Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah

Welcome Sign for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Welcome to something wonderful!

At different times in my life, I have come across something that seemed ‘too good to be true’…only to discover that it was even better than I could have possibly imagined. My most recent example of this is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. I had heard about Best Friends through a couple of people at our local animal shelter. Their descriptions were so incredible that I thought they might be embellished. Still, the Sanctuary has been on my bucket list for the past year. With our current five-week home exchange to Palm Desert, California, my husband and I decided to add two days in nearby Kanab to our itinerary.

Peace Pole at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
This is the third International Peace Pole that Richard and I have seen within the last three months (Finisterre, Paris and Kanab).We look forward to seeing even more.

Best Friends is an animal welfare organization with a unique history and vision. Set on thousands of acres of stunning landscape in Angel Canyon, this no-kill Sanctuary is home to over 1700 animals. The goal of this organization is to have all animal shelters in the  United States be no-kill by 2025. Best Friends also supports a multitude of partner organizations who share the same objective.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Views
Everywhere that you look the views are absolutely incredible!

When we drove up to the Sanctuary, Richard and I were both awed. The property seemed to be unending.  The buildings were immaculate, the staff and volunteers were welcoming, friendly and extremely knowledgeable. The fact that this was all set on stunning landscapes with unparalleled views was almost too much to fully comprehend. We began our initial visit with a (free) Grand Sanctuary tour. Jennifer, our guide, was the ultimate ambassador. Radiating warmth, energy and a wealth of information, she offered an outstanding introduction to the Sanctuary. A convert herself, Jennifer had seen a documentary about Best Friends over a year ago, scrapped the necessary money together for transportation and accommodation and volunteered each day until Best Friend finally hired her.

Cory the cat at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Cory (and a few other Sanctuary cats) was born completely paralyzed in his hind legs. That didn’t stop him from going for a walk with me. He doesn’t use a leash…but he was FAST!

Part of Best Friends’ unique vision is to allow people from all over the world to sign up to volunteer for a half a day or more. The area is en route to many popular tourist destinations (most notably, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon), offers incredible hiking opportunities, stunning scenery and is the setting of many movies and westerns (old and new).  This all adds to the ease and appeal of volunteering here. In addition, any volunteer may take a dog or cat on a sleepover to their pet-friendly accommodations (including cabins that can be rented on site).  For our second day, Richard and I signed up to volunteer together in Dog Town in the morning. For the afternoon, Richard signed up to volunteer in Horse Haven, while I booked myself into Cat World. The staff that we met were each welcoming, and extremely devoted to the animals that they served. All of this combined to make our volunteering an incredible experience.

Horse Haven, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Richard in Horse Haven.

The living quarters for each of the animals were spacious, clean and focused on the needs of the animals. Each animal that we saw seemed to be very comfortable and secure in his/her Sanctuary home. The first animal that we interacted with was Hurley. Hurley is a nine-year-old Black Labrador who had been in a shelter in Texas that was closing its doors. He had been at the Sanctuary for less than a month. Calm and easy going, Hurley was an excellent choice to invite for a sleepover.

Late that afternoon, after our volunteer shifts were completed, we took Hurley back to our (dog-friendly) motel. As we had only booked our accommodations a couple of days in advance, and there was a huge event in the area at the time, we had secured the last available dog-friendly accommodation. Saying that our room was “incredibly basic” would be a vast understatement. “Hurley’s going to think that we’re cheap and wished that someone else had him for a sleepover instead,” we joked. Thankfully, Hurley did not seem to see it that way. Being nine-years-old, and a Labrador, he possessed the perfect energy level and temperament for this sleepover. He loved his walks, loved to play tug-of-war (although he did cheat…repeatedly)! More than anything else, he LOVED his tennis balls and loved to pretend he was a lapdog and lie at our feet (or beside us on the bed….shhhh, don’t tell)!  Hurley had eaten his dinner and treats before leaving the Sanctuary, and would eat his breakfast there as well. We were instructed not to feed him anything but water during his visit. That, along with the loving care he receives at Best Friends, made it easier on him, and us, when returning Hurley from his sleepover.

Hurley, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Hurley, the Black Lab, joined us for a sleep-over!

From start to finish, our entire experience at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was more reassuring and gratifying than Richard and I could have ever thought possible. We will definitely return soon and will find other ways to be involved.

For anyone interested in potentially adopting a new Best Friend,  the Sanctuary is currently waiving the adoption fee and cost of the flight home (USA and Canada) for ‘solo artists’ (dogs and cats that they recommend to be the only animal in the home). The adoption fee for dogs eight-years+ and cats ten-years+ is also currently being waved. You can find out more information here.

44 Replies to “Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah”

  1. OMG, Donna!!! When I saw the title of this blog, I couldn’t believe it! Best Friends is awesome! From the moment we read a book about this organization, a decade ago, we have been interested in its goals, setting and future. It is the one charity we donate money to every month (see our expense reports, another one of which to come soon) and it has been on the list to visit for ages. As a matter of fact, we have often played with the idea of at least volunteering there for a while, or working, since they always have positions available. And now, we can live in our camper.

    There was even a house sit available for two weeks over the holidays this winter. It tempted us, but the short duration and time of the year made us decline. But, we now have a contact there as well, one of the founders of Best Friends.

    It is so amazing that they take care of the “less desirables” as well. Best Friends made a name for itself and receives a lot of support and donations. I hope they succeed with their no kill goal by 2025. I am so happy you went for a visit and had an amazing experience.

    As far as I see it, there is only one problem: if Mark and I go for a visit, we WILL end up with one or two dogs. So, now the question is: do we stop there on our way to San Diego, or save it for a later day? 🙂
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    1. Hi, Liesbet – I had previously read about your donations to Best Friends, so I already knew that you were a fan. I thought about you when I was at the Sanctuary. You and Mark would LOVE it here. Through our entire stay, we never received any pressure, or even verbal suggestion, that we adopt. Even after we brought Hurley back from his sleepover, we did not receive the expected, “Well, what do you think…?” The adoptions department is separate from any of the areas where we volunteered, which is another nice feature. That being said, for anyone considering adopting, their sponsorship programs (many that come with free flights home for the adopted pet) could make it hard to resist! As my view is that we should all take on our bucket list items whenever we can, I definitely recommend you and Mark stopping by on your way to San Diego. I look forward to chatting more about this when we meet up at the end of this month. Looking forward to it!

        1. Hi, Liesbet – Our fears (of not being able to resist adoption) were the same as yours. In our experience, the Sanctuary staff wait for the individual to discuss adoption with them. This was also true with initiating a sleep-over. If adoption isn’t right for you at this time, I know that you and Mark will be able to resist while still enjoying an unparalleled experience. I can’t wait to catch up in person on this topic!

  2. Best Friends has been on my bucket list for at least a decade. I follow them, donate to them (and my local shelters too) and admire their tenacity in following their beliefs. They were an inspiration to me to adopt my two special needs cats (which seriously don’t need anything special). We have one organization locally that is a serious no kill shelter with great amenities to take care of less than perfect pets but they are always too full to take new animals. That somehow defeats the concept but they have influenced other rescue shelters in many ways. Most now have cat rooms rather than cat cages and encourage dog walkers. Baby steps but BF has made everyone aware of what you can do. You had the experience of my dreams (I may have tried to take a cat for a sleepover…although I don’t know if I could have returned it. Very weak here.)
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    1. Hi, Kate – I thought that you might be a fan and follower of Best Friends. They did mention that they have a harder time adopting out their cats than their dogs which seemed surprising to me. As I mentioned in my comment to Liesbet, at no time did Richard and I receive any pressure, or verbal suggestion, to adopt. I found this to be another very impressive feature of the organization. Although I am sure that Hazel, Molly, Morgan, and Gracie would love to have another playmate! 🙂

  3. A beautiful post Donna and what a lovely experience! We had heard of this organisation before through their association with Ruff Wear who run the Ruff Adventure Dog (RAD) Adoption Program to help fresh air seeking, high energy dogs from Best Friends find loving homes with active hiking/outdoor people. Hurley looks adorable and we hope he will find his forever home soon! We wish you both a wonderful weekend and Eivor and Pearl asked me to send you a paw wave too! ☺💖🐕 xxx

  4. What a wonderful thing this organization is doing. I’ve never heard of it, so thank you for the introduction, Donna. I’m curious, how temped were you to bring home Hurley? He’s a handsome fella.

    1. Thanks, Jill – We arrived at the Sanctuary knowing that we were not in a position to adopt at this time. We were in the middle of a long car ride, with a car full of stuff (we packed more fully for this trip than we usually do and we are helping our parents move some of their things from their vacation home in Yuma). We were glad to know that ALL animals at the Sanctuary are offered a caring home there with no time limits (and are warmly welcomed back there if ever needed for any reason). However, at another point in time, there are no guarantees that we’ll have the same resolve!

    1. Hi, Lisa – I am so happy to be able to introduce you to Best Friends. And I am super excited about your mast becoming a Peace Pole. I’ll definitely continue “watching this space”. 🙂

    1. Hi, Lynn – Thanks so much for stopping by. If you are ever in the Utah area, I highly recommend a visit to the Sanctuary. It really was an incredible experience!

  5. Oh my, this sounds like a wonderful sanctuary for animals. And you & Richard are definitely on the best friends list to the animals there, especially to Hurley!

    1. Thanks, Pat – The name ‘Best Friends’ comes from the Founders who were best friends in college and united in their passion to end the senseless killing of animals. But you’re right, the name also takes on many different meanings. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  6. What a fascinating place. It’s heaven on earth for those animals. Considering how Hurley is a 15 on a 10 point scale, I’m amazed that he didn’t go home with you.

    On a different topic, how do you go about exchanging homes? Is there an organization/company that makes this happen? I’m intrigued.

    1. Hi, Ally – I agree that the Sanctuary does provide a ‘Heaven on Earth’ for the animals residing there. Richard and I arrived there knowing that we were not ready to adopt during that visit. However, that view could always change at a later date! 🙂
      You can find out more about Home Exchange at I have also written a few posts on this topic if you’d like to know more about our experiences.

  7. This is a Wow Note worthy experience, Donna. I’ve never heard of this organization but now, thanks to your introduction, it will be on my bucket list for sure.
    Hurley looks identical to Kodee, a dog that I rescued some years ago and adored. Good thing I wasn’t in Utah – he’d have been coming home with me for sure. Wise of you to be on your way somewhere and unable to take Hurley or any of the 1699 other animals along.
    I hope you enjoy your home exchange.

    1. Hi, Karen – I’m glad to hear that you have added ‘Best Friends’ to your Bucket List. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
      One of the (many) impressive features of the organization was their approach to adoption. Although adoption is one of their stated goals, they appear to be very careful to ensure that the match is correct, the timing is right, and there is no pressure from the Sanctuary to adopt. And, as the animals receive excellent care there, and have lots of space (with no noticeable overcrowding), there is less pressure on visitors to adopt as there may be at some other shelters that have overcrowded, minimally staffed facilities. That being said, they do promote adoption in all of their visual publications…and they wave all fees on their harder to adopt animals. Because Richard and I stuck to our resolve this time, does not give any guarantees for another time! And, we doubt that Hurley will last there long, he is a true pleasure to be around! 🙂

  8. Hi Donna! I had never heard about this organization… and settled among the gorgeous red rocks of Utah no less. It’s hard to believe that you couldn’t find room for Hurley in your car 🙂 .

    Are you now in Palm Desert, or are you still making your way south?I’m so looking forward to our upcoming visit!
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    1. Hi, Janis – Richard and I arrived in Palm Desert today. We need to make a quick trip to Yuma early next week to help my parents out, but we will only be away for a couple of days. Your room is ready and I greatly look forward to your visit. Can’t wait to catch up soon!

  9. Like some of the others, I’ve also been unaware of Best Friends. It certainly looks like an amazing place, and as a new owner of two cats I guess I should be more aware of these kinds of things. BTW, your cover picture for this post is really beautiful.

    Enjoy your visit in the U.S. west and travel safe.

    1. Hi, Marty –
      Thank you for your comments on the cover photo. It was taken by Richard (on his iphone) and it is my absolute favourite pic from the Sanctuary.
      I hope that your cats are doing well. I’m waiting to read more posts about them!

  10. I loved your description of your visit at Best Friends Sanctuary. Living in Utah, I had heard of it and knew it was a no-kill shelter, but I had no idea about the volunteer or sleepover opportunities. Fascinating. And Kanab is such a beautiful area, as you mentioned. I’m glad you had this opportunity. Thanks for sharing it.
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    1. Hi, Christie – Thanks so much for commenting. I am not sure how far you live from Kanab, but if you get the chance to visit the Sanctuary, definitely take it. It is a fascinating place to experience. And if you are not far from there, I will let you know the next time that we plan to visit. It would be wonderful to meet up!

    1. Hi, Brigid – Thank you so much for stopping by and reading/commenting. I greatly appreciate it. I love that the title of this Sanctuary has so many different meanings. The organization was originally named for the Founders who were best friends from college. But I love the meaning that you suggest the best. All animals should be considered best friends. If they were, what a different world it would be!

  11. I’ve never heard of this, Donna, how amazing this place exists! God’s word tells us to be stewards of all of the Earth (including His creatures) and this post just exemplifies the good that folks can do for these animals, or our “best firends.” So heatwarming!

    1. Hi, Terri – Thank you for stopping by. It is my pleasure to introduce ‘Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’ to you. I agree that this organization, and its many staff and volunteers, does exemplify the good that we can do for all living creatures. Together we CAN tilt the world toward peace!

  12. Aloha from Maui Donna! And where have I been all my life? I’ve never heard of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary although I do support Palm Springs Animal Shelter, and Animal Samaritans in Thousand Palms (both are no-kill facilities) and have supported Living Free up near Idyllwild. Caring for our fur-friends has always been important! Next time we head up through Utah we will definitely have to go by and visit. Such a special way to help. Thanks. ~Kathy
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    1. Hi, Kathy – Thanks so much for checking in from Hawaii. That’s true blog dedication! I look forward to meeting in person and catching up on our travels. See you soon!

    1. Hi, Anabel – Yes, Best Friends is quite unique. If you do visit and find a ‘best friend’ that you just can’t leave behind, I’m sure that they could help arrange the flight to the UK. 🙂

  13. I am happy to read about the no-kill sanctuary concept. I adopted my cat Oliver from a typical small town animal shelter 11 years ago. He is the most loving, sweet companion. When I got him he was about a year old and had spent his entire life in a cage in the shelter. As I was filling out the adoption papers, the staff told me that he was next on the list to be exterminated. In fact, they had already skipped over him once because they liked him so much. He has such a sweet personality, and I am so grateful that I found him in time.

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    1. Hi, Jude – I’m so glad to hear about Oliver’s rescue story. Our neighbours went to their local animal shelter 11 years ago as well…to get a kitten. When they were trying to choose a kitten, they overheard that ‘Willow’, a then one-year-old cat, was about to be put down because the shelter did not have space for her. As you likely guessed, they adopted Willow right then and there. Willow is now a 12-year-old cat who is alive and well. I LOVE happy endings like these!

  14. What a great place, Donna. I know we have animal places here in the UK where people can volunteer and go and help out and take dogs for walks, but I’m not sure they are allowed home for sleepovers with anybody.
    We also have ‘The Dogs Trust’ in the UK which I’ve helped raise money for through my blog. I’ll be doing the same again this December.
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    1. Hi, Hugh – I’ve heard of ‘The Dog Trust’ in the UK. I believe that their core mission, “to bring about the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction”, is similar to the philosophy of ‘Best Friends’. I look forward to checking out your December feature!

  15. Oh Wow!!! Best Friends is now on my bucket list. What an experience for your family and for Hurley. Thank you for sharing with the Blogging Grandmothers. I have shared on social medial #BloggingGrandmothersLink Party.

  16. Hi, Clearissa – Best Friends is definitely ‘Bucket List Worthy’. If you get a chance to go there, I am sure that you will find it fascinating.
    Thanks so much for stopping by, and thank you for hosting BGLP!

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