Can you handle all of the cute? Or a better question might be: Do you want to learn how all the lives of these cute animals are saved? Located just five miles north of Kanab, off of Highway 89, Best Friends Animal Society is open for year-round tours and volunteer opportunities.
A nonprofit organization, Best Friends Animal Society operates the nation’s largest sanctuary for homeless animals and provides adoption, spaying/neutering, and educational programs. The organization has also been the world’s leader in the no-kill movement for 30 years. It was established in 1984 and found its current home in 1991.
Best Friends reports that 4 million cats and dogs lives are lost every year. A bleak number, but this is down from 17 million when the organization was first founded. This is due to increased adoption rates and the education that Best Friends provides.
The organization truly is activating its motto, “Save Them All.”
On any given day, the sanctuary is home to about 1,700 animals. Most of these are cats and dogs, but there are also horses, burros, birds, rabbits, goats, pigs, and an assortment of other creatures. These furry (and not furry, too) friends come from all over the country, mostly from shelters that don’t have the resources to socialize, train, and heal them to the point where they will be welcomed into someone’s home.
Best Friends is located in Angel Canyon, which is an ideal place for people who love nature as much as they love animals. The nonprofit owns nearly 3,700 acres, and leases another 17,000 acres from the Bureau of Land Management—it’s sprawling, to say the least.
Tours of Best Friends and visits with the animals are available daily, year-round. The guided tour, which starts at the Welcome Center, is free and takes approximately an hour and a half; there are four throughout the day. More than 25,000 visitors come to Best Friends to tour and volunteer each year.
The general tour is informational and takes you through the scenic grounds where Best Friends operates. You will poke into a cat and dog shelter (it is important to socialize these animals so Best Friends rotates the visitation schedule). There are a number of ways to volunteer, including taking an animal for a stroll on one of the numerous trails around the shelters. There are hikes, vistas, and red rock as far as you can see here.
Park at the Welcome Center parking lot. Because of the amount of visitors, Best Friends asks that you don’t drive the canyon loop on your own. You can bring your pets with you, but Best Friends will likely ask you to not take them into shelters and buildings with other animals.
For more information, visit the Best Friends Animal Society website.
Photographer's note: This story was part of a larger project about Utah's travel destinations outside of the national parks and was put together in conjunction with Roots Rated and the Utah Office of Tourism.
Photographer and award-winning journalist Austen Diamond specializes in creative portraiture, commercial photography and editorial photojournalism. For booking inquiries and to view his portfolio, go to www.AustenDiamond.com.