American Humane Association, the country’s first national humane organization, and the first to create historic protections for animals on farms and ranches, film and television, and other environments where animals live in human care, is announcing today the launch of a global program dedicated to helping ensure the welfare and humane treatment of the remarkable, endangered and disappearing animals living in the world’s zoos and aquariums.
In the face of what scientists are calling a “Sixth Extinction” with species disappearing at a rate 8-100 times higher than expected since 1900, zoos and aquariums are playing an outsized role in preserving the vital web of life on Earth. Serving as arks of hope for endangered animals and powerful ambassadors for conservation, these institutions are drawing more visitors each year than all sporting events combined. And as people become increasingly aware of and invested in the fate of the world’s creatures, more and more are rightly demanding that the millions of creatures who live in zoos, aquariums and conservation centers be afforded good treatment and welfare.
To help achieve this, American Humane Association, which has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in the protection of animals over the past 140 years, has developed the first-ever independent, scientific and evidence-based third-party humane certification program focusing solely on the well-being of the animals living in these institutions. The program’s comprehensive standards were created by an independent Scientific Advisory Committee made up of the most well-respected, iconic names in animal welfare, animal ethics, and the conservation community, and cover everything from good health to good housing, good feeding, good management, appropriate behaviors, including the display of natural behaviors at the individual and group levels, the lack of abnormal behaviors at the individual and group levels, social interactions between animals and the ability to self-separate, positive, healthy and humane interactions between animals and handlers, physiology, activity levels, use of space, disease and mortality, meeting of federal and state regulations, thermoregulation, lighting/shade needs, environmental quality issues, staff knowledge and training, veterinary, operational procedures, animal husbandry procedures, environmental enrichments, choices and options for animals, safety measures, nutritional needs, food quality, food safety, air quality, water quality, appropriate sound levels for animal life, consideration of diurnal/seasonal patterns, appropriate veterinary/health plans, plans to recognize adverse medical trends, treatment protocols/management plans for emergency medical situations (injuries, escapes, etc.), training of staff interacting with animals, use of positive reinforcement in any animal husbandry/training programs, transparency and openness of daily operations and animal care, and much more.
Adding to the rigor of the program, the implementation of the required standards is verified by independent auditors.
World-class institutions from around the globe stepping forward to be audited
With only 2.3 percent of zoos and aquariums worldwide being accredited and none being certified solely for animal welfare, there is a need for the public to know which ones are excelling and which are not. Major institutions from around the globe are already stepping forward to be audited, including well-known names from across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia.
“We believe all animals – those in our homes, those on our farms and ranches, and those being preserved and cared for in our zoos, aquariums, and conservation parks – are entitled to humane treatment,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “This new Humane Conservation program will serve to help ensure the welfare of millions of animals and help the public to distinguish those institutions that are doing a good job from those that are not and either need to elevate the quality of their programs or shut their doors.”
Four major institutions have already distinguished themselves in the rollout of the Humane Conservation program’s pilot phase, garnering the “Humane Certified™” seal of approval: Shedd Aquarium in Chicago; Brookfield Zoo in Chicago; Delphinus in Mexico; and the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre in Canada.
“We applaud these institutions for the excellent work for and stewardship of the magnificent animals in their care,” said Dr. Kwane Stewart, chief veterinary officer for the American Humane Association Humane Conservation program. “These world-class zoos and aquariums stepped forward voluntarily to undergo our comprehensive, science-based auditing and have served as leaders in the field, demonstrating to the public their commitment to providing a high degree of welfare to the animals with whom they work. Gaining the ‘Humane Certified™’ seal is an important validation of their efforts by a program that has been endorsed by many of the world’s leading animal welfare scientists, veterinarians, animal advocates, and ethicists.”
The vital role played by today’s zoos and aquariums, and the necessity for a program that helps ensure the welfare of the animals they serve is outlined in a major new White Paper entitled, “Arks of Hope, Ambassadors for Animals: The Pivotal Position of Zoos and Aquariums and Next Steps in Ensuring the Welfare of Animals in Human Care,” which was released today by American Humane Association during the launch of the new Humane Conservation program on Capitol Hill.
“The impact and bond formed between people seeing and experiencing real animals is unparalleled, helping create new generations of animal advocates, and others who understand that our unique, interconnectedness is mutually beneficial to people, animals and the world we share,” said Dr. Ganzert. “We have a moral obligation to protect these magnificent animals, and zoos and aquariums are vital ambassadors for this effort. People won’t protect what they don’t love. And they can’t love what they don’t know. This new Humane Conservation program will help ensure not only that the animals in the world’s zoos and aquariums are well-cared-for, but that new generations of animal lovers are cultivated and dedicated to the preservation of the many remarkable creatures with whom we share the Earth.”
To find a Humane Certified zoo or aquarium near you or to support this program, visit http://www.HumaneConservation.org.