Wild animals should ideally be permitted to exist undisturbed in their natural environments. Zoos and aquariums are, however, a currently established part of our society, and some of them provide benefits for animals such as financially supporting conservation programs and the preservation and restoration of threatened and endangered species and promoting the education of people to the needs of wild animals and their roles in the ecosystem.
Zoos and other facilities that house captive wildlife must not be set up solely for profit or for entertainment. Such facilities must be organized around a core mission that educates the public about the needs of wild animals and the threats to which they are exposed, and that supports humane conservation programs. In addition, such zoos must maintain animals in conditions simulating their natural habitats as closely as possible and must treat them with the highest degree of humaneness, care, and professionalism. Achieving these requirements is an imperative not only for the welfare of the animals but also because inhumane or inappropriate conditions viewed by an impressionable public provide a negative learning experience by seeming to condone indifference or cruelty.
Angels of Assisi supports the exhibition of animals in zoos and aquariums providing that the above and following conditions are met:
- The zoo or aquarium is staffed by individuals who are educated and trained in the physical and psychological needs of the animals in their care;
- All enclosures meet or exceed the standards set by the Animal Welfare Act and enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
- Zoos and aquariums strive to meet the more exacting requirements necessary for accreditation by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA);
- Zoos provide educational displays that stress the themes of endangered species, wild habitat destruction and reduced biodiversity;
- Zoos and aquariums demonstrate humane treatment of animals by not only meeting animals’ physical needs, but also by providing safe and appropriate social groupings of animals, and by using positive reinforcement methods to train animals as necessary to allow for facilitating medical procedures and for providing mental stimulation believed beneficial to animals in confinement;
- Zoos and aquariums participate in tightly controlled breeding programs and take responsibility for all their animals and their offspring, even when they are no longer under their direct care, with excess young not permitted except to maintain proper gender balances and social groupings; no zoo or aquarium should send their “surplus” animals to “canned hunts,” auctions or medical research facilities, and placing animals with private individuals should not be considered an option for all species.