Volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Whether your family loves dogs, cats or critters of any kind, volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, is an unforgettable experience.

What’s it all about?

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was founded roughly 35 years ago by friends who rescued old, sick and difficult animals from almost certain death at shelters. After bringing them to their no-kill sanctuary, the friends were able to place most of the animals with forever families. The animals just needed some extra time and attention they wouldn’t have received at a kill shelter.

Today, the 3,700-acre Kanab property is home to more than 1,600 dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, pigs, horses and other creatures, at least on a temporary basis. On average, 1,200 of the animals find new homes every year. Those who aren’t adopted have a forever home at Best Friends.

How can you volunteer?

The sanctuary welcomes volunteers ages 6 and up to spend anywhere from a day to a week or more helping out. You might be asked to play with puppies, feed rabbits or simply cuddle with a cat that needs some attention. Or, you can offer to help in other ways, like working in the gift shop or greenhouse. Tasks are assigned based on the sanctuary’s needs and the volunteer’s age and preference.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Photo: Teresa Bitler

Apply online here before you go and as far in advance as possible. If your family wants to work with animals, you’ll be asked to specify the animal area you’d like to be placed. Each has a minimum age requirement. Cat World and Bunny House are both suitable for ages 6 and up. Dogtown is ages 10 and up. Other areas include Parrot Garden (8+), Piggy Paradise (12+), Horse Haven (12+) and Wild Friends (18+). You can learn more online about specific volunteer opportunities in each area here.

What should you expect?

When you arrive, you’ll check in at the Welcome Center and receive name badges and schedules before preceding to your assigned area. There, you’ll get a general overview and be given your tasks for the morning. The sanctuary breaks for lunch. Enjoy the on-site $5 vegan buffet, then head to your assigned area for the afternoon.

Dressing appropriately will make the day much more pleasant. Closed-toe shoes are required. (Clogs are not allowed since they could slip off your feet.) Best Friends strongly recommends wearing long pants, especially when working with horses or pigs, and bringing a hat. In the fall, winter and spring, your family will want to dress in layers since it can be cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon.

Can you just visit?

Of course! Tours are offered daily at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. (Best Friends recommends scheduling a tour before you go.) While on site, you can eat lunch at Angel Village’s vegan buffet and pick up a souvenir or two at the gift shop.

Your family can interact in other ways, too. You can have a sleepover with an adoptable dog or cat in a cabin or cottage at Best Friends or in a hotel room in Kanab. Or, you can take a dog on an outing for a canyon hike, trip to Angel Village or maybe even a visit off-site.