Hello everyone, Hayley here!
This spring break I decided to stray from the usual sun, sand and sea vibe. Instead I traveled to a tiny town in southern Utah to spend some time exploring and volunteering at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I had the most incredible experience volunteering with the animals and learning more about this incredible organization. So, I figured I’d share my experience with all of you.
The Best Friends Sanctuary is located in gorgeous Angel Canyon just north of Kanab, Utah. The Sanctuary is the largest animal shelter in the United States. It houses a variety of animals including, cats, dogs, goats, horses, pigs, bunnies, guinea pigs, and many types of birds. The Sanctuary also welcomes wild life that may be injured and in need of rehabilitation. It was actually for this reason that Best Friends was established. The founders wanted to build a place of healing for homeless, injury, sick or unwanted pets. As the years went on, Best Friends became home to all types of animals past the usual domestic dogs and cats.
Best Friends motto is “save them all” and it rings true
throughout every facet of their business. In the interest of “saving them all” Best Friends works to establish ‘No Kill’ initiatives in the cities in which they are located. Since Best Friends set this goal, the amount of cats and dogs that are killed in shelters each year has decreased from 17 million to 4 million. Of course, the ultimate goal is for that number to reach zero, but this is still an incredible feat. Best Friends is a truly incredible organization with an inspiring message and unrivaled passion for animals.
Each type of animal has their own community on the Sanctuary grounds. The areas are named, Cat World, Dogtown, Horse Haven, Piggy Paradise, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, and Wild Friends. Each area is equipped with living quarters, walking trails, certified vet techs and plenty of incredible caregivers. The Sanctuary also has special exercise facilities and equipment for overweight animals. The animals have more than enough wide open space to run and play on Best Friends 3,700 acres of land. The nature and landscape within Angel Canyon creates the perfect environment for peace and healing for all animals and even for people. The happiness, calm and joy within this place is truly contagious.
Best Friends (BF) welcomes about 30,000 visitors annually. The Sanctuary invites everyone interested to come and experience the animals. Visitors are able to take several free tours, visit with animals and volunteer! The tours are very well organized and give visitors the inside scoop on Best Friends. When it comes to volunteering, opportunities range from cleaning, to socializing with the animals, to participate in feeding times. I volunteered for 3 shifts during my time at the Sanctuary; 2 shifts with cats and 1 shift with dogs. During my shifts with the cats I spent time cleaning the rooms and taking the cats on walks and stroller rides. I was shocked to learn that most cats absolutely loved going on walks and stroller rides. I also spent a considerable amount of time socializing with the cats. Socialization is the practice of getting animals used to human interaction. Through the use of socialization, more animals are able to be adopted and transition successfully from BF to their forever home. During my volunteer time at Dogtown, I helped scoop the dog runs, socialized with the dogs and read stories to the dogs. I know it sounds crazy, but the dogs actually loved story time. When I started reading the books, all of the dogs got really quiet and laid down. Best Friends does an amazing job making their volunteers feel very welcome and comfortable with the animals. They also make a point to thank the volunteers over and over again, reinforcing the fact that Best Friends would be nothing without its volunteers. With so many amazing things to highlight at Best Friends, I almost forgot to mention how incredible the caregivers and staff are. Every single staff member I came in contact with was so friendly and accommodating. They truly want to make sure every single visitor has an amazing and unique experience at the Sanctuary. Best Friends is a truly breathtaking place to be a part of, even just for a couple of days. I highly recommend volunteering & touring Best Friends Utah.
One particularly special program at Best Friends is the Animal Sleepover program. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like and yes, it is the coolest thing ever. Volunteers are allowed to take certain animals home overnight as part of the socialization program. The program is basically a single night of fostering. The caretakers provide you will all of the equipment, food and toys needed for the perfect night with your furry friend. Spending time in a normal household setting with strangers allows animals to learn and adapt better when they actually get adopted. Furthermore, feedback from sleepovers makes the caretakers aware of any issues these dogs or cats my have in a real-life adoption setting. All of this information and preparation makes for smoother transitions for the animals and less adoption returns. Just try not to get too attached unless you are ready to bring a Best Friend home with you. I’m pretty sure that’s part of their plan.
There are so many ways you can do your part in helping the animals of Best Friends. As I mentioned before, volunteering is an absolute blast. I guarantee you will have a wonderful time. (By the way, Kanab, Utah is only a short 6 hour drive from Phoenix, AZ.) If you are unable to make the trek to Utah, Best Friends has several other locations in cities across the US.
There are BF Animal Societies located in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York City and they are always looking for a helping hand. Best Friends number one priority is to find perfect, loving homes for all of their rescue animals. So, if you are looking for a new best friend, definitely go check them out. If you aren’t in the market or a pet at the moment, you can sponsor a pet for a small donation. Sponsorship of a pet is essentially a donation to BF in honor of a pet of your choice. It’s a great way to give back if you are unable to adopt. Lastly, you could become a member of Best Friends by giving a small monthly or annual donation to the business. With the membership you receive a subscription to the BF magazine, so you can keep up with the goings-on at Best Friends. You also receive discounts on the cabins and cottages located on the BF grounds.
These days there are so many non-profits and charities that deserve your attention. I promise you, Best Friends is one of them. If you need service hours, a therapeutic weekend getaway or just a few kitten snuggles, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary should be number one on your list. I truly wish everyone in the world could experience this magical place. If you do end up visiting BF, please send us your photos and stories! We would love to hear all about them!
Thank you to our featured video and photography partners: Ryann Lindsey Photography, Melissa Ivy Photography, The Shepards, Rachael Koscica Photography, Aaron Kes, Kayla Fisher Photography, Olivia Markle, Rachel Soloman Photography, Marie Claire Photography, Emily Vandehey, Morgan Mccanne, Andrew Glatt, Chiara Shine Photography, Mike Oblinski, and Good Vibe Media.