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. More information on the renewal process can be found here.

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?

Both Verified and Accredited facilities must meet standards demonstrating excellence in animal care and safety, as well as policies including:

  • No captive breeding (with a potential exception for only those organizations having a bona fide release/ reintroduction program to return wildlife to their native habitat)
  • No commercial trade in animals or animal parts
  • No tours allowed that are not guided and conducted in a careful manner that minimizes the impact on the animals and their environment, does not cause them stress, and gives them the ability to seek undisturbed privacy and quiet
  • Animals are not exhibited or taken from the sanctuary or enclosures/habitats for non-medical reasons, with some limited exceptions for certain animal species, such as horses, under approved circumstances
  • The public does not have direct contact with wildlife (with some limited exceptions as outlined in the Standards)

In addition to this, Accreditation involves an additional rigorous screening of compliance with GFAS standards regarding governance, finance, and other sustainability issues.

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

No. GFAS Accreditation and Verification are voluntary and absence from the list does not necessarily mean that a sanctuary would not meet GFAS standards. Additionally, GFAS keeps all information about organizations that are applying for or have yet to meet our standards 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 or verified.

What are the benefits of being Accredited or Verified?

Accredited or Verified facilities have access to a variety of benefits including:
● global recognition of your achievement;
● special consideration by select grantmakers;
● opportunities for collaboration and mentoring with other sanctuaries and rescue centers; and
● educational opportunities.
For more information, see our page on benefits.

FAQ About the Accreditation Process

How does the application process begin?

If you would like to speak with GFAS before beginning the process, you are welcome to email or call us to get more information. If you feel ready to begin, your first step will be to complete and submit the Organization Overview Form.

You can read about our entire application process here.

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

No, though some organizations choose that route.

What documents need to be submitted with the application?

GFAS requires documents for both Verification and Accreditation candidates. The list of required documents can be viewed here.

Are my application materials confidential?

All submitted documents and information will remain confidential unless otherwise noted.

What happens if an applicant does not meet all Accreditation/Verification requirements?

When we review an application for Accreditation or Verification, we evaluate how well the applicant meets the GFAS standards, and if it has all of the required documents in place. However, GFAS does not simply reject an application that does not meet all requirements. Our mission includes facilitating capacity building within the sanctuary and rescue center community. We assist applicants in preparing needed documents, and will provide sample and template documents to guide them. We will also prepare a list of items that may need to be completed as a condition of becoming Accredited or Verified; these may include:

  • repairing a fence;
  • installing fire extinguishers;
  • preparing and implementing an escaped animal protocol.

We may require that these items be completed prior to certification, or in some instances may allow completion prior to the next renewal.

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.

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.

Who is on the Accreditation committee?


The Committee is comprised of Board members, senior staff, and others experts with experience in animal care, safety, and sanctuary sustainability.

How often do you visit the facilities?


A site visit is a required part of the initial Accreditation/Verification application process. In some instances, we may defer a site visit for every other renewal period.  Also, we do take non-anonymous written complaints seriously and investigate them, which in some instances may include another site visit.

Who will our site visitor be?


Site visitors include GFAS personnel and qualified volunteers. 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 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.

What can I expect after my facility is certified?

Once your Accreditation or Verification is awarded, we will work with your organization to prepare and issue a press release. We will also highlight your achievement in our newsletter, and add your listing to our website. We will provide you with a GFAS logo image to display on your website and other materials.

We ask that our Accredited and Verified organizations report to us on significant changes during the 3-year period; more information can be found here. You will also be asked to pay an annual fee based on a sliding scale.

Annual and application fees help offset some of the costs of the accreditation process, including a portion of site visits, as well as other expenses related to program services for Accredited and Verified facilities (which may include workshops, webinars, GFAS staffing, and other support).