Exposing Predators of the Heart as a Sham Animal Sanctuary

Submitted comments to Skagit County Hearing Examiner in support of hearing that took place in August 2023


August 21, 2023

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Next Step

Decision from Skagit County Hearing Examiner

On Aug. 21, 2023, the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted comments and testimony exposing Predators of the Heart as a sham animal sanctuary. After several wolf escapes from its facility over the past decade, including two that resulted in the deaths of neighbor dogs, Predators of the Heart argued at a Skagit County land-use hearing that it qualifies for a special-use permit to operate as an “animal preserve” in Skagit County on its property in Mount Vernon, Washington.

The comments provide the Skagit County Hearing Examiner with insight based on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s encounters with Predators of the Heart, specifically noting that the USDA’s regulation of the facility does not sufficiently protect the animals, that Predators of the Heart’s conduct falls well below standards adhered to by legitimate and reputable sanctuaries, and that Predators of the Heart’s claim that it could be forced to euthanize its resident wolves if it cannot operate may violate the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). There is a well-established history of successfully rehoming endangered and other wild animals from roadside zoos to legitimate sanctuaries.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s comments argue that Predators of the Heart is not a reputable animal sanctuary. Reputable sanctuaries adhere to a set of generally accepted standards. These include no human-animal contact, no breeding, and no sale of animals. Despite declaring itself a “wildlife sanctuary,” Predators of the Heart violates all three of these standards. For example, the facility sells direct human contact with wolves through commercial platforms such as Airbnb.

Facilitating direct exposure to dangerous animals is in conflict with generally accepted welfare and safety standards for legitimate sanctuaries. Standards set by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, and the American Sanctuary Association all prohibit these types of “special opportunities” for accredited sanctuaries because they are known to be harmful to the animals and dangerous to the public.

Predators of the Heart also has a history of breeding and transferring animals for compensation. For example, in 2017, the facility transferred “ownership” of two wolf pups who had not been spayed or neutered to a roadside zoo in exchange for $2,450. Breeding wolf pups and transferring them, while unspayed or unneutered, to roadside zoos is antithetical to the purpose of an animal sanctuary.

Predators of the Heart’s claim that it will be forced to euthanize animals if the special-use permit is denied and it can no longer operate presents a false choice. Numerous animals have been successfully transferred to legitimate sanctuaries from facilities found to violate federal or state laws. In addition, any attempt by the facility to euthanize animals protected by the ESA would likely be a violation of federal law.

What action has been taken? The comments were submitted in support of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s testimony exposing Predators of the Heart as a sham animal sanctuary at a Skagit County land-use hearing to determine whether the facility can continue operations on its property in Mount Vernon, Washington.

Why this decision is important: Predators of the Heart fails to qualify as a legitimate sanctuary by almost every generally accepted metric and is actively engaged in activities, such as the breeding and sale of wolves, that are fundamentally antithetical to the mission of a true sanctuary. It is critical that Predators of the Heart does not continue to operate given its threat to animal life and well-being.

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