7 Animal Rescue Places that Allow Limited Tours
Washington state has numerous animal sanctuaries dedicated to rescuing abused or neglected animals. For animal lovers, the good news is that many sanctuaries are open for limited tours and can make for an excellent day trip where you take a peek at those animals, learn about their stories and lives, and see the work these sanctuaries do.
Before you go, remember that animal sanctuaries are not private zoos. Most sanctuaries in Washington state are run by nonprofits whose main mission is to care for the animals. To visit a sanctuary, you usually should book online in advance for a guided tour, and you may be urged to pay a minimum donation to the organization.
Visiting an animal sanctuary can be fun, educational and inspiring, but there tend to be rules that aim to protect the animals’ welfare. Sanctuaries may not allow you to bring your own pets or any food on the premises to feed the animals, and some don’t allow photography on the grounds. Before visiting, it is best to check the sanctuary website for its visiting policies and for the appropriate clothing to wear. If you decide to visit an animal sanctuary, please avoid any actions that might harm or overstimulate the animals and review the PETA recommendations for good sanctuaries.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some sanctuaries may be temporarily closed to the public or have canceled all community events. If you decide to visit an animal sanctuary, please take recommended health precautions.
1. Sammamish Animal Sanctuary
Sammamish Animal Sanctuary was founded by a former high school teacher with a lifelong love for animals. You’ll meet numerous cuddly creatures like the donkey Sweet Dreams (nicknamed Peanut) and Amelia, a Pinzgauer heifer, who was found in June 2020 as a baby in the brush, nearly blind and in dire need of care.
The nonprofit’s Second Chance Ranch cares for numerous rescued animals, including alpacas, cows, horses, pigs and sheep. Visitors are encouraged to bring cut carrots, sliced apples and lettuce snacks for the animals. Reservations for up to two-hour visits must be made online in advance. After booking your reservation, you will be directed to a site where you can make a donation.
Get started by checking out the animal gallery.
2. Pigs Peace Sanctuary
Located off a narrow gravel road among rolling pastures about an hour north of Seattle in Stanwood, Pigs Peace Sanctuary cares for more than 200 animals, each one with a name. Among the senior citizens is the 900-pound Baily. He came here as a lost piglet, found wandering in a horse pasture in the Kitsap Peninsula.
Boots the cat, deaf and blind in one eye and rescued from Seattle streets, also lives here. The animals include horses, ponies, llamas, chickens, turkeys, dogs and cats. The sanctuary is open to the public from April 19 to November 1. Visits must be scheduled online. There is a $45 nonrefundable donation per person per visit. Visitors are asked not to bring food or animal products to the sanctuary.
3. Wild Felid Advocacy Center
Located on the north end of Harstine Island in Shelton, the Wild Felid Advocacy Center of Washington is an all-volunteer safe haven for wild cats. Two of the stars are Suri, a full Bengal tiger, and Tabbi, a half Bengal/half Siberian tiger. The sanctuary cares for about 50 wild cats, including cougars, bobcats, servals, lynx and leopards.
Visits to the center are by reservation only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and must be scheduled in advance with no same-day booking or walk-up. Visiting hours can vary. The cost for a one-hour guided visit is $24 per person or $18 for ages 3-11. No cost for children under 3.
Brace yourself for big-cat cuteness in this gallery.
4. Black Dawg Farm and Sanctuary
Located in Rainier, Black Dawg Farm and Sanctuary started with the rescue of two horses in 2015. Among the permanent residents are a blind pony named Bruce and five miniature donkeys. The all-volunteer nonprofit now cares for nearly 100 rescued equines and farm animals. Ninety-minute farm tours are available to the public by appointment. The cost is $15 for people 13 and older, and $8 for kids. There must be a minimum of five people to conduct a tour. The nonprofit is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
5. Center Valley Animal Rescue
Backdropped by the Olympic Mountains, the Center Valley Animal Rescue is a 32-acre ranch of ponds and pastures dedicated to the care of rescued farm and domestic animals. The rugged land was purchased in 2004. It was previously logged and had to be extensively cleaned up by volunteers to create the shelter.
Today, the sanctuary has two areas. Visitors can tour the grounds where the domestic and farm animals are cared for, but an area dedicated to rehabilitating injured wild animals is off limits to the public. The rescue is open by appointment only, and to parties of no more than five people. Call the office at (360) 765-0598 to book an appointment.
6. Heartwood Haven Animal Sanctuary
Gig Harbor’s Heartwood Haven Animal Sanctuary rescues goats, pigs, roosters, hens and other farm animals. One resident is Sully the goat, rescued along with Charlie, Ollie and Fitz when they were a week old. Another popular pair are Astro and Finn, two nearly bald Yucatan pigs.
On a guided 90-minute tour, visitors will meet all the animals and learn how they came to the sanctuary. Animals are fed snacks and petted. Hens and turkeys may flock at your feet. Tours can be booked online for $35 per person. The nonprofit is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
7. Noble Animal Sanctuary
In Washington’s wine country, Noble Animal Sanctuary’s 10-acre farm in Prosser is home to rescued horses, hens, chickens and pigs. One of the horses you will meet there is Becky-Jo, who was born at the sanctuary in 2017, birthed by a horse that had just been rescued.
The sanctuary is partially supported by a family-run vineyard that sits on three acres. The sanctuary offers scheduled tours and special events several times a year. It is generally open to visitors from May to mid-November. Private one-hour tours also can be arranged on weekends and weekdays. The schedule depends on volunteer availability, so make sure you contact the sanctuary well in advance. There is a minimum donation of $40 per tour for up to four adults and children, and $10 for each additional member.
Bonus: Zazu’s House Parrot Sanctuary
Woodinville’s Zazu’s House provides a permanent refuge for unwanted parrots. Although the facility is not open to the public, you can get a glimpse of colorful, chattering birds like the playful, blue-winged Zosie, and the harlequin macaw, Max, leaping on wooden pedestals within large, heated enclosures. Private tours are pricey and can be arranged with a minimum $100 donation. Check out the pictures.
–Written by John Woodworth