They do so much good for so many animals throughout Southern California. See the extraordinary efforts happening at these safe-haven sanctuaries and meet the beautiful animals that have been rescued and are now are able to live peaceful, healthy lives. Many of these sanctuaries also offer volunteer opportunities, so you can put your good will into real-life deeds.
The Shambala Preserve
6867 Soledad Canyon Road
Acton, CA 93510
If you’ve never visited The Shambala Preserve, it’s worth the trip out to Acton. Tippi Hedren, star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” runs this incredible animal sanctuary that is home to more than 50 big cats: lions, tigers, cougars, black and spotted leopards, servals, bobcats, Asian leopard cats and more. It’s remarkable to hear the rescue stories in person, see the loving caretakers tend to the cats and also learn about the real-life dangers of housing such large cats. Plus, Tippi shares the unbelievable tiger attacks during filming the movie “Roar.” Once an animal is brought to Shambala, it remains here for the rest of its life. All animals have come to the preserve after confiscation by authorities such as California Fish and Game, the United States Department of Agriculture, the ASCPA and various Humane Societies. Many animals are rescued form circuses. As a true sanctuary, they do not buy, breed, sell, trade, or subject their animals to commercial use. Shambala is supported by the Roar Foundation, whose mission is to educate the public about the dangers of private ownership of exotic animals. Be sure to visit the Preserve for Safari Tours and they even have an exotic, very upscale Overnight Tent Stay in the middle of the Preserve, which invites you to wake to the roar of the lions. The cost for this unique event is a donation of $3,000. The Shambala Preserve is open to the public one weekend a month by advance reservation only. No animals are let outside their compound and visitors are not allowed within four feet of the compound fences. All visitors to the Shambala Preserve must be 18 years or older, with no exceptions; Cats can only be seen from outside their compounds, so make no mistake — it’s not for children.”
Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres
5200 Escondido Canyon Road
Acton, CA 93510
The 26-acre Southern California shelter is located on a beautiful hacienda ranch in Acton, 45 minutes from Hollywood. In addition to providing shelter for more than 100 animals, Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres offers one-hour guided tours on Sundays and group tours are available by appointment. When you visit Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres shelter, you’ll meet animals who began their lives abused and neglected and now get to spend their days digging in the dirt, basking in the sun, and napping in the straw. Each animal is given the freedom and attention needed not only to recover, but to thrive. During a visit to the sanctuary, you can take an hour-long tour of the shelter with one of our tour guides and meet the sanctuary animals along the way. Farm Sanctuary works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals and promote compassionate vegan living. Farm Sanctuary’s shelters in California and New York together provide lifelong care for nearly 1,000 rescued farm animals. Farm Sanctuary’s Sunday guided tours are held at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. These tours start promptly at the designated times. Reservations are not required. For Visitor Center hours and tour times, click here.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
20612 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) has so much heart and is a special safe haven to sea life in need. The Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine mammals stranded throughout Orange County’s 40 miles of coastline due to illness or injury. PMMC releases healthy animals back to their natural habitat and aims to increase public awareness of the marine environment through education and research. The Center is open to the public for visitors every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. free of charge. They also have offer field trips, many community programs and volunteer opportunities. You’ll find PMMC located next to the dog park in Laguna Beach. Be sure to visit for a rare look at the inspired work volunteers and staff are doing every day to save these animals.
Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary
29322 Modjeska Canyon Rd.
Silverado, California 92676
Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit nature preserve in Modjeska Canyon, on the outskirts of Orange County. One of the few rural nature centers in the region, it provides a richness of habitat types that supports abundant and diverse wildlife. Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary has a dual mission: to support science and environmental education and to act as a sanctuary for the preservation of the local native habitat and wildlife. They are open to the public and provide guided tours and educational programs for school children K- 12 as well as specific programs for colleges.
The Wildlife Waystation
14831 Little Tujunga Canyon Rd
Angeles National Forest, CA 91342
The Wildlife Waystation aids both native and exotic wildlife and is dedicated to their rescue, rehabilitation and relocation. Animals range from large cats (lions, tigers, bobcats, leopards, jaguars) primates, bears, opossums, foxes, hyenas, reptiles, wolves, deer and all types of birds. This L.A. animal sanctuary is located in the Angeles National Forest, north of the San Fernando Valley. The animals come from all over the world and from many different situations. The Waystation’s long-standing commitment is to accept any animal, no matter what the problem, free of charge and with no reservations. In short, no wild or exotic animal in need is ever turned away. Since its inception, the Wildlife Waystation has provided shelter and care to over 75,000 animals. The 160-acre enclave is one of the only licensed facilities of its kind in the United States.
Debbie Lavdas is a Southern California writer who covers events and happenings for CBS Los Angeles, as well as lifestyle for Laguna Beach Magazine and Bask Magazine, plus parenting topics for OC Family magazine. Keep up with her at @DebLavdas on Twitter or DebbieintheOC.com.