Bear in a cage

FAQs About Our Saddest Bears Initiative

Learn more about our work to help bears


What is the goal of the FOUR PAWS #SaddestBears 'campaign'? 

The goal of the FOUR PAWS #SaddestBears campaign is to end the inappropriate keeping of brown bears in Europe and to contribute to the end of bile bear farming in Vietnam, whereby we focus on legislative advocacy, rescues and housing of bears in the FOUR PAWS BEAR SANCTUARIES and partner projects.  

FOUR PAWS, furthermore, aims to cooperate with authorities in order to create long-term solutions – legal foundations and general standards for the species-appropriate keeping of bears.  

With this strategy, FOUR PAWS has so far succeeded in putting an end to the keeping of dancing bears in Bulgaria and Serbia, the illegal keeping of restaurant bears in Kosovo and Albania, and the illegal private keeping of bears in Poland.

What types of bear abuse are there at the moment?  

Unfortunately, there are a lot of animal welfare problems for captive brown bears in Europe and Asiatic black bears (and sun bears) in Vietnam.

  • Brown bears are kept as pets by private households, or as attraction close to restaurants or other public places. Furthermore, they are still being abused for circuses and shows or as baiting objects.
  • In Vietnam and other Asian countries mainly Asiatic black bears are kept on so called bile bear farms and exploited for their bile. The bears spend years in cages hardly bigger than their bodies with mesh floors, while they suffer from painful health problems as a result from the bile extraction.

How does FOUR PAWS decide which bears to rescue?  

FOUR PAWS regularly receives requests to help bears in need. The decision which bears to rescue depends on several factors and is a result of consideration and evaluation of the animals’ living circumstances, capacity in our sanctuaries, the political and legislative situation as well as available resources and contacts of FOUR PAWS in the country where the bear is kept.  

Do you get the bears for free? 

FOUR PAWS generally refuses paying 'compensation' to bear owners when taking over an animal. From our perspective such a practice does not contribute to a sustainable solution for a problematic wild animal keeping. Hence, FOUR PAWS takes over only those bears that have been confiscated or have been handed over to the organisation voluntarily with an agreement that the animals will not be replaced.  

What are the biggest challenges/hurdles of a bear rescue?  

One important challenge is certainly the timing. All stakeholders – the employees of the authorities who carry out the confiscation if necessary, the FOUR PAWS employees and veterinarians, the transport vehicle and all documentation/authorisations – must be ready and available at a certain time (day of transport). Transports across national borders are even more complex in terms of logistics, paperwork and organisation than transports within one country. 

How many bears has FOUR PAWS rescued so far? 

Since 1998, FOUR PAWS works towards an end of inappropriate keeping of bears, and rescues bears in need. In the FOUR PAWS BEAR SANCTUARIES and partner projects, these animals find a new, species-appropriate and lifelong home. Furthermore, FOUR PAWS has also supported rescues/ transfers of bears to extended cooperations, such as the Zoo Poznań in Poland, the Bear Refuge Kuterevo in Croatia, the BEAR ORPHAN STATION Harghita in Romania, and others. Summarising these cases and the rescues/transfers to FOUR PAWS projects FOUR PAWS has helped more than 220 bears in need so far. 

Why can’t rescued bears be reintroduced into the wild? 

Bears which have spent most of their life in captivity can rarely be released back into the wild. They become dependent on humans, which compromises their ability to survive in the wild and may result in bears losing their natural shyness from humans, thereby posing a safety risk to both humans and animals. Furthermore, many of the bears in the care of FOUR PAWS were previously kept under extremely poor conditions and thus developed various health problems or behavioural abnormalities. The FOUR PAWS BEAR SANCTUARIES offer a safe haven for such bears.  

How much does a rescue operation cost on average?  

The costs of a rescue mission depend on various factors, including the distance between the previous keeping of the animal and the sanctuary, any necessary enclosure remodeling or repair work or even the additional construction of an enclosure and the size of the experienced team including the required veterinarians, but the real costs come with the aftercare, from the continuous veterinarian care which depends on the health state of each bear, through the species-appropriate food and care costs for a lifetime.   

What can I do to support your work for the 'saddest bears'? 

  • We appreciate any donation you can give to support our initiative to end suffering of the 'saddest bears' (Give now).
  • You can use your own channels to spread the word and share our contents to make other people aware of bears’ mistreatment and our fight against it.
  • Make sure that your holiday is animal-friendly – read our guide here!
  • When traveling, keep an eye open for places that keep bears under improper conditions. If possible, take a picture and get in contact with us!
Bear Melanka in BEAR SANCTUARY Domazhyr

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