An Inspector Calls...

In order to ensure that high standards of avian care and environment are being upheld at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, we set great store by the regular checks made every year by our local vet in addition to the meetings held by the Trustees of the charity to discuss the activities & progress of the organisation, who also attend the periodic ethical meetings held by vet, management and staff.

However, every six years the S.O.S. is subject to a thorough independent inspection held by the local council led by a veterinary from DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). The purpose of this inspection is to ascertain whether the Sanctuary can be granted a renewal of its Zoo Licence: in England, any establishment owning an animal collection which is open to the public for more than eight days per year must hold such a certificate. Without it, S.O.S. would not be able to function as an educational facility with the public enjoying access to its extensive collection of owls and other birds of prey.


Certain criteria must be met by the Sanctuary in order for a licence renewal to be granted. Those criteria are to provide appropriate habitat for the birds & animals kept, to provide a high standard of animal care, to have measures in place to prevent animals escaping and to educate the visiting public about diversity of species.

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All our birds are kept in aviaries purpose designed to suit
the requirements of their species type.

The results of the zoo inspection provide valuable feedback to the falconry team and a benchmark for the quality of the facilities provided. Future developments of all aspects of the sanctuary’s work can then be measured against this yardstick in order that standards are upheld.

During the inspection, every element of the centre's function is assessed, from animal enrichment activity to hospital drugs policy and from feed room protocol to the quality of animal accommodation. Adherence to Health & Safety and Safeguarding policies together with the safety of the public are also carefully considered.

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General Manager Maz spends a great deal of her time looking after the paperwork!

Inspectors seek evidence of excellent standards of animal husbandry by studying both the physical and psychological wellbeing of all birds and other animals: are they alert, clean, well fed and of good condition? The environment in which birds and animals are housed is also assessed: is accommodation weatherproof, spacious, secure, clean, hygienic and providing a natural habitat?

The designated raptor hospital for the treatment of injured wild birds of prey is also scrutinised: are birds assessed and treated quickly with appropriate and efficacious drugs? Are biosecurity measures in place to prevent cross contamination of captive stock? Are rehabilitation facilities quiet, secluded, dry and clean?

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Our raptor hospital facilities are compact but comprehensively fit for purpose

Not only must inspectors be able to see physical evidence of the high specification of care, but they must also witness exemplary written & recorded evidence of procedures. Accurate record keeping is the cornerstone of the efficient management of the centre and as such plays a vital role in the zoo inspection. On a daily basis, every member of the falconry team is responsible for recording the weights of the birds, their dietary requirements, their physical health, the condition of their accommodation and their performance.

On taking delivery of wild injured birds into the hospital, a trail must be in evidence for each bird showing the details of it’s rescuer, the location and circumstances of its rescue, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and date & location of it’s release back to the wild. Every captive bred bird that arrives at the centre and those that have been bred here, must also be ringed and have an article 10 certificate of registration from DEFRA identifying it’s source, breeder, ancestry and any movement in or out of the centre as appropriate.

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The daily feed charts record the weight of, and nutrition given to, each bird

As one of the recognised authorities on avian care in the contexts of rescue, rehabilitation, conservation and education, S.O.S. welcomes every opportunity to present its model of exemplary care to the inspectors in particular and to the public on a daily basis.

We are happy to report that after a zoo inspection lasting several hours, S.O.S. was complimented on its high standards of bird husbandry, accommodation and habitat. Our designated raptor hospital was described as “outstanding” by the inspection team and rehabilitation facilities were admirable. Record keeping is one area in which our team plans to initiate positive change, as in this technological age, the inspectors prefer to see digitised records rather than the paperwork we assiduously collate, and this requirement will be addressed within the coming weeks.

As a result we are confident that visitors can continue to enjoy our facilities safe in the knowledge that, even "behind the scenes”, standards of the highest standards pertain. This in greatest part due to the team of hardworking & dedicated staff we have working here at S.O.S. - thanks, guys! And finally, however, we never forget that it's thanks to you, our many supporters, that we are able to ensure we can meet the expectations of both the authorities, and our avian charges.