Feature Photo: author Photo Above: Jeremiah Ro

Organization: Best Friends Animal Society

Opportunity: Volunteering with animals and assisting caretakers with daily duties.

Organization Overview:

Best Friends Animal Society runs the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, situated on 33,000 acres in Kanab, Utah. They have close to 2,000 animals at the Sanctuary, from dogs and cats to rabbits to potbellied pigs. Best Friends takes in animals that can be rehabilitated and adopted, but also animals who are too sick, too old, or who have suffered too much trauma, and give them a loving place to spend the rest of their lives.

Best Friends has taken part in some of the largest animal rescue efforts in the world, including taking in animals rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina, victims of war, and hoarding situations where owners had hundreds of animals in one location. More recently, Best Friends took about half of the dogs from the dogfighting business owned by NFL player Michael Vick. Their caregivers, trainers, and medical staff are able to give these animals the care and time needed to recover before going to their new “forever home.”

Best Friends has several campaigns to advocate for animals –

No More Homeless Pets – the movement to bring a time when every healthy animals has a loving home.

First Home, Forever Home – provides pet owners guidance and resources about caring for their pet, promoting the concept of keeping an animal in their “forever home.”

Puppies Aren’t Products – fighting against and educating the public about puppy mills.

Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dog – educating people about Pit Bulls and other “bully” breeds.

Focus on Felines – an effort to help both family cats and street cats.

You can also watch Best Friends on TV – the show “DogTown” is shot at Best Friends!

Opportunity Overview:

Volunteers are needed to walk the animals (dogs, cats, and even the potbellied pigs), clean kennels/cages/rooms, and assist with daily duties such as maintenance, dish washing, feeding, and grooming. You can also help socialize the animals and even take certain animals on an overnight to your hotel! This gives the animal a chance to get away from the other animals, as well as gives him/her experience in a “home” setting.

Who Can Volunteer:

– Children ages 6-17 (although there are some restrictions), and adults 18 and over. While children 5 years old and under aren’t able to volunteer, they can still go on the tour that the Sanctuary offers if your family is just passing through the area.

That’s pretty much it. The Sanctuary is very good at asking about your limitations and preferences, and would love help from anyone and everyone!

Other Information:

To sign up and volunteer, you first must register as a member of the Best Friends Network. Once you have done that and completed your profile, you can search for volunteer opportunities or contact the Volunteer Department by email (volunteers@bestfriends.org) or by calling them at (435) 644-2001 ext. 4119.

The Sanctuary is open seven days a week, and volunteer hours are from 8:15 am-11:30 am and 1:15 pm-4:00 pm each day. You must attend a volunteer orientation at the Welcome Center before starting your first volunteer assignment.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located approximately 6 miles from the closest town of Kanab, and the animal areas are spread out (the Welcome Center is 2.5 miles away from the animal areas) so you will need transportation. You can stay at a hotel in town or one of the on-site cottages. For more information, check out the F.A.Q. page on the website.

First Person Experience

When I volunteered at the sanctuary, the other volunteers and I participated in a puppy socialization class, which takes place in a room set up like a house. The trainer running the class will turn on the TV, run the vacuum cleaner, and make other noises that the dogs might hear in a home. The goal of the class is to prepare puppies to be ready for a home setting once they are adopted. We also walked dogs on some of the many trails that are around the sanctuary, and spent one-on-one time with dogs who are a little more shy than others.

I spent some time in the cat house petting the cats, and cleaning and mopping one of the rooms. I also volunteered at the bunny house, where I removed any bedding from the outside portion of the pens that had been snowed on the night before.

The sanctuary truly is like no other shelter, and I highly recommend volunteering there if you can!

Community Connection:

For more volunteer opportunities check out our Volunteer Abroad page.