AR-News: (UT) Best Friends a haven for unwanted animals
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WeArPetitions at aol.com
Tue Oct 7 10:24:29 EDT 2003
By Nancy Hobbs
Special to the Tribune
KANAB -- "The Colonel," as he's known by friends and associates, paces
his cell between catnaps in his day-to-day existence serving a life sentence for
wantonly chasing and killing chickens.
If he spoke English, he likely would say the judge gave him what he
deserved. No feline -- or canine for that matter -- should have to eke out such a
desperate living, with no one to love or care for him.
Now, as a result of getting nabbed, The Colonel savors the one cold meal
delivered daily, is happy with his bed in the rafters, and after several years
in his luxurious confinement, is even warming up to the staff.
For The Colonel, this is as good as it gets. As the humans around him
like to say, it's heaven on Earth.
"This" is the Best Friends Animal Society (formerly called Best Friends
Animal Sanctuary), situated on 3,000 acres of red sand, junipers and, in the
distance, the White Cliffs of Grand Staircase National Monument. Though it used
to be known as Kanab Canyon, everyone now calls it Angel Canyon, and for good
This is where deserted, abused, old and even "outlaw" animals -- at least
1,500 of them on any given day -- find refuge and, for many, a second chance
at being a beloved pet. It is the largest "no-kill" sanctuary in the country,
operating with the philosophy: Once an animal is taken in by Best Friends, it
is bestowed a lifetime guarantee. Every effort will go into healing any
injuries or illnesses, then doing whatever possible to make it an adoptable pet.
Whether it is a dog or cat, or even a ferret or pot-bellied pig, if adoption
isn't feasible, it still has a caring home at Angel Canyon to live out a normal
Here, "normal" may be well beyond the "average" life span, thanks to the
special attention and excellent veterinary care all animal residents receive,
noted staffer Rebecca Preston as she led a tour of the sanctuary, one of
several 90-minute tours scheduled daily to accommodate hundreds of visitors to Best
Friends each year.
Preston pointed out Appaloosa Dee as an example. The white speckled horse
was abused, neglected and "little more than a bag of bones" when he arrived
at Best Friends -- years ago. Now at age 42 -- ancient in equine years -- he
has cancer and diabetes that are being treated by sanctuary veterinarians, but
he gets around and isn't suffering.
"At this point, he's living on love," said Preston. Among the horse
staff, volunteers and the companionship of stablemate Dobins, a 20-something
Quarter horse, he gets plenty.
A lot of animals at Best Friends are in similar situations. At the Old
Friends home in Dogtown, which comprises about 50 of the sanctuary's 400
developed acres, senior and chronically ill dogs fill the kennels extending out from
two octagonal structures, each anchoring seven large fenced areas where six to
seven dogs, matched by temperament, live together and play.
Taking care of these senior dogs, in addition to the younger dogs in a
separate but similar kennel, adding up to a total of more than 650 dogs,
requires a small army in itself. Much of that force is provided by volunteers who
come all hours of the day to help. The first crew waters and feeds each dog, with
a separate bowl and often a special diet. With every pup having his own
special spot for eating, the daily routine might more appropriately be called a
In one month, Dogtown eats through 10 tons of dry food and 7,800 cans of
Meantime, a similar drill is being completed in the sanctuary's two homes
for cats: the WildCats Village, residence of The Colonel and about 300 fellow
feral felines, most of whom have been injured or have special medical needs
that decrease their chances of surviving on their own; and the TLC Cat Club, or
The latter is home for nearly 100 cats with special needs or medical
concerns, including a special "Incontinental Suite" for cats with bladder
problems, separate quarters for those diagnosed with feline leukemia, and a large
indoor-outdoor area, like the others, for cats with physical handicaps that might
be seen as unadoptable elsewhere, but here are still given a chance to find a
loving human to take them home. Volunteers -- hundreds of them annually -- are
invaluable at the sanctuary, says Best Friends volunteer coordinator Jean
Morris. The seeds for the Best Friends Animal Society were planted more than 30
years ago, according to Michael Mountain, the society's president and editor of
its bimonthly Best Friends magazine. He and a group of friends used to go by
their local animal shelters every week before "E-day," the day animals were
euthanized, and rescue animals that were likely to be killed because the general
population didn't see them as adoptable. "We gradually got the notion we
should go out and start looking for a place to start up a real sanctuary," says
Sixteen like-minded friends pooled their resources in 1983 to buy a
400-acre ranch along Kanab Creek, and renamed the area Angel Canyon. They relocated
their informal rehabilitation efforts there in 1984, Mountain said, but
within a few years found that "the animals were completely taking over" and they
needed to "formalize and organize" efforts.
Best Friends was officially founded, and the organization started telling
the public about its efforts and asking for small donations.
"We discovered, to our surprise somewhat, that there was a huge response
out there," says Mountain. Though there have been some major private
contributors over the years, the bulk of Best Friends donations comes from small
donors, including the 250,000 "active members" who make an annual donation of $25 or
The society also has struck a chord, as well as found an additional
source of revenue, with people who want to memorialize beloved pets. "Angels Rest"
is located in a little hollow tucked away from the daily business of the
sanctuary. Some animals are buried in the memorial garden and remembered with
engraved or painted headstones; others' cremains are in brass or pottery urns,
tucked into sandstone shelves along with a favorite toy, a collar, a leash.
Still others are memorialized with wind chimes, and dozens of chime-laden
"trees" are planted throughout the red-sand retreat. With the vermillion
cliffs as a backdrop and a gentle canyon breeze setting literally hundreds of
chimes in motion, visitors are surrounded by a mesmerizing tinkle.
The combination of growing public support for their cause and the
realization that the Kanab refuge could never house all of the homeless pets that
might come its way, led Best Friends founders to initiate another ambitious
campaign to eliminate euthanasia as a possible outcome for healthy animals. The
multi-pronged effort is called No More Homeless Pets.
At the time Best Friends was founded, Mountain noted, more than 17
million animals were being euthanized annually in humane societies and community
shelters across the country.
That number has dropped significantly in the past decade as organizations
like Best Friends, animal rescue groups and humane societies have worked hard
to raise public consciousness and convince the public that adoption and
sterilization are better alternatives.
Now No More Homeless Pets in Utah -- which has grown into a coalition of
24 animal welfare organizations, 57 shelters and 90 veterinarians throughout
the state -- has even bigger aspirations. The coalition set a 5-year goal to
eliminate euthanasia of treatable and adoptable companion animals by 2005.
Efforts to save homeless pets are on-going, and the annual Utah's Week for the
Animals celebration, running Sunday through Oct. 18, helps spread the word with
educational programs in schools, discounted spay and neuter clinics, and a
fund-raising gala -- the annual Lint Roller Party, aptly titled "Dare to Wear
Black?" for 2003 -- for humans and their well-behaved dogs at the Salt Lake City
Information on the week's events are available at http://www.utahpets.org
Homeless animals by the numbers
No More Homeless Pets in Utah, a coalition of 24 animal welfare
organizations, 57 shelters and 90 veterinarians throughout the state, has set a 5-year
goal to eliminate euthanasia of treatable and adoptable companion animals by
* 19 percent fewer dogs and cats have been put down annually since 1999.
Credit that, says Nikki Sharp, adoption program director for No More Homeless
Pets in Utah, to adoption events and aggressive spay and neuter programs, such
as the "Big Fix" mobile clinic.
* More than 37,000 animals were euthanized over the past year in Utah,
while almost 27,000 were adopted. The euthanization total includes animals that
weren't considered adoptable due primarily to significant injuries or vicious
and dangerous behaviors.
-- Source: No More Homeless Pets
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