View On Pets

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is the Place You Have to Experience for Yourself

Photo by Molly Wald — Best Friends Animal Society

Across the United States, Best Friends Animal Society – the only national animal welfare organization headquartered in Utah – is known as a leader in the movement to ending the killing of dogs and cats in our country’s shelters. With regional centers in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City, Best Friends also leads a network of more than 2,000 local animal rescue groups and animal shelters that are all dedicated to this vision.

But the heart of this shared dream will always be where Best Friends Animal Society started: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Located about five miles north of Kanab, Utah, the Sanctuary started in 1984. Back then, there wasn’t a national voice to end the killing. With little money, no master plan, few construction skills, and countless lives hanging in the balance, the founders of Best Friends set out to address a local aspect of a much larger problem. What they created instead was both the largest no-kill companion animal sanctuary in the world, and a national movement to end the killing of companion animals, with the encompassing name of Best Friends Animal Society.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is a haven for homeless pets who really need a second chance. The animals come to this Sanctuary in Angel Canyon from far and wide. Some are ill, some have been neglected or abused, and all are homeless.

On any given day, about 1,600 animals of various species, welcome visitors on tours. The volunteers who come to work side-by-side with the Best Friends caregivers provide the animals everything they need, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, to thrive and find good homes. For those few animals who are never ready to take that next step, Best Friends is their haven for life. There really is nowhere else on earth like the Sanctuary.

Dogtown is a joyously rambunctious place. The dogs live for going on walks with volunteers, glad to get away from the hustle and bustle of their play areas. There is nothing better for a dog than taking a walk with a person, sitting down to look at the canyon, smelling all the smells, feeling the breeze, and getting patted by a gentle hand. And for the human? There is nothing better than just sitting for a few moments, listening to what the breeze and the birds have to say. Just for a bit, there are no deadlines, nothing that must be done other than to just be one person and one dog.

Cat World is quieter than Dogtown but that doesn’t mean there is a lack of activity. Volunteers break out the interactive toys that let the cats dash madly after that mouse or bird at the end of a string. Still, sitting on a human’s lap and being brushed is blissful. For those who want a little more action, there are many cats trained to walk on a leash that are eager to share a catting experience with you. They may walk quite a distance, or walk just far enough to find an especially great shady spot that has an interesting bug to look at. Cats can teach you how to slow down, breathe, and explore your immediate world. And there are other cats who love a different kind of one-on-one experience, like going for a ride in a special screened-in buggy like the royalty they know they are. Meandering along paved paths dotted with benches where a kitty can just sit with the fresh air on their face and their favorite volunteer nearby on the bench, is a recipe for contentment for human and feline alike.

Horse Haven seriously reminds you of every western movie you’ve ever seen. Stunning red rock cliffs are the backdrops for the pastures on either side of Angel Canyon Road which meanders throughout the Sanctuary. These incredibly intelligent, intuitive animals come to Best Friends because they were abused, neglected, or simply because they became old, injured, or unrideable, and their families could no longer afford to keep them. Some of them will welcome gentle strokes on their velvet muzzles. At Horse Haven, the equines get good food, room to roam, and love and attention from staff and volunteers to help them heal both physically and emotionally.

The Bunny House is home to around 130 rabbits and a few guinea pigs, too. Some were abandoned outdoors — but domestic rabbits can’t fend for themselves outside — while others were victims of hoarding or excessive breeding. Some have injuries or special needs. And all of them just want to be loved. Rabbits are some of the softest, gentlest creatures on earth, and here at the Bunny House, they get companionship with other rabbits, expert rabbit vet care, delicious fresh veggies year-round, activities and places to dig, and most importantly of all, the chance to heal and feel safe as they wait for their very own forever homes.

The potbellied pigs at Marshall’s Piggy Paradise take character to a whole new level. Sure, they grunt, snort, and wallow, but that’s only because they’re happy. And that, along with their wonderful personalities, makes them truly lovable. They enjoy a short, squat, adorable piggy village with warm homes. They enjoy mud baths, healthy food, and exercise, and most importantly, the love and attention from volunteers and visitors which really helps them get adopted.

The Parrot Garden features the noisiest inhabitants of the Sanctuary who also happen to have the intelligence of human toddlers. In truth, parrots should be out in the wild, flying in flocks and living a natural life, but the parrot industry has created a pressing need for rescues because on average, these long-lived animals are rehomed seven to eleven times in their lifetime. Many of these birds have special needs to boot. But, at Parrot Garden, they can rest and heal. In a light-filled tropical environment, they enjoy nutritious meals, top-notch vet care, lots of mental and social stimulation, and the attention they need to recover. For the birds who were never properly socialized and don’t know how to live with other parrots, they enjoy individual outdoor cages during inclement weather days. At night, and when the weather is too cold, they come indoors to other large cages. The parrots who are socialized to other birds live in small flocks inside aviaries.

Truth is, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is a place that is always there, but every day is different. Plan your visit at You can visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary at 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, Utah, or call them at (435) 644-2001.


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