Malawi
  • Katie Fawcett, Program Director, Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Danika Oriol-Morway, Board Member and Executive Advisor, Foster Parrots, United States

For more information and to register, visit the following link: This webinar is open to all, so please share with your colleagues!


Catch our latest podcast episode on Equilibrium by P.E.A.C.E

Animal sanctuaries are the stuff of dreams…but how do you keep that dream alive in the long run? Listen in as GFAS’ Farmed Animal Program Director, Jess Harris, chats with P.E.A.C.E Canada about how sanctuaries can become sustainable organizations that provide top-notch care to their residents while protecting their staff and volunteers from burnout and ensuring a solid future for their work. Breaking down the ideas behind intake and rescue policies, succession plans, emergency planning, and more, we dive into the practical ways in which these keep sanctuaries strong – for the long haul.


GFAS Round Tables Have Launched!

Last month, we shared the news of an exciting new program initiative for our GFAS certified sanctuaries and rescue centers. GFAS Round Tables are an opportunity for sanctuary personnel to gather online in an informal setting to share information, ask questions, and learn about their peer sanctuaries’ accomplishments and challenges on a designated topic. Earlier this month, we hosted our first Round Table on the topic of volunteer program management. Equine, wildlife, and farmed animal sanctuaries joined us to share their experience and ideas on effective volunteer recruitment strategies, volunteer management software, and more- and we learned a lot from our sanctuaries about how we can support their ongoing collaborations.

Our second Round Table – on the topic of disaster planning – will be held on Tuesday, June 14th, and we’ll also be setting up a private Facebook group to make it easier for our GFAS accredited and verified sanctuaries to connect and collaborate on their own time. Sanctuaries will receive an email soon with more information.

Join us in celebrating Adopt a Horse Month with the ASPCA!

As an Industry Partner of the ASPCA’s Right Horse, we’re celebrating #AdoptaHorse Month! Our shared goal is to massively increase adoptions in the United States by bringing awareness and visibility to adopted horses. We believe that equine adoption is vital for the following reasons:

    • Every year, thousands of good horses find themselves in transition of career or ownership.
    • Adoptable horses come in all breeds, sizes, types, and abilities.
    • The ASPCA’s number one mission is to massively increase horse adoption by connecting prospective owners with their right horse – and helping horses in transition get placed in the right homes.
    • Adopting helps a horse in need find a new home AND allows adoption agencies to help the next horse in need.

Adoptable horses are just as versatile and diverse as any other group of transitioning horses, so whether you’re dreaming of winning blue ribbons or hitting the trails, there’s likely an adoptable #RightHorse waiting to make your dreams come true. Join us in celebrating by learning more about adoption:

Big Cat Rescue

GFAS Accredited, Big Cat Rescue, located in Tampa, Florida is a permanent home to 45 large and small captive wild cats rescued from abuse and neglect. Special highlights of the sanctuary include a successful bobcat rehabilitation and release program, as well as, a 2.5 acre enclosure that the large cats enjoy two weeks at a time on a rotating schedule. The unique enclosure, called “vacation rotation” features expansive open areas, a large pond, dens, tunnels, platforms and trees to explore. There’s more to Big Cat Rescue than a peaceful haven for tigers, leopards, jaguar, and smaller cats, the mission includes driving hard at the root of the big cat crisis in America through public education and legislative advocacy.

Big Cat Rescue founders, Carole and Howard Baskin, have long enabled sanctuary visitors to contact their legislators directly from the sanctuary and have also advocated tirelessly in Washington, DC to support legislation that will bring an end to private possession of big cats in the US. The Big Cat Public Safety Act is a federal bill that would ban the ownership of big cats and stop roadside zoos from offering cub petting and photo opportunities with young cubs. Education is vital, as much of the public remains unaware of the enormous number of big cats held in basements and backyards around the US and that big cat cubs are being abused and exploited for profit. Cub petting operators remove cubs from their mothers at birth, physically punish them to diminish their natural behaviors, deprive them of sleep, and discard them when they grow too big.

Big Cat Rescue is taking the message to the masses by promoting the documentary, The Conservation Game. The film features the Baskins’ as they work to inform congressional representatives about the big cat crisis and reveals a lengthy investigation into the trafficking of endangered species used on popular late-night and morning talk shows. In the film, it is alleged that Jack Hanna and other high-profile “conservationists” have been duping the public for years, presenting so-called “ambassador cats” on television to adoring fans, only to later discard them into the exotic animal trade. Please watch the film and reach out to your congressional representatives to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act today.

Watch The Conservation Game for free HERE courtesy of Big Cat Rescue! To learn more about Big Cat Rescue please visit:

Highlighting GFAS Accredited Brook Hill Retirement Center for Horses in Virginia

A dream has come true for cofounders, Jo Anne Miller and Tracy Russler, of Brook Hill Retirement Center for Horses. Through hard work and determination and with the help of generous others, Brook Hill Farm is nearing completion of a fully-funded magnificent, covered arena. This structure will provide many more opportunities for them to continue their work helping horses and helping people.

Brook Hill Farm (BHF) is home to 39 horses on 60 acres in western Virginia. Since its establishment in 2001, they have helped more than 500 equines through several types of programs. Their adoption program finds placement for 10-20 horses per year. They have a rehabilitation program, a PATH certified therapeutic riding program, an equine-assisted learning program, 4-H Horse and Pony Club, a college intern program affiliated with Virginia Tech, and several community outreach programs with church groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, and others.

Since its beginnings, Brook Hill Farm has always focused on equines that need them the most. They utilize a team of veterinarians to customize rehabilitation programs for each horse beginning with their on-site lab where equines can receive physical therapy, wound care, chiropractic therapy, and therapeutic farrier assessments. The new arena will allow this organization the opportunity to provide their services and programs year-round including indoor fundraising events.

In addition to their rehabilitation services, Brook Hill Farm provides life-long care for equines with special needs that make it difficult for their adoption into homes. These horses enjoy everyday companionship with disadvantage, at-risk, or disabled teens in an equine-assisted therapy program.

Collaborating with others is an important effort for Brook Hill Farm, believing that this provides more opportunities to have a greater impact. Brook Hill Farm, Equine Welfare Society, and GFAS Accredited White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue brought rescue groups together to help each other. Called the Virginia Alliance of Equine Rescue Organizations (VAERO), this group shares resources, networking, and support to help equines in need.

For more information about Brook Hill Farm and their programs, please visit

A Winding Dirt Road in Texas Leads to Newly Verified Blue Horse Sanctuary

Photo courtesy of Dan Piassick Photo

Previously a working ranch, Wild Wood Ranch is a 750 acre spread which lies in the far western corner of Somervell county, Texas. The ranch was purchased by Melissa Auberty’s parents back in 1973. It quickly became the family’s home away from home, where they raised horses, cattle, and goats. These days Melissa, the president of GFAS Verified Blue Horse Sanctuary, having been involved with equine rescue since 2015, has rescued 28 horses and burros to date. “I have ridden – as well as painted –  horses all my life and now am so honored to be able to give back a small portion of what they have given me –  love, friendship and spiritual insight.” states Melissa Auberty.

Of the original 750 acres, 130 acres has been designated for the horses which is split into multiple areas including an arena, barn and pastures. Another 30 acres has been set aside for burros. Although much of the land is covered in native trees and vegetation, Melissa is working closely with experts to restore the land previously used for grazing back to native prairie. The Sanctuary also grows it’s own Bermuda hay.

Blue Horse Sanctuary’s mission is “To provide a lifetime of care for abused and unwanted horses and donkeys. We are honored each and every day to support these beautiful animals and to provide them with health care, food, safety and a loving forever home.” To learn more about Blue Horse Sanctuary, go to:

Meet Marley Huckleberry ❤️🐑 – the latest rescue at Accredited River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, WA

River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary is a special place – they save lives through rescue, education, and advocacy. Their unique focus on the power of art to depict both animals’ “wonder and plight” is a special medium through which they spread the message of compassion. And if you follow them on social media- their video content doesn’t disappoint either. It’s been especially adorable lately, with the rescue of Marley Huckleberry, a Blackbelly sheep. Kit Jagoda, co-founder of River’s Wish shared his story:

“On March 25th We were contacted about a newborn lamb whose twin had died and his mother wasn’t nursing him. He was just a tiny little lamb who needed help right away.

We brought him to the sanctuary that night, set him up inside our home and proceeded to bottle feed him. The next day I drove him to WSU veterinary hospital. They ran a test to see if he had received any colostrum. The test showed that he did not so they did a plasma transfusion to build up his antibodies.

Over the course of time Marley Huckleberry has thrived. He has a pen in the living room and a kennel in the bedroom for nighttime sleeping. His best friend is a dog named Bernie.

Living so closely with Marley has been amazing. His personality is one of mischievousness and absolute sweetness. We are grateful for the veterinarians we work with and to be a part of Marley Huckleberrie’s life.”

To learn more about the work of River’s Wish, visit


New Certifications and Renewals

Over the past month, GFAS has certified two new groups and renewed one GFAS organization! Congratulations to all these groups!

New Certifications

Blue Horse Sanctuary, Texas
Shelter Farm Sanctuary, Florida


Rancho Universo Heal a Horse Sanctuary, Mexico

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