Make a paw-sitive impact at Utah’s Best Friends Animal Sanctuary  

written by Queenie Shaikh November 29, 2023
a rescue volunteer with a dog

Visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in South Utah with Intrepid, where a mission to end euthanasia has transformed it into the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States. 

Some offices offer unlimited coffee. Some offices have slides and beanbags. And some offer other perks, like unlimited holidays, free taxis or all-you-can eat cafeterias. But when it comes to ranking truly fantastic places to work, a Utah-based animal sanctuary might just steal the show. 

In the red rock canyons of Kanab, South Utah, the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has a clear mission: to eradicate the euthanasia of dogs and cats in American shelters by 2025. Established in 1984 by a small group of friends, Best Friends has grown into the largest no-kill sanctuary in the United States and one of the country’s most dedicated animal welfare organisations. 

In 2016, millions of pets were dying and that’s when the focus on ending euthanasia started, says Julie Bargen, Best Friends’ visitor experience director. ‘Since then, we have made a significant impact… Around 81 per cent of the 4.4 million cats and dogs that entered US shelters in 2022 were saved, and the percentage of no-kill shelters in the US has jumped from 24 per cent in 2016 to a solid 57 per cent in 2022.’

Julie partly credits this impact to how open and transparent the sanctuary tries to be. She is responsible for overseeing all the elements that guests interact with during their visits to the sanctuary, including accommodations, tours, the volunteer department and their exceptional vegan cafe. 

The percentage of no-kill shelters in the US has jumped from 24 per cent in 2016 to a solid 57 per cent in 2022.

The organisation encourages everyone to actively participate in their mission by spreading the word and contributing in any way they can. Whether it’s through adoption, donations, fostering, advocacy or volunteering, there are many ways for individuals to engage and make an impact. 

At any given moment, the animal sanctuary houses approximately 1600 animals including horses, pigs, goats, parrots, bunnies and, of course, cats and dogs. The over 6000-acre site also includes a rehabilitation centre with specialists and equipment on-site to support animals that need an extra helping hand. 

Julie takes immense joy in witnessing the expressions on visitors’ faces when they arrive at the sanctuary. ‘Many visitors, accustomed to urban adoption centres, often anticipate a more confined and potentially sombre experience. But their perspective quickly changes when they realise the expansive nature of the sanctuary.’

a sunset over a red canyon
Sunset over the canyon where Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located | Courtesy of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Best Friends typically welcomes around 30,000 visitors per year and Intrepid travellers will be among them in 2024. Travellers on Intrepid’s Zion Glamping Adventure will spend a morning at the sanctuary, learning about their work and having a vegan lunch at the on-site Angel Village Cafe before getting the chance to stroll among the property. 

The sanctuary is organised into various animal neighbourhoods: Dogtown, Cat World, Horse Haven, Marshall’s Piggy Haven, and Parrot Garden. There’s also a Gratitude Garden – a space for those dedicated towards animal rescue.

Angel Village Cafe is known for its five-dollar meals with million-dollar views overlooking the Escalante Grand Staircase. The daily $5 buffet offers a rotating spread of vegan eats and treats – think quinoa salads, hummus wraps, vegan ceviche, tamales and an always-on salad bar. This affordability extends to the overall travel experience. Beyond cost considerations, visitors can take pride in knowing that their visit directly contributes to making a positive impact on the lives of the sanctuary’s animals. 

You can visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary on the Zion Glamping Adventure. Find out what else is new for 2024 with The Goods.

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