July, 2017 – Kanab, UT While researching RV sites in the southwest corner of Utah I came across a very unique place that I just had to visit. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is a no kill rescue facility. It turned out they only had two RV sites and both were booked weeks in advance but my interest was piqued and I was determined to spend some time at this special place.
Best Friends started this sanctuary in 1984 on more than 3,000 acres outside Kanab where they have created a home for over 1,600 animals. They shelter not just dogs and cats but horses, pigs, goats, birds, bunnies, and more. Their primary goal is to find forever homes for as many animals as possible.
Their ultimate goal is to make the USA a no-kill nation by 2025. That seems a bit unrealistic until you consider that our tour guide claimed that when Best Friends was first organized there were almost 20 million animals being euthanized in shelters each year. He said that number has been reduced tenfold to less than 2 million per year currently.
Their website is sorta vague and suggests you can stop by any day between 8 and 5 for a tour of their facility. I stopped at their visitor center in Kanab for info where I was informed it is best to schedule tours in advance. I was able to schedule a general tour of the facility for the next morning.
We arrived at their lovely welcome center on Monday morning. The tour was scheduled for 8:30.
At about that time we were ushered into a room and shown a 20 minute film. We then boarded an almost new van with our tour guide and about 10 other guests. We were driven all over the grounds explaining what almost every building was for. I did expect to get to interact with more animals but this general tour only had two stops.
The first was at Dog Town. The facility houses several hundred dogs and they are spread out over the grounds. There are buildings just for puppies, others just for old dogs, and facilities to meet the needs of every dog in between.
We stopped at a small hexagon shaped building that may have sheltered 20 dogs. The dogs each had indoor and outdoor space available to them.
We were ushered inside where the dogs were being provided positive reinforcement to not bark. The quiet dogs were given treats and we were instructed to ignore any dogs that were barking. Considering there were a dozen strangers in their midst I thought they were all very well behaved.
We were then taken outside where we got to interact with one dog. This fellow was a cutie and really enjoyed the undivided attention of all the guests.
You have to volunteer to be allowed to walk a dog but almost anyone can volunteer for as little as 3 hours, even children as young as 10. Since it was early and not extremely hot, there were many volunteers walking dogs in the area.
This facility does not just house dogs. They train them and treat any medical conditions they have and do their best to make them adoptable. It was inspiring.
We loaded back into the van and headed for cat world. They were almost at capacity with over 600 cats.
We passed a building devoted to cats with AIDS (FIV) and another for those with feline leukemia. I was not even aware of these conditions in cats. Apparently neither condition makes a cat unadoptable and neither are transmittable to any other animal or person except felines. They just have to be in a home where they are the only cat or with other cats with the same condition.
We finally stopped at a building called The Colonel’s Barracks. It was named for a cat that was court ordered to live out its life at the refuge because of a bad habit of killing chickens.
The cats could freely walk between an indoor room and an outdoor area of roughly the same size. There were lots of structures for them to climb and plenty of places to take a nap.
It’s hard to say how many cats were there because they were moving in and out of each area and curled up in nooks and crannies sleeping. Jim thought there were less than 10 cats in the area we visited while I thought there were more than 20. I guess we were too busy playing with them to count.
We were allowed to interact with the cats for quite a while until the guide apologized for having to drag us away.
They have focused tours of certain areas like Horse Haven, Pig Paradise, and the Parrot Garden. You need to schedule these separately and they do not take place every day of the week.
If you want to stay at the sanctuary they have cabins for rent in addition to the two RV sites. Be sure and schedule them well in advance. I believe the RV sites are full hookups and $50 per night. We drove by them on our way out.
Like much of the sanctuary you will have a stunning view from your site.
Another awesome option is their sleepover program. You can borrow a pet for a day or two and take them to your rental cabin, home, RV, or one of the many hotels in the area that participate in the program.
The sanctuary is located in Angel Canyon just a few miles outside the town of Kanab. The main road through it is a public road that anyone can drive on. The views throughout the drive are magnificent.
There is a mile and a half hike from the road to a hidden lake, apparently a pond in a cave. We meant to go back and do the hike and take more pictures but just ran out of time. Even if you don’t take any tours I’m sure the folks at the welcome center would be happy to tell you how to find the trailhead and point out other places you can visit on your own while in the canyon, like the pet cemetery.
They have a couple of very reasonably priced dining options if you happen to be there at lunchtime, one of which comes with an outstanding view of the canyon. If I had it to do over again, I would schedule a specialty tour and the general tour on the same day and enjoy lunch on the grounds in between.
If you are ever in the Kanab area I highly recommend a visit, or several, to this exceptional place. You can’t beat the outstanding scenery, friendly people, and cuddly creatures.