Sunday, April 08, 2007

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary; Kanab, Utah

About 40 miles southeast of Zion, off Rt.89 south, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located in Angel Canyon, about 5 miles north of Kanab, Utah. I don't remember exactly where I first learned about this organization, dedicated to saving homeless dogs, cats and other animals. But about five years ago, I must have read something in the newspaper about Best Friends. Since then, I have been a member. Now, I jumped at the opportunity to learn firsthand how this organization has grown to support over 600 each of dogs and cats, as well as horses, birds, and other animals.

Our tour began with a short film at the Welcome Center, shown below.

The film featured Michael Mountain, President, talking about the growth of Best Friends over the last twenty years. Started by 25 concerned people who wanted to help abandoned animals, Best Friends now employs over 400 staff members. A nationally renowned organization, they provide disaster relief aid, helping thousands of animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Best Friends provides training for shelter workers from all over the country in areas such as starting a sanctuary, fundraising, behavioral training for dogs, and public relations.

After the orientation film, eight of us piled into the Best Friends van. Pam and her own rescued pet dog, Callie, took us to tour the facilities.

Pam drove us several miles back from the main road, past the horse pasture where we met a couple of horses grazing. Pam explained that horses are often given up when they can no longer be ridden either due to medical problems or old age. As we drove along, Pam shared that Best Friends owns 3000 acres and leases an additional 30,000 acres from the BLM. The space provides a great buffer between 600 barking dogs and the neighbors! We also drove past Angel's Rest, the pet cemetery. Hundreds of wind chimes tinkle in the breeze donated in memory of cherished pets. The graves are marked with stones. Pam warned us to bring a box of Kleenex if we visited the memorials with very moving inscriptions.

Our first stop was the Cat Headquarters.

We met some of the special needs kitties - blind kitties, tailless kitties, incontinent kitties, disabled kitties. Some were shy but most responded to our petting and demonstrations of affection.

Kitties are free to roam inside or outside. Attached to the buildings, enclosed patios have high rafters for kitties to stroll across, toys, kitty condos, and hide-aways.

Next stop - Dogtown. Thanks to a generous contribution from a couple from CA, the dogs have wonderful housing. Octagonal buildings contain separate pens, each pen holds a pack of four dogs who are matched for temperament to live together peacefully.

Dogs can go in and out as they please. Evaporative swamp coolers keep the building air-conditioned even through desert summers.

Back in November 2006, I wrote about our two week stay at Desert Haven Animal Refuge in Williamsburg, New Mexico. Desert Haven is modeled on Best Friends, although on a much smaller scale. I was inspired to help Eliana Aubin, President of the Sierra County Humane Society, by revamping their web site. Check it out at Both Best Friends and Desert Haven need donations and volunteers. But Desert Haven doesn't have the high profile of Best Friends. If you go to southern Utah, check out Best Friends. In New Mexico, check out Desert Haven. Best Friends has just installed two RV sites and Desert Haven has a small RV park on the property.In either place, the animals need you.

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