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Best places in Colorado to enjoy wild animals – guilt free!

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Summer’s here. The kids want to see some wild animals. For the parent who’s been watching the news lately, it's a tough call. There’s lots of debate about whether it’s right to have wild animals in captivity, just for our entertainment. So, if you want to do the humane thing, where’s the best place to take them?

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The zoo always seemed like a safe bet. But, with escapes and accidents happening, are they really safe places after all? Keepers have been killed or critically injured at many zoos, coast to coast, from Sacramento to Miami. Right here at the Denver Zoo, a keeper was killed by a jaguar and the animal was shot. Just this month, another animal escaped from its enclosure at the Denver Zoo. So, let's skip the zoo.

What about the circus? That seems like fun, right? Well, apparently not for the animals. Ringling just paid the largest fine in history for Animal Welfare Act violations. Circus demonstrations seem to be happening wherever and whenever the circus comes to town. Probably not the best lesson for kids to see animals living in trucks, cages, and boxcars. So, that leaves the circus out.

Aquariums, that will be cool! The parents and kids who watched Tilly the killer whale do just that - kill the trainer at SeaWorld - didn’t think that was cool. Even world famous “Flipper” trainer Ric O’Barry disagrees with taking kids to the aquarium. "There's no connection between conservation and stupid dolphin tricks.”

So, what’s a parent to do??

Go visit animal rescue sanctuaries! Nothing will melt your heart more than hearing how an animal was rescued from a sad situation and is now being rehabilitated and given the best life possible. There are non-profit organizations throughout Colorado where you can take the kids and feel good about the mission you’re supporting.

Here's a list of the best in Colorado (click on the links for visitation information):

Wild Animal Sanctuary Keenesburg, CO

When Bolivia recently banned circuses, they airlifted 25 lions to join more than 200 rescued bears, wolves, and big cats living there. Daily tours on their “Mile into the Wild” walkway, over the habitats.

Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center Divide, CO

Hear the wolves howl at Full Moon tours or watch them chow down at daily Feeding Tours

Colorado Horse Rescue Longmont, CO

June 23 is a FREE family, full day event. Lots of fun activites with the horses, mules, and miniature donkeys.

Longhopes Donkey Shelter Bennett, CO

In the last decade, they’ve rehomed 500 donkeys! Make an appt. to learn more about donkeys and how you can help.

W.O.L.F. Sanctuary La Porte, CO

Needs all the help they can get since the High Park fire forced evacuation of the entire sanctuary and the wolves were relocated. Visit their website to help them rebuild.

Zuma’s Rescue Ranch Littleton, CO

June 30th is their Summer Barn Bash featuring pony and hay rides, herd tours, family photos with their pot bellied pig, goats, and horses and more!

Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary Deer Trail, CO

If you’ve ever wanted to visit a working farm, filled with rescued animals from the food industry, this is the place! Visit or volunteer on weekends only. Must be scheduled and confirmed in advance by emailing tours@peacefulprairie.org

Front Range Equine Rescue Colorado Springs, CO

Offers day camp for children to learn about horses and their care

Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center Longmont, CO

Offers those with special needs the opportunity to bond and interact with therapy horses. September 22 - an evening of cowboy poetry, uproarious humor, captivating stories and lively songs with special guest Gary McMahan

Dream Catcher Therapy Center and End of the Trail Rescue Olathe, CO

Provides sanctuary to abused and neglected horses and allows therapeutic interaction with horses for those with special needs

All of these sanctuaries teach children the valuable lesson of compassion and giving back. Be sure to add them to your list of fun things to do with kids this summer!

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