Charitable Choices: Sharon Doucette of Urban Safari Rescue Society

Sharon Doucette, Executive Director of Urban Safari Rescue Society, leads the only registered charity in BC dedicated to the rescue and sanctuary of exotic animals. Urban Safari Rescue Society not only provides a haven for these animals but also educates the public about their care, conservation, and the responsibilities of pet ownership.

Urban Safari Rescue Society

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

Urban Safari Rescue Society is the only registered charity in BC dedicated to the rescue and sanctuary of exotic animals. We also educate children and adults about various animal species, the place they hold in the natural world, the need for conservation, and the responsibilities that come with pet ownership. We don’t promote exotic animals as pets but many, many people have them so they should know how to care for them and the ethical issues involved.

What problem does it aim to solve?

We solve many problems. If people had nowhere to surrender these exotic animals they would dump them in our environment and many could become invasive species or they would let the animal die or pass it on to someone else who may not know how to care for it. It is a complex issue and it is hard to boil it down to a few sentences. We also give children and the public a chance to learn about these animals and get an understanding about the natural world in a direct and real way that they can’t from seeing shows on TV or YouTube.

When did you start/join it?

I started about 14 years ago.

What was the situation like when you started?

When I started the organization was on the brink of ending. It had been involuntarily dissolved by CRA, we had no money, there wasn’t really a proper Board of Directors, there wasn’t much in the way of policies and procedures, the animals were being cared for by volunteers who were well-meaning but not reliable. The problems were endless.

How has it changed since?

The organization has changed completely. We have a functioning Board of Directors. The people on the board have changed over the years but the board is stable. We reinstated the organization with CRA and fixed all the compliance issues. We have a small staff and good volunteer base. We have policies and procedures for all aspects of the organization. These change over time as needed but things are in place. We still struggle with the money piece but we are stronger and able to stand on our own 2 feet, so to speak.

What more needs to be done?

So much more needs to be done. More fundraising – more public awareness- the list goes on. For the past 1.5 years, we have been trying to recover from a small fire, which was really smoke damage. There was no structural damage from the fire because it smouldered and produced a lot of smoke. We are still trying to get the damaged reptile room restored. It has been a battle but we are approaching the end of the tunnel – so to speak.

How can our readers help?

People can help by donating to Urban Safari Rescue Society. This can be done through our website. Since we are a registered charity they can receive an official tax receipt that they can print off after making a donation. If they donate via cheque mailed to us we will issue a tax receipt and send it to them. We also currently have a 50/50 fundraising draw running until June 28. They can purchase tickets from the link on the website. The winner gets half the pot. People can also book us for their event, classroom, daycare or birthday party and we will come with about 10 to 12 animals and do an hour-long teaching session. We are very popular with schools because we will adjust the presentation to support the curriculum they are teaching.

Urban Safari Rescue Society
Louise, a volunteer, with two pigs.

Do you have any events coming up?

Not at the moment but that can change quickly. We just finished participating in the City of Surrey’s Party for the Planet Earth Day celebration. We also support other charitable efforts by other organizations such as Children’s Hospital, Variety Club and others.

Where can we follow you?

Facebook | Instagram | Website

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

There are a few – OWL Rehab., Variety Club, Canuck Place, PODS on the Sunshine Coast, VOKRA, LAPS – Langley Animal Protection Society.


About Emilea Semancik 155 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to work as a freelance writer and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. Taking influence from journalism culture surrounding the great and late Anthony Bourdain, she is a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of books. You can find her food blog on Instagram: