Accreditation FAQ

FAQ About Accreditation/Verification

What kinds of facilities can become GFAS Accredited and Verified?

GFAS accredits and verifies sanctuaries, rescue centers, and rehabilitation centers that meet GFAS standards. You can view definitions of these terms here.  Some organizations will span more than one category. GFAS does not accredit or verify domestic or feral cat or domestic or feral dog facilities.

Is Accreditation or Verification required by law?

No. In the United States, however, some state laws or regulations may exempt GFAS accredited/verified facilities from certain requirements (for example, those required of private owners of dangerous wildlife).

How long is an Accreditation or Verification in effect?

Each Accreditation or Verification is in effect for a period of three years.

What are reasons that an organization would lose Accredited or Verified status?

GFAS has a written policy on this important topic.

Is there a fee for applying for Accreditation or Verification?

Yes. Once an organization has had communication with GFAS and it is determined that it is appropriate to go forward with an application, a modest application fee is required. See more information here.

What is the difference between Accreditation and Verification?

In addition to meeting the requirements described above, accreditation involves an additional rigorous screening of compliance with GFAS operational standards. Learn more here and here.

If a sanctuary is not on your list, does that mean it is bad?

GFAS keeps all information about organizations that are applying for or have yet to meet our standards of accreditation confidential. Therefore, if you do not see an organization listed on our website, we recommend that you contact the organization directly to determine if they are in the process of becoming accredited.

Alternatively, an organization not listed on our site may be up to our standards of care and operations but have not applied to become accredited. If this is the case, we have not conducted a thorough evaluation, including a site visit, and therefore cannot comment on their quality.


FAQ About the Accreditation Process

Who can apply for Accreditation or Verification?

In your initial communications with GFAS, staff will discuss with you which is the best option for your organization. You will also have a chance, after reviewing the GFAS standards and application forms, to see what documentation is required for verification only, and as your organization works on the application it may determine that it is not yet ready for full accreditation. When an accreditation application is being reviewed, we may also determine that further work is needed for accreditation but that an organization may qualify for verification. It would then be up to the organization to decide if it wants to receive the Verified status sooner or if it wants to continue to work toward Accreditation. You can learn more about eligibility requirements here.

Does an organization have to become Verified first, then Accredited?

No, though some organizations choose that route.

How long does the Accreditation or Verification application process take?

It depends on your organization (and sometimes the workload at GFAS). Forms A and B should take less than an hour if you have a census of your animals. The application itself can take three hours or more. Some organizations prefer to fill it out as a staff, doing one section each week at a meeting. Collecting the attachments (any you have) is usually a matter of digging in files and emailing information. The next steps can take no time, or it can take some organizations as long as a year. For instance, if the nonprofit is operating on the founder’s property, but there is no lease in place, it may take some time to develop a lease, as well as a contingency plan for what will happen if the lease is canceled or other problems arise. GFAS has resources to help you. It can also take time if funding is needed to make a change. For instance, if you have unsafe fencing, such as barbed wire for a small paddock, your organization may need time to raise the funds to make the change. GFAS will support your efforts in any way we can, such as writing a letter of support, providing verification that this is a crucial change for safety.

What documents need to be submitted with the application?

GFAS requires documents for both Verification and Accreditation candidates. For both kinds of certification, we will ask for items such as proof of non-profit or non-commercial status, copies of current licenses and permits (for example, in the United States, a current USDA license for those facilities that are licensed), and proof of general liability insurance coverage for the facility. Accreditation requires more documents, such as written strategic and succession plans, copies of bylaws or other governing documents, and detailed financial statements. A full listing of required documents is included with the application that a facility receives. More resources are available here.

Are my application materials confidential?

All submitted documents and information will remain confidential unless otherwise noted. We also do not reveal which facilities have applied or are in the process of applying.

Is Accreditation/Verification a pass/fail process?

No, not in the sense that a facility has one chance, and that’s it! Together with the facility, we sometimes determine early on that the facility is not a good fit with GFAS standards. For instance, if a facility sells wildlife and is not willing to change this practice, that is not a good fit. The facility will drop out of the application process and we will send a decline letter, which we keep confidential.

Or another facility may look over the written list of changes we are recommending be completed to comply with the standards, and decide the organization does not want that help right now. We don’t announce which facilities have dropped out, or which are taking a long time to come into compliance.

We stand ready to keep offering assistance to groups that are sincere about wanting to achieve Accreditation/Verification. And we are always willing to listen to an explanation of why a particular exception should be made regarding a standard, and we are also willing to set some compliance items as goals that can be completed after the Accreditation/Verification has been awarded. An example might be creating a more in-depth strategic plan within a set time period.

Do you reveal which organizations have applied for Accreditation/ Verification?

Generally, this is only revealed when a successful applicant has been granted Accreditation/Verification and a press release is issued. Otherwise, we keep that information confidential. On occasion, an organization may announce that on its own, or an organization may ask us to confirm for a funder or state agency that it has applied. If asked, we can only confirm that there is an application, but cannot give an assurance that the organization will be accredited/verified.

Who is on the Accreditation committee?

We actually have several accreditation committees. Usually, each accreditation committee has one or more veterinarians, a GFAS Board member who helps ensure consistency in approach, and additional member(s), knowledgeable about the species and type of facility. Membership can change, depending on availability and expertise needed. The accreditation committees oversee both accreditation and verification.

How often do you visit the facilities?

The short answer is as often as needed. A site visit is a required part of the Accreditation/Verification application process. Also, we do take non-anonymous written complaints seriously and investigate them. There are also certain situations about which a sanctuary is to notify GFAS, such as a change in the Executive Director position. We reserve the right to do a site visit whenever we feel it is necessary, but typically, every three years.

Who will our site visitor be?

Almost all our site visitors are volunteers, though sometimes a visit will be done by a GFAS staff person or consultant. If your organization has concerns about a volunteer visitor assigned to do your site visit, let us know. Our site visitors have a list of photos to take and often specific questions to ask. The site visitor gathers information, but, unless he or she is part of GFAS personnel, is not involved in GFAS’ decision regarding whether your organization’s application should be approved.

Who will be interviewed as part of the application process?

We usually interview the executive director, some others on staff (if there is paid staff) such as the animal care director and/or the office manager, and a volunteer. For Accreditation, we will also interview a Board member. If your organization is all volunteer, we usually interview the volunteers who carry out similar roles to those just listed. Depending on the circumstances, the site visitor may do some or all of these interviews, or they may be done via phone or Skype by GFAS staff.

What can I expect after my facility is certified?

Accredited or Verified facilities have access to a variety of benefits including recognition of your dedication to excellence, special consideration by select grantmakers, and exclusive educational opportunities. You will be asked to pay an annual fee based on a sliding scale and inform GFAS of any major changes in the organization (such as moving to a different location, losing non-profit status, etc.). Every three years, you will need to re-apply to renew your accreditation or verification status.