One of the most well-known national animal sanctuaries, Best Friends Animal Society, located in southeastern Utah, is about a 13-hour drive from where I live in Wyoming. I have visited twice and volunteered once. What an amazing place!
For many years, Best Friends has been on the frontlines of the “No-Kill” movement, a vision of seeing that no healthy, adoptable animal is euthanized in America’s shelters. Recently, the non-profit organization turned up the volume, and the heat, to make no-kill a reality by 2025. Staff and volunteers believe that achievement is possible.
The main Best Friends sanctuary is located outside of the small town of Kanab, Utah, which itself is located within 20 miles of the Arizona border is southeastern Utah. The beautiful red sandstone rocks of that area, which includes Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, offers a dazzling, inspiring backdrop to the 200+ acre sanctuary. This special place provides a temporary (and sometimes permanent) home for dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, horses, and other animals. This group took in more than 20 of the Michael Vick dogs, several of which were later re-homed with loving families. Best Friends has done so much good around the country, including opening new adoption centers in places like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and New York. Soon, a new Best Friends center will open in Houston. They partner with other animal welfare groups across the country, such as Austin Pets Alive! And most recently, a small Texas town that receives thousands of animals each year. Texas leads the nation in number of shelter animals killed each year, and Best Friends – among other groups – wants to make a positive impact for pets in that state.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimates the number of dogs and cats that enter animal shelters in the United States to be around 6.5 million; 1.5 million of those, including healthy, adoptable animals, are killed. That doesn’t have to happen. If adoption rates would rise above the current 50 percent, more positive outcomes for more animals would result.
Can no-kill hapen in America during the next seven years? Best Friends envisions such a possibility. With organizations like Best Friends Animal Society and adoption supporters throughout the nation like you and me, it can be done. Let’s all do our part to educate people about the joy of pet adoption and raise the mantra of #AdoptDon’tShop in our own communities as well as via social media. There are two weeks left of October’s Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, and November brings Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. Think about one thing you can do to make a positive impact on shelter animals these next several weeks, and let’s help Best Friends attain the goal of #NoKill2025 – for the sake – and the lives – of these animals.
When I was a child growing up and attending elementary school in Iowa, I had a best friend named Shelly. In Junior High and High School my best friend was named JoAnn; in college, it was Cindy, and as a young woman, my roommate Lisa became like the sister I never had. All of these best friends had one thing in common: they accepted me for who I was – no judgments, no trying to change me, no ulterior motives. That’s rare these days in human beings. I remain good friends with each of these ladies yet today, and I am thankful for them.
In our pets, we find the above-noted traits and countless others: loyalty, affection, acceptance, friendship, love. And, companion animals waiting for a home and people of their own have best friends in the staff and volunteers at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Located in Kanab, Utah, Best Friends Animal Society and Sanctuary provides a home for dogs, cats, horses, rabbit, birds, pigs, goats, and numerous other species while those animals await permanent, loving homes.
Best Friends became best friends to animals affected by Hurricane Katrina, saving them and finding new homes for them. They were – and still are -- best friends to the dogs traumatized by the Michael Vick dog fighting ring – Best Friends gave them a new, better, loving life. Best Friends takes in feline leukemia cats, blind dogs, and swayback horses. They work with those who fear and distrust humans due to cruelty, neglect and/or abandonment. Best Friends staff and volunteers love, accept, work with, and help the animals many would ignore, devalue, and kill.
Best Friends Animal Society turns 30 years old this year. I was blessed to spend just a few short hours at the sanctuary for tours, and I came away inspired, awed, and with a new resolve to help however I can. The people, place, animals, and organizational mission is inspiring and awe-striking.
I’ve been blessed with several furry best friends: Sam, Ama, Sage, Cody, Mary, Murphy, Bailey – each an individual, just like each person is an individual. And yet, every day 9,000 individual lives are killed in shelters every day, not because they are ill but because we humans don’t value their lives. We give them up because we’re moving, having a baby, lack time (or so we say) or don’t spay/neuter them to prevent litters. In other words, because we don’t take responsibility for their care: those animals that depend on us just as a human baby/child does are viewed as disposable or an inconvenience, not as an individual life for which we are responsible. It’s time to wake up, people, and view all life as a gift from the Creator who made each person, each animal as an individual, and when He created, He called that creation “good.”
Be a Best Friend – be a responsible pet owner – and be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves … just like Best Friends Animal Society. Learn more about No More Homeless Pets and the Save Them All campaigns at www.bestfriends.org. Let’s be the caring, kind, compassionate, benevolent people we are created to be and value and cherish the individual lives the Creator made and blessed – after all, He called them, and us, all of His creation “good.”
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.