A Guide to Animal Sanctuaries in Ontario

Side view of a horse’s head with the sunset in the background

They provide veterinarian attention, shelter and nourishment for their resident animals to start living their best lives in a safe, loving environment. Some sanctuaries also commit to a rehabilitation program to help prepare animals native to Ontario for life back in the wild.

Most sanctuaries and rehabilitation facilities are volunteer driven and depend on donations to keep going. There are several ways you can help support them, learn from the guardians and in some cases, meet the host of furry and feathered friends who have been given a new lease on life.

Some things to do may not be available due to COVID-19.

Many tourism experiences require advance bookings or have restrictions in place due to COVID 19. It is important to check directly with the business operator before you travel. Get the most up-to-date information now.

Donkey Sanctuary of Canada

Located about an hour west of Toronto and just 20 minutes drive south of Guelph, the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada is devoted to the care of donkeys, mules and hinnies. If you’ve ever been around donkeys before, you’ll know these members of the equine family are intelligent, playful and full of personality. Visitors are invited on guided small group tours to meet the donkeys and shop at Long Ears Boutique. Go online and find out how you can become a donkey sponsor.

Location: Puslinch

Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Tucked away on over 150 hectares of natural habitat in the heart of Muskoka, this non-profit organization welcomes injured and orphaned wildlife, with a focus on rehabilitation and reintroduction back to the wild. A handful of ‘patients’ transition to permanent residents if they have become too habituated and won’t survive in the wild. In this case, volunteers and staff provide them with all the care and comfort they could ask for. You’ll need to arrange your visit in advance so staff can be on hand to guide you through the property and introduce you to the sanctuary residents, including Furley and Mama black bears, Monty the bobcat, Spirit the arctic fox and their beloved Moose, Ella.

Location: Rosseau

Wishing Well Sanctuary

Operating as a haven for farm animals in need, Wishing Well is also committed to creating an environment where human guests can learn how to be kinder and more responsible stewards towards each other, animals and the environment we both share.

Get in touch with staff to book a private tour to meet some of the pigs, goats, sheep and cows or find out more about the super fun Wagon Wednesday weekly event, with wagon rides throughout the property. You can also volunteer your time or make donations towards purchasing feed for everyone. Ask about the opportunity to stay overnight at their recently introduced whimsical glampsite.

Location: Bradford

Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary

Caring for creatures big and small, from cows and goats to pigs and chickens, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done at this family run rescue farm to keep everyone happy and healthy – and you can help.

Get in touch with the sanctuary for information on their ‘work visits’ program, a change to roll up your sleeves and experience farm hand life for the day followed by a vegan potluck meal. The farm also hosts a fundraising open house twice a year or you can become a farm animal sponsor and directly help to shelter and feed a resident rescue. Note: currently the work visits and open house are on pause.

Location: St. Marys

Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary

Named after a plucky pig named Esther, this rescue facility is filled with former farm animals including horses, cows, goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens. And more pigs.

Check out their Volunteer Work Day calendar to sign up for a sometimes messy, but always rewarding experience helping out on the property and spending time with the adorable farm family. Esther has inspired and entertained countless followers with her backstory and busy life! Follow her on Facebook or Instagram to see what she’s up to and get the dirt on farm by signing up to the Hog Blog. And donations are appreciated, the sanctuary is a Registered Canadian Charity, so you’ll get a tax receipt.

Location: Campbellville

Promised Land Animal Sanctuary

You’ll be sure to fall in love with the resident horses, pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, dogs and cats at this country animal refuge. It’s a heartwarming experience to be greeted by a gentle animal, in a tranquil setting. To ensure more animals in need get the love, shelter and nutrition this sanctuary provides, sponsor a farm friend or donate your time as a volunteer.

Location: Campbellford

Bear Creek Sanctuary

At this volunteer driven, private registered charity, wild, rare, endangered and exotic animals are humanely rescued, protected, cared for and in the case of some indigenous wildlife, rehabilitated and released back into nature. Currently the best way to help support this valuable work is by sponsoring an animal or through donations. Check back with the sanctuary on the timing of guided, small group, in-depth tours of the facility, which will be by appointment only and welcome to adults and children over the age of 10.

Location: Barrie

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