Animal Care Sanctuary - History


  • Lesley Sinclair
  • Wellsboro
  • East Smithfield
Lesley Sinclair1 Wellsboro2 East Smithfield 3



Mission Statement

To provide a safe and caring refuge for companion animals, inspire change through education, and support spay/neuter initiatives.


Vision Statement

Animal Care Sanctuary envisions a society that acknowledges responsible, compassionate care and treatment of all animals.

Company Background


Since our inception in 1967, we have grown from a small presence in Toms River, New Jersey to a regional provider through the Northern Tier of PA. Our Wellsboro location was opened in August 2011. This growth could only be done with well-respected and seasoned employees comprising our team. Animal Care Sanctuary is a (501c3) non-profit organization.




The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

--Mahatma Gandhi


This observation is especially true of the way our country treats its beloved companion animals, dogs and cats, and it strikes at the very heart of why Lesley Sinclair created Animal Care Sanctuary nearly half a century ago.

Ms. Sinclair founded Animal Care Sanctuary, ACS, in 1967 in Toms River, New Jersey in response to the shameful, wide-spread practice of vacationers abandoning their pets when they returned to their homes at summer's end. In the United States, in the 1960's, an estimated 30 million cats and dogs were euthanized each year. Few shelters existed; pet population was totally out of control and recognition that spay/neuter procedures were imperative had not yet come to be.

Lesley Sinclair understood the need for no kill shelters, although the term had not yet been coined. That is what her mission was from the beginning and that is how it endures to this day. She also understood very well the huge need to stop the overpopulation of animals by adopting spay/neuter procedures. In 1975, Animal Care Fund (now Animal Care Sanctuary) became the first certified organization to perform spay/neuter procedures in the state of New Jersey. She knew that animals needed not only to be rescued, but also to be made healthy and she had vets ensure that her animals were in tip-top shape. She also knew that the best future for a homeless pet was in a loving, forever home. At that time, Internet technology did not exist. She sought the help of friends to adopt, took out ads in major newspapers such as The New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer, and she hand-wrote thank you notes to all supporters.

Animal Care Sanctuary quickly outgrew its quarters. When Lesley Sinclair's plans for new property in Toms River, New Jersey were thwarted by zoning laws, she moved the operation to its present location in East Smithfield, Pennsylvania in 1982. The current sanctuary sits atop a mountain on 129 wooded acres surrounded by fields and streams, in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.

The East Smithfield site has acreage that most sanctuaries do not have. It has enabled animals to receive more than the minimum recommended daily exercise and fresh air. Its remote location ensures that there will be no zoning problems or complaining neighbors. It has room to build and/or expand. Lesley Sinclair envisioned a community clinic on site so that the folks in rural Bradford County and neighboring New York communities would have accessible, affordable medical care for their pets. She also envisioned ACS having its own veterinary staff. These dreams were not yet realized during her lifetime, but they are in full force today.

While the new site had spatial advantages, it was far, some 41/2 hours, from its New Jersey support base. New Jersey supporters remain loyal to this day, but they are too far away to be involved in the kinds of frequent volunteering that busy shelters need. Moreover, the extremely rural location does not offer a sufficient population base to provide the same support found in New Jersey or the same access to adopters.

Lesley Sinclair passed away in 1998. For nearly 18 years, her dream was suspended. The animals were cared for, but her clinic, adoption and other progressive ideas were in limbo. It was almost like a dramatic pause, waiting for the rest of the shelter world to catch up. And it did just that! Finally came the great awakening as it relates to companion animals, dogs and cats.

Animal Care Sanctuary, in a move to contemporize the organization, hired a highly experienced executive director with education and experience in innovative health care and social work and a strong knowledge of nonprofit organizational management. In rapid succession, ACS hired a staff of licensed veterinarians and licensed veterinary technicians, employed a behavior consultant, adopted the standards of the American Association of Shelter Veterinarians and began a partnership with Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine. The college's veterinary staff tours ACS facilities on an annual basis, offering recommendations for improving the animals' medical and behavioral programs.

  ACS also began a vigorous adoption program with the help of Petfinder, the Internet adoption website. ACS strives to find well-matched, caring homes for all of its animals, including special needs animals. Its adopters come from throughout the country. Last year, with medical and behavioral rehabilitation delivered by a compassionate, caring staff, ACS achieved a 91% adoption rate of all the animals it took in, 574 of 630 animals. Animals not immediately adopted are never euthanized. They are given continuing rehabilitation and presented for adoption when ready. In extreme cases, where adoption is not possible, they are given sanctuary.

ACS has always been absolutely committed to preservation of life. Euthanasia is used rarely and only as a final resort when it has been medically determined that an animal is suffering from a medical condition that is untreatable to allow the animal to maintain quality of life, or exhibits extreme behaviors that are beyond correction and that are deemed unsafe to other pets, people, and to the animal itself. These decisions are only made after careful deliberation by medical staff and other staff affected such as the cattery director, canine care director, behaviorist, executive director and, ultimately, the Board of Directors.

In 2011, when the Pennsylvania SPCA elected to discontinue shelter services in Wellsboro, PA, ACS took over the operation. There are no other shelters in Tioga County. It was an unexpected strain on resources. However, having two locations in Pennsylvania has helped save the lives of hundreds of additional animals each year.

ACS also achieved Lesley Sinclair's dream of opening a community clinic, one in each site. They are the only low-cost spay/neuter and wellness clinics available in Bradford and Tioga Counties. The East Smithfield clinic is totally booked five days per week. The newer Wellsboro clinic is open three days per week. Both busy clinics are booked one month in advance

To assist pet owners, ACS also offers animal care workshops, dog training courses, an urgently needed pet food pantry, a canine behavior help line and a special emergency fund for senior and special needs dogs.

Public education is another important component of working toward a no kill nation. ACS introduces preschoolers to pets at day care centers and libraries and teaches the joys and responsibilities of pet ownership to elementary and junior high school students. ACS is one of 14 participating sites in a national pilot program, Veterinary Science Initiative, VSI. The program is taught by secondary school science teachers in collaboration with shelter directors. The final session is a day at the shelter.