While touring southern Utah, we stopped by a magical place where homeless animals live in a beautiful canyon setting. The animals wait for their forever homes—however long that may take—under the care of dedicated volunteers and staff. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located in the red-rock country just outside the town of Kanab in Angel Canyon. When you see this canyon, you might recognize it— it’s been the setting for movie and TV westerns going back to the 1920s.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

A rescued horse enjoys the shade of the canyon walls at the sanctuary. Photo by Molly Wald courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

You can tour this magical place, stay overnight in the tranquil environment, volunteer to help out, or adopt a pet. There are plenty to choose from: more than 1,600 dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, potbellied pigs, and other homeless animals.

Saving Them All

The mission of Best Friends Animal Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is to help us reach a time when there are no more homeless pets. The organization helps end the killing in America's animal shelters through building community programs and partnerships all across the nation. They believe that by “working together we can save them all” and you’ll see the phrase “Save Them All,” on their printed materials and at the sanctuary.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Visitors are welcome at Best Friends near Kanab, Utah. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

It’s not just about the sanctuary in Kanab. It’s about the partnerships and the collaborative work with more than 2,700 public and private animal shelters, rescue groups, spay/neuter organizations, and other animal welfare groups across all 50 states. All of this is helping the organization achieve the goal of no more homeless pets.

To me, their work is kindness in action—something sorely needed in this world where lack of caring is becoming all too commonplace.

Touring the Animal Sanctuary

On the hour and a half volunteer-led van tour, we discovered that there are multiple “neighborhoods” within the 3,700-acre sanctuary. There is also a full-service veterinary clinic, cottages and RV sites for overnight visitors.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

The animals at Best Friends, many of whom have special needs, get medical care on-site at the sanctuary. Photo by Molly Wald courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

There is also a beautiful pet cemetery called Angels Rest. At Angels Rest, you can enjoy the tranquility and beauty while you listen to the melodies of wind chimes in the canyon breezes.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

The pet cemetery is a peaceful place where you can relax. Memorial services are held annually. Photo by Elizabeth Rose

We quickly found out that we wouldn’t be romping with puppies or feeding carrots to the horses as much of the tour was a drive-by educational visit. We got to see the gorgeous canyon, heard stories about the horses we spotted enjoying the late-afternoon visit from a volunteer, and stopped in to see the dogs. As we walked in the building, the dogs came to their kennel gates with anticipation but didn’t bark.

The staff member proudly pointed out that behavioral training was part of the path to a new home for the dogs and they had learned to sit back and wait to be approached, quietly. We were told that consistency was important in training and we were to be part of the plan—if we followed the guidance of the staff member correctly. One dog was being socialized outside so we got to visit and pet him. He was so friendly, we figured he’d have a home soon.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Training is not just fun for the dogs… it will help them find their forever homes. Photo by Molly Wald courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

It was at Cat World that we realized who was really in charge—the cats, of course! There are more than 700 cats at Cat World, a village of small houses, at Best Friends. In each house, the cats can roam free, climb to their heart’s content, and laze in sunbeams.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

As we toured one of the homes devoted to cats, the residents didn't seem the least bit bothered. Photo by Elizabeth R Rose

There’s even a screened-in porch for kitties who want to catch a glimpse of the birds. There’s a house just for cats with feline leukemia, as well as a suite for cats who are incontinent. Many of the cats have special medical needs or are recovering from neglect and that is why they have ended up at Best Friends. Volunteers spend time with the cats and so can the tour participants.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

The animals get plenty of love and socializing with the volunteers. Photo by Molly Wald courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

While it would have been fun to see the colorful birds and check out the sheep and goats, there wasn’t time to do it all and we were soon on our way back to the Welcome Center. I spent some time there in the gift shop choosing some home-made dog biscuits for my coonhounds at home.

Staying in Angel Canyon

If you are planning a trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and will have your own vehicle, you can stay at one of their cottages, cabins (studios), or RV sites on the Sanctuary grounds. RVs longer than 21 feet will have difficulty on some of the Sanctuary roads and parking areas.

Pets are welcome in the accommodations, up to three pets in the cottages and up to two pets in the cabins. Reservations need to be made well in advance of your visit and can be made online.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

There's nothing like a walk in the high desert. Photo by Kurt Budde courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

Staying in Kanab at the Best Friends Roadhouse

Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile, a pet-centric, 40-room lodging option in Kanab will open soon. The new hotel, owned and operated by Best Friends Animal Society, features 30 regular rooms, eight suites, and two bi-level suites. The Mercantile houses reception, a common area space for guests, a complimentary vegan continental breakfast bar, and retail shop that includes Best Friends and Roadhouse branded merchandise as well as vegan grab-and-go items, beer, and wine.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile, newly opened in Kanab, provides pet-friendly accommodations. Photo courtesy: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

And, this new hotel is certainly made for bringing your pet along. Pet-friendly features such as guest rooms outfitted with special fabrics and materials, pet introduction doors—a two-door entry that ensures the pet will not slip out, room furnishings built 18 inches or higher to avoid pet entrapment or accidents, nooks for sleeping featuring a pet mattress, as well as communal complimentary pet washing stations and fenced-in park with a water feature, and pet walking services and sitting, upon arrangement. Rooms rates range from $159-$299 and proceeds support the work of Best Friends Animal Society.

Helping Out at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Volunteers, both local and visiting, are always welcome at Best Friends to help the animals to get ready for new homes. There are a variety of tasks that volunteers can do—our tour driver was a volunteer as was the woman working in the gift shop.

Children as young as age 6 who are being supervised by a parent or guardian can volunteer to help with cleaning, walking, and taking care of the animals. You will need to arrange for a volunteer experience and schedule your shifts before coming to Kanab.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

There are plenty of volunteer roles at Best Friends. Photo by Kurt Budde courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

Best Friends Animal Society is the only national animal welfare organization focused exclusively on ending the killing of dogs and cats in America's shelters. One of the easiest ways to help them achieve this goal is to become a member. For as little as $25 per year, you can support their work with your membership and receive their well-regarded magazine delivered to you every other month.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Sometimes it's hard to tell who benefits more… the volunteers or the animals. Photo by Molly Wald courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society

When You Go to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Angel Canyon is located five miles north of Kanab, Utah at 5001 Angel Canyon Road off Highway 89. The Welcome Center is open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free tours are available seven days a week (except for Christmas Day) at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. More than 30,000 visitors come to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary each year so schedule your tour ahead of time. If you enjoy traveling with your pet, our Wander writers have more ideas for pet-friendly travel.

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