Humane vacations: Helping homeless animals in Kanab, UT

Be a rock star like MOBY and make your vacation count by volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Photo: Best Friends

KANAB, UT, May 3, 2013 — Picture yourself taking a meaningful volunteer vacation in the middle of the magnificent red rock landscape of Kanab, Utah. There you would be helping homeless pets at the nation’s largest no-kill animal refuge and humane society.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has grown into a national leader in the no-kill movement. Today, Best Friends Animal Society is a humane society known for working nationwide in outreach programs with shelters and other rescue groups to promote pet adoption. They offer spay-and-neuter services and provide humane education programs.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of any effective animal organization,” explains Gregory Castle, CEO, Best Friends Animal Society. “Without volunteers, our work and our reach would be limited.”

Volunteer Vacation
Angel Canyon, home and headquarters for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, has been known for thousands of years as a sacred place by the indigenous people, most notably the Paiute. The sanctuary is located on 3,700 acres owned by Best Friends, surrounded by thousands of acres of federal and state leased land.  

At Best Friends, you can volunteer to help with any of the animals housed there, from dogs, cats, birds, pigs and rabbits, to recovering wild animals. At any given time, there are more than 1,700 animals at the Sanctuary looking for forever homes while healing from their traumatic past. Volunteers are invited to help with basic sanctuary operations by preparing meals and cleaning, grooming, walking and socializing. Keep in mind that due to the large volume of people that come to the Sanctuary to volunteer, you must attend an official orientation before you arrive. All the information you need to plan your volunteer visit to Best Friends can be found at Visiting Best Friends.

Since your own dog is not allowed in the animal areas, make arrangements for their care and well-being while you are volunteering. You may want to participate in the dog, cat or bunny sleep-over program. Keeping pets socialized with people in different environments helps them transition to their forever home more easily.

There are several accommodations right on the Sanctuary property where you can stay. The Angel Canyon guest cottages are comprised of eight separate cozy cottages snuggled in the red cliffs of Angel Canyon. Each cottage can accommodate up to six people with member rates starting at $95 per night. The Angel Canyon guest cabins are studio sized accommodations, nestled among the wild junipers at the foot of a beautiful cliff. Perfect for one to two guests, rates start at $60 per person per night. Spectacular views can also be enjoyed at either of the two Angel Canyon RV Parks. Your four legged companion is welcome to join you at the RV Parks where squirrels and deer wonder by as eagles fly above. Member rates start at $35 a night or $245 weekly and you can leave your pet inside your RV while exploring the sanctuary as long as they are current on their vaccinations. For more information or to make a reservation, call (435) 644-2001, ext. 4826, or e-mail

You can also choose to stay off site at a near-by hotel, bed and breakfast, lodge or even rent a room from a local family. Many area hotels offer special rates to Best Friends Volunteers. I stayed at the Shilo Inn. It was comfortable, convenient and dog friendly.

The Sanctuary
When you have settled into your home away from home, begin your volunteer adventure by taking one of the four Sanctuary tours provided each day. Spend an-hour-and-a-half winding through Angel Canyon, making stops at Dogtown and Cat World. Guided tours of the Sanctuary leave from and return to the Welcome Center at specific times each day. Call (435) 644-2001 ext. 4537 to reserve your space.

Open every day except Christmas, the Welcome Center has some really cool gifts you can purchase including a metal angel dog cut-out for your garden, like the one I bought. Every time I see that figurine, I am reminded of Best Friends’ mission to create a world where animals are no longer killed in America’s shelters.

Volunteers may choose to lunch with Best Friends staff members in a delicious vegetarian/vegan meal Monday through Saturday 11:30 am to 1 pm on-site at Angel Village. $5 gets you the full buffet while the salad bar costs only $3. Contact the Volunteer Department at or at (435) 644-2001 ext. 4119 to make arrangements prior to your visit.

Tourist attractions near-by
Although dogs are not allowed in the national parks, Kanab is literally surrounded by them. The Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Lake Powell are all within a 90-minute drive of Angel Canyon. Known for having the highest concentration of natural scenic wonders in the US, Southern Utah offers the most exciting outdoor adventures for you to enjoy. Each  national park has specific guidelines related to pets, it is important to check each location you are going to visit

People travelling with their pets are responsible for making arrangements for how their dogs will be cared for while they are visiting or volunteering at Best Friends. Please be advised that most lodging options do not permit pets to be left unattended at any time.

Visit the movie sets and memorabilia of Frontier Movie Town. Known as “Utah’s Little Hollywood,” your pet is welcome to join you at the picnic tables, on the grass under the trees, and around the park. Dogs must be leashed and cleaned up after, and they are not allowed in the cook shack.

Enjoy the beautiful, natural contrasting color show at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. These 10,000 to 15,000 year old dunes offer a plethora of activities from hiking and off-roading, to picnicking and just relaxing in nature. Winds funnel through a gap to the south of the park, moving grains of sand into different piles creating ever-shifting dunes.  This is called the venturi effect. Dogs are allowed everywhere as long as they are on leash. Don’t forget your poop bags.

Shopping with your dog
Visit pet friendly stores including Critter Corner Pet Supply, where your four legged family member will feel right at home among the doggie treats and goodies, or for human brand name outdoor gear and accessories, shop at Willow Canyon. There’s a large selection of maps and books, and a café too with organic and Fair Trade coffees where dogs are allowed on the patio.

Dining with your dog
Enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine at Escobar’s Mexican Restaurant where well mannered and leashed dogs are invited on the patio. The Rocking V Café serves up a healthy menu of fresh delights that are made from scratch with an outside patio perfect for you and your dog.

You can find out more details of things to do while visiting Southern Utah here:


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Susan Hartzler

As a consumer dog product and service expert, Susan Hartzler is up to date on the latest trends for dogs and their guardians. Dogs are her passion; so naturally, the subject is something she knows about from both a personal and professional basis.

An award winning writer, Hartzler is a contributor to New World Library’s “Dogs And The Women Who Love Them,” an Oprah pick, and Simon & Schuster’s best selling “Divinity of Dogs.” A short story she wrote about her first therapy dog, Baldwin, was published in Animal Wellness Magazine and awarded the Angel on a Leash Award from the Dog Writer’s Association of America.  Hartzler has developed a loyal following of dog lovers for her serial blog,, a personal journey about dogs and men. She and her dog Bliss are a therapy dog team and visit children in the oncology ward at County USC Medical Center. For more information, please visit


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