Letter From WHI Executive Director Diane Gallegos

Greetings!

 

Many thanks for your support in 2012.  With your help we made it through a very challenging year stronger than ever.  Our animal friends got through the winter (so far!) in good shape and I am so excited to be open to the public again!   We have jumped into 2013 well poised to really make a difference for wolves (and prairie species!).  This is a long letter, but I ask that you take the time to read it in its entirety due to the implications it has for the future of this incredible organization.

 

While we were closed to the public in February things have been very busy behind the scenes here at the “Haven”!  One of our goals this year is to complete the process for certification with the American Sanctuary Association and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.  As part of this process we are exploring what it really means to be a sanctuary, and evaluating our current activities to see if they support our mission as a sanctuary. 

As you know, what distinguishes an animal sanctuary from other animal institutions is the philosophy that the animals come first.  Every action should be scrutinized for any trace of human benefit at the expense of the animals. A sanctuary must strive not to allow any activity that would place the animals in an unduly stressful situation.  The resident animals are given the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible in a protective environment.  We also must keep in mind that one of the most important roles of sanctuaries, beyond caring for the animals, is educating the public. The ultimate goal of a sanctuary should be to change the way that humans think of, and treat, non-human animals.

The dual goals of providing a protected environment for our wolves, while also working to change the hearts and minds of humans, creates a challenging tension that must be balanced.  For several years there has been concern over our Howl In events and the impact they have on the wolves. The last few years have been particularly difficult for Shadow and Spruce – both wolves who do fine during regular visits.  Clearly we needed to make adjustments to Howl In events so that our wolves are not unduly stressed. 

In addition, we collected evaluations from Howl In participants over the last 2 years.  I will admit to being quite surprised by the results.  Most participants who just participated in the evening event did not have their expectations met. Those who were part of the smaller group that spent the night were delighted.  The evaluations showed that while participants enjoyed the hands on activities, storytelling, music, and prairie visits –they were disappointed because their primary reason for attending the Howl In was spending time with the wolves. The concern over our resident wolves, combined with tepid evaluations, has driven the decision to move into a new era at the Haven.

In 2013 we plan to launch a new event in place of Howl Ins.  The event will be an exclusive opportunity for guests to engage in a much deeper way with our organization and to support our mission.  We will limit the number to 25 each evening.  The cost will be $75/person for adults and $65/person for students.  Included will be dinner, a prairie visit, an extended enrichment visit in the sanctuary with one of our animal care staff, songs and s’mores around the campfire, as well as a shorter sanctuary visit following a continental breakfast in the morning.  This event will reflect the heart of what it means to be a sanctuary.  We will need a new name – and we will be announcing a contest to select the name that you will hear about very soon (there will be PRIZES involved!).  We will also be offering an opportunity for volunteers to experience this new event as our guests to thank you for your wonderful work and to let us hear what you think!

We would like to offer weekend regular visit guests the opportunities to participate in the wonderful “table” activities and storytelling reserved in the past for Howl Ins at no additional fee.  This is a great opportunity for those of you who enjoy sharing your knowledge about wolves and the prairie but do not want to give public visits.  We will plan to have a few tents and tables set up throughout the summer with activities for children and opportunities for all of our guests to learn more about wolves or the prairie if they choose– so if you are interested in helping please let Cindy know!

Again, thank you for your support of the Haven.  We have an incredible group of volunteers and you are making a difference for our resident wolves as well as wolves in the wild. 

 

With gratitude,

Diane

 

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