Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary is a "true" wolf sanctuary in that we do not exhibit the rescued wolves or subject them to the health destroying life of enduring public exhibition, i.e., public tours for a fee. Instead, we provide a Live Video Feed of the wolves for Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary Supporters. This is a service that not only allows them to enjoy watching the wolves they help to support, but more importantly, it allows them to see how their money is being used as well. So the Live Video Feed is also our way of "opening up the books" so to speak, allowing supporters to validate our claims regarding our commitment, visually confirm the health and well being of the wolves, watch them utilize their carefully designed accommodations and observe our style of (daily) human interaction with them.
Our position is that wolves should not be captive-bred and sold to people as pets. Until this stops, we will continue our efforts to provide the best life possible for those we're able to rescue.
The Rationale behind Our Position on Wolf and Wolf Dog Ownership
Although not popular among the wolf and wolf dog owners and in spite of the fact that there are many very good and highly competent people all over the world who own wolves and are providing wonderful lives for them, we do not believe people should own wolves or high content wolf dogs. This is a very complex issue and one where differences in opinion cause significant animosity in the wolf community. But our position on this issue is based on many years of rescuing these wonderful animals and is therefore firm! But out of respect to all involved, we'll share the rationale behind our position.
Caring for wolves is not like caring for big dogs, not even close. In addition to knowledge and experience, owning a wolf requires a level of selflessness that allows the owner to be more concerned about and focused on their wolf's needs than their own. In short, properly caring for these animals involves a considerable sacrifice.
The Big Misconception - Education
There are many who believe that education is the key to successful ownership of wolves and "high content" wolf dogs. This is a huge misconception with one fatal flaw.
First of all, we acknowledge that education is vital to understanding how to properly care for wolves and high content wolf dogs, i.e., learning how to properly interact with them, creating the proper environment and living conditions, learning how to accommodate their needs based on exactly who and what they are and infinitely more!!! But while education does in fact produce knowledge, it DOES NOT and CANNOT develop maturity, responsibility, empathy, compassion, selflessness, or love, which are THE PRIMARY qualities needed for owning wolves!
If the aforementioned qualities are not either naturally in a person, or ingrained in them during their upbringing, they may (or may not) be acquired later in someone's life. If they are, it's a often through a long process (many years) taking place during the journey through the difficulties of life, i.e., personal struggles, personal loss, experiencing the consequences of one's actions, behavior and decisions, and possibly the most productive, having to endure extended periods physical and emotional pain.
Without a developed heart, the education often becomes self-serving knowledge used by "insecure, egomaniacal" people to sound "knowledgeable" and accomplish their real goal - to be viewed as "The Wolf Expert" by others, i.e., "Hey look at me." Their immature, egomaniacal, insecure, self seeking and insensitive hearts prevent them from focusing on the deeper needs of the animals on which they enjoy their reputation as an expert, because their primary focus is on themselves. These aren't "bad people" per se, they're just at a place in their lives where everything is really about them; we've all been there!!!
Unless the educational seeds collected by the mind are planted in the fertile soil of a mature, responsible and compassionate heart, they will not take root and therefore cannot produce the "fruit of proper care" for these awesome animals, or anything else for that matter. In short, you can educate someone's brain, but you can't develop their heart. So while we feel education is a "key component" to owning wolves and high content wolf dogs; we consider a developed heart to be the "core component" in owning them.
Ironically, the predominant mentality among people who "want to own" a wolf (in this day and age), is not one that has the level of maturity and responsibility required to own one, while the more mature people who love wolves, who are responsible enough to care for them, typically do not have a desire to actually "own" a wolf. So the "allure" of owning a wolf is much more prominent in people who are irresponsible, immature, insecure and egomaniacal; those who are looking for something to "fix them" and make them feel better about themselves, i.e., "Hey look at me," Me, Me, Me!!!
There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of people in the in 16-30 year old age group owning wolves today, who fall into this category (although not everyone in this age group does). Like most people in this age group, they have larger (more time-consuming) social lives than mature, responsible, less "self-centered" adults. Those in this "immature, hey look at me" category of wolf owners are on the internet hour after hour, day after day, posting picture after picture on Facebook and chatting back and forth about their wolves; where they came from and how beautiful the puppies are going to be when they breed it with another particular wolf. In their chat dialogue, they take advantage of every opportunity to display their superior knowledge of wolves. And for the record, their knowledge is often very broad and very solid!
However, many of the people in this category have their wolves living in sub-par and sometimes horrendous conditions. And aside from the time these wolves are with their owners for taking pictures that are immediately posted to the internet, many spend the majority of their time alone, in their sub-par and often extremely uncomfortable enclosures. Why, because these young, immature owners are not only primarily focused on their own emotional needs, but they typically lack the financial resources, life experience and necessary skills (know-how) to create the living environment their wolves need for a comfortable life in captivity. Many of our rescued wolves have come from this "hey look at me" category of wolf owners.
If these young, immature (yet often extremely knowledgeable) people were to spend just half the time on their wolves and improving their living conditions, that they spend taking pictures, uploading them to the internet and chatting back and forth about their "hey look at me" pictures, (typical adolescent behavior), they could transform their wolves' living environment into a wolf utopia and provide a wonderful life for them as well. But unfortunately, many of these young, "self focused" wolf owners can actually be in these living areas with their wolves and the horrendous living conditions will never even enter their minds. They're simply not mature enough to see things as they are because they're basically still mentally and emotionally babies themselves.
So to those who are in this category, we say, "Get your butts off the computer, go get a job and put enough money into your wolves' living conditions so they can enjoy their lives like you enjoy yours. In short, GROW UP!" Kids should not own wolves, and this includes that category of kids that may be 30 years old.
We believe that taking responsibility for the seeds we plant in others' minds about wolves and wolf ownership to be a serious issue. As stated above, the greatest appeal of owning a wolf is experienced by people who are still too young (mentally), immature, irresponsible, insecure and egomaniacal to properly care for them. Unlike the mature adult, their young, more self-focused minds tend to process wolf ownership (having a wolf) as something that's going to give them more status and the level of respect from others they so badly want. So we feel it's important that we do not over-glamorize wolf ownership with pictures and videos. Since you want to show people pictures and videos of how a particular rescued wolf is progressing, this can be difficult to avoid. But considering the predominant mentality of those our/your pictures and videos appeal to, being mindful of it is just being responsible, as it can help prevent yet another wolf from ending up in the neglectful hands of an immature owner.
Requirement for Owning Wolves
Prior to starting Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary six years ago in 2006, we owned wolf dogs for ten years (1996 to 2005). During that period, we also volunteered with pure wolves at an exotic animal facility. So over the past 16 years, we've seen many different scenarios in wolf rescue and what we've come to believe is that the people wanting to own wolves must be required to obtain the majority of their education through hands on experience. Specifically, they must be required to have a lengthy period of time volunteering at a reputable wolf rescue/sanctuary prior to getting a wolf and acquire a significant amount of time in direct contact with pure wolves during that period.
Based on what we've seen, we feel that a minimum of two full years volunteering with high content and pure wolves should be a (legally) required prerequisite for wolf ownership. This would not only ensure they gained the knowledge and experience necessary to own and properly care for wolves, but it would also allow them to see first hand the wide range of physical, mental and emotional states these animals arrive in when neglected and/or abused. And if under the guidance of someone with years of experience owning and rescuing wolves, they can also learn the specific types of treatment and living conditions that produced these traumatic physical, mental and emotional states in the rescued wolves, thus helping them refine their skills of interaction with wolves.
If everyone who wanted to own a wolf were (legally) required to accomplish the above prior to buying a wolf, most either wouldn't make the commitment or bail out after just a few weeks. And ironically, we believe the majority of those who did stick with the two year commitment would decide afterward that they had enough wolves to care for at the facility where they're volunteering. Why? Because the knowledge, experience and maturity they would acquire during that period would make them realize that their time would be better served loving and caring for the wolves there at that sanctuary; and, the others that will inevitably arrive there with tremendous needs will need their experienced care as well.
So, to those who feel that "wolf education" is the key to ensuring the health and well-being of captive-owned wolves, we adamantly disagree! We believe that having a required period volunteering at a reputable wolf sanctuary for "legal" ownership is the key. Why? Because this would not only allow people gain the proper education and experience needed for owning wolves, but the process would cause many of those wanting to own wolves to choose to put their time into volunteering with wolves at the sanctuary instead, thus minimizing bad wolf owners and increasing the number of much needed "quality volunteers" at wolf sanctuaries. This is our collective decision and we're stickin' to it!
Now to all of the wolf and wolf dog owners out there who are properly caring for your animals and giving them wonderful lives, we say THANK YOU!
But to all of you who fall into "any" category of wolf owner that is making your animal's life one of chronic discomfort, fear, and despair, know this, your day is coming! We "all" will answer for how we treated God's awesome creatures on this earth.
And finally, to those of you who know deep down that you're not doing right by your wolf/wolves, yet you're not honest enough with yourself to admit that you're a bad wolf owner, you'd better grow up, man up or whatever it is you need to do and start doing what you know you should be doing for your wolves, because you're going to answer to God for your treatment of His animals as well. If the shoe fits, grow up and wear it!
In conclusion, we DO NOT see ourselves as being better than anyone else, nor do we consider our organization to be among the elite. We're simply stating what we've seen in our years of rescuing these most awesome of God's creatures, and what we've learned about the living conditions that most of them endure. It is not our intention to offend anyone; rather our intention specifically is to expose what we see is happening with these animals and in doing so, raise their standards of living (in captivity) to a whole new level. It's not about you, us, or any other wolf organization; IT'S ABOUT THE WOLVES! God Bless!