Disclosure: I used to work at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for two years.
There is something magical about a place that is devoted to animals and their well-being. Seeing people labor to make animals happy is a nice twist on the long history of people using animals however they want. Some people will never get it, but for those who do, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is a haven.
The sanctuary is a little hard to get to. The closest airport is in Las Vegas, 3 hours away. I usually take a $30 shuttle bus to St. George, and then rent a car, driving the last hour and a half myself. But if you are going to any of the national parks surrounding Kanab, you might as well take a tour. Better than going to Moqui Cave.
As you drive into the sanctuary, signs plead you to slow down and watch for wildlife. Because there is no hunting on the land, the animals tend to have no fear and you will see lots of mule deer and turkeys milling about.
Tours run from 8:30am, 10am, 1pm, and 2:30pm. In the busy season, they often have double tours to accommodate all the people. If you can, sign up at least the day before. The tour only stops at dogs and cats, but there are other tours available that take you into the wildlife rehabilitation center and parrots.
The tour has a lot of information. We learn that Best Friends started with a group of British hippies in the 70s, who saw all the animals dying in shelters and felt they had to do something about it. They scrimped and saved and managed to buy Angel Canyon, 3,000 acres of paradise in between ranching towns, eventually renting another 30,000 acres from the state.
The first place you stop is Dogtown and their famous octagon buildings. The dogs are constantly training in order to be ready for adoption. When you walk in, the caregiver gives out treats to those who are not barking or acting a fool. You are told to ignore dogs who are trying to get your attention.
Next is cats, which is where I worked. You go inside one of the buildings, petting the lobby cats, and then going inside a room with a cattery. You are told that you can pet any cat who comes up to you. And plenty do. The ones who don’t want anything to do with you are usually up in the exposed rafters.
Best Friends is no-kill so any animal that doesn’t get adopted gets to live out their life at the sanctuary.
If you can, volunteer! My group volunteered in dogs in the morning and we walked all of them in two buildings. They want to get the dogs out on walks every day but if there are no volunteers, they might not have time between cleaning and feeds and meds. The caregivers work really hard but there isn’t enough time to do everything.
In the afternoon, we worked in cats. I told myself I wasn’t going to clean because I had done that for two years. But they were short staffed that day and were behind. So I cleaned a room. They thanked us profusely. As someone who used to work there, cleaning is a big help. If you don’t want to clean, socializing is super important. Giving out treats and not killing the cats goes a long way for the wild cats to start to trust people. And I know it works. I’ve seen completely wild cats become lap cats because of all the volunteers.
The best thing about Best Friends is the lunchroom. It’s buffet style and completely vegan. Like even vegan sour cream and cheese. AND IT’S ONLY $5! I think you need to have a volunteer badge on, so that’s more incentive to volunteer. Seriously, the lunch is worth it. You know, and the wonderful feeling you get for volunteering. But mostly the lunch.
If you are in Kanab, Utah, I highly recommend taking a tour of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. They are two hours, in air conditioned vans, and free. What more could you ask for!
And then go volunteer. You have to sign up ahead of time online and go through a quick orientation at 7:30 in the morning the day of. You can volunteer at bunnies, horses, pigs, parrots, cats, dogs, and even wild animals (although that one fills up fast!)
Best Friends really is a magical place. And something you have to see and feel for yourself. It’s a world where animals are respected. It’s the future.