How to Start an Animal Sanctuary

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Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, UT

You are likely reading this article because you care about animals. You’ve probably also taken in a stray animal or two, provided them with care and love, and brought kindness into their lives. Whether you are saving five or five thousand, you are making a difference to each of them and everyone.

How to Start an Animal Sanctuary


Caring for animals requires patience, love, time, money and a lifetime commitment. The animals you rescue bring with them different needs and experiences, and the demands on you will be substantial. The rewards are worth every minute of care, and with this booklet we are hoping to help you understand exactly what “every minute of care” really means.

We here at Best Friends do not claim to have all the answers. Indeed, we have made many mistakes. But we welcome this opportunity to share the knowledge we have gained over a number of years of taking care of animals.

Opening your own Sanctuary involves interacting with people, raising funds, building facilities, dealing with legal issues and more. But before you begin to think about all that, we strongly encourage you to do the following three things.

1. Visit and volunteer at a sanctuary or shelter near you.
Best Friends is always open to visitors and volunteers. Just call us and we’ll help you plan your experience with us, and answer all of your questions to the best of our ability. If you would like to volunteer closer to your home, we may be able to help you locate sanctuaries nearer to you.

2. Plan.
It is advisable to have a plan in place before you start. Basic questions needing answers include:

  1. What species of animals are you sheltering – i.e. dogs, cats, horses, birds, or other?
  2. How many animals are you planning to shelter?
  3. Where will you house these animals?
  4. Who will help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
  5. What will it cost you to rescue these animals – i.e. time and money?

3. Be realistic.
How many animals can you really handle? Think about your current life and the effect that taking care of animals will have on it. Money and space are not the only issues. So is your time and your commitment. Best wishes on your new adventure.

Shelter – Land, Zoning, Buildings

Providing shelter for the animals means you need land and buildings. It is helpful at this point to decide on what kind of animals you will be working with. This will determine what size of land you will need, and what you will require for housing the animals.

Land – Zoning
Having selected some suitable land, find out what the zoning laws are for that land. Zoning laws regulate use of land, how many animals are allowed, and what species you can have on it. Agricultural zoning is the most open to animals. But even that zoning doesn’t cover exotics.

Zoning is only one of the issues to consider in the purchase of land. You also need to consider your neighbors’ rights. How close are they? Housing dogs can be noisy, and if you don’t have a buffer zone, like land or trees to dissipate the sound, your neighbors can legally file a complaint and perhaps force you to close down your operation.

Leasing land does not offer any stability for the animals. You don’t want to be in the situation of having to relocate a large amount of animals if a lease is not renewed. So, it is important for the sanctuary itself to own its own land. Problems can arise when an individual owns the land. If there is a falling out between that person and other sanctuary personnel, the animals could be in jeopardy. Terrain also needs to be considered. Is the land prone to flooding? Is the property accessible to the public? Is there water and power on the land? If not, can it be brought in easily? Or can alternatives be provided in the form of solar units and water storage tanks? Are the access roads passable all year round? There are a lot of questions to ask in relation to a piece of land you are looking at. It is best to ask them all up front before getting into a situation which might prove to be unsuitable for what you have in mind.

You might find land that has a building or buildings on it. Often these can be adapted for your uses. Usually, though, you will need to start from scratch. You need to think about what kind of facilities the animals need to have a quality of life.

Unlike a traditional shelter, where the animals are there for a short time, you will need to think in terms of lifetime care. Housing dogs, for example, in single runs for years on end, is not satisfactory. Dogs need the companionship of humans and of their own kind to have a satisfying life.

Cats, also often love to be with other cats, and their permanent housing should take this into account. In fact, no animal likes to be on its own. Unless there is a health or safety issue, all the animals in your care should have friends to share their lives.

You will also need to create intake isolation facilities. In order to protect your resident population from exposure to disease, you will need to have a place to house any incoming animal for a minimum of two weeks. During that time you will be able to assess the animals’ health and temperament. These facilities can be smaller as they will not be their permanent dwellings.

If you already have a complete health and temperament history of an animal coming into your care, then it is possible to waive the two-week isolation period. We have found it helpful, however, to keep the animals in a separate area until they get used to the new routines, new diet, and new personnel. It makes merging them into the general population easier.

If you do not have an architect to assist you at this stage, many kennel and cattery plans exist and can be adapted for your unique situation. Information about such plans is available through HSUS, AHA and Animal Care Equipment and Services in Crestline, California. (See appendix for further details.) Also, visits to other sanctuaries will help you see what works and what doesn’t.

Each species has its own specific housing requirements. Some research early on will help a great deal to plan effectively. Here at Best Friends we have housing for dogs, cats, rabbits, indoor and outdoor birds, horses, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and pot-bellied pigs.


This can be a make-or-break area! Every animal you rescue will need some medical attention. This can be as minor as making sure the vaccinations are up to date, or as major as orthopedic surgery on a leg or hip. You will need to be prepared financially, emotionally and physically to deal with sickness, injury and disease.

Having one or several veterinarians working closely with you will make all the difference to the quality of medical care you can provide for the animals in your charge.

If you are lucky enough to link up with one or more veterinarians who are sympathetic to what you are doing, they can help you with discounts on medicines and procedures. And some may even be able to do pro bono work for you.

If you do not already have a veterinarian that you work with, then visit your local vets. Outline your plan and enlist their support.

Many sanctuaries are able to employ a veterinary technician who is able, under the direction of a veterinarian, to take care of some of the basic day-to-day medical treatments.


We strongly recommend that every sanctuary is linked to an active spay/neuter program. Where possible, the sanctuary itself should offer these services, not only to sanctuary animals, but also to the general public. Best Friends, for example, operates a spay/neuter program for the local area. And every animal who is adopted out from the sanctuary is already spayed or neutered.

Pet overpopulation is the reason we have to create sanctuaries for unwanted animals, so one of the first priorities is to try and prevent more of these animals coming into the world.

If you are able to start your own spay/neuter clinic, we suggest you send for the start-up manual from The Animal Foundation, Las Vegas, Nevada. This is an excellent guide to what is needed to run a professional program.

To find veterinarians who participate in low-cost programs, call 1-800-248-SPAY. They have names of low cost programs all over the country.


Your vet will be able to help you get some supplies at cost. Some feed stores sell basic medications, and many of the pet supply catalogs carry a variety of supplies at reasonable prices.


It is important to feed good quality food to the animals in your care. This will be a constant expense. Getting food donated on a regular basis will help defray costs, but it often requires a lot of leg work and coordination, a good reputation, and a willingness to take whatever they want to give you.

The large pet supply stores and grocery stores often have broken bags to donate, but they usually require that you have a tax-exempt number and non-profit status, so that their donation is tax-deductible.

If there are any pet food distributors in your area, you can ask to be put on their list of groups to receive donations of dog or cat food.

The only problem with donated food is that you might have a mixture of brands and types of food.

In our experience, cats do better if their diet is both high-quality and consistent. Dogs, being natural scavengers, can tolerate changes in their diet more easily. These choices will be up to you and your budget.

“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” – Charles Darwin

Legal Issues

Legalities may appear to have nothing to do with your desire to rescue animals. However, they are an important part of what you hope to accomplish and, without ensuring that they are done correctly, you could jeopardize your whole operation.

 Non-Profit Status – 501(c)3

Tax exemption, 501(c)3 status is acquired by filing the necessary forms with the IRS. It is helpful, but not essential, to have a professional (attorney or accountant) to do the paperwork.

There are many advantages of having non-profit status.

  1. Donors of goods, services, or money can claim their gift as an offset against their taxes, which may well increase their giving.
  2. Having non-profit status lends credibility to your organization.
  3. It ensures proper separation between the charity and personal finances.

Once you have completed the necessary paperwork, the status may take three to nine months to obtain. Then you will need to file a Form 990 annually with the government. This details the money taken in and the money spent on behalf of the charity. It is important to keep good financial records. Without them, your status could be revoked by the IRS.

We covered this area in an earlier section relating to the acquisition of property. But it bears repeating. It is extremely important for the welfare of the animals you will be rescuing, that the place you set up as your sanctuary be zoned for this work. You don’t want to be required to move your whole operation because of a zoning issue.

We recommend you carry insurance. Insurance can give you peace of mind around visitors and volunteers should someone fall or get bitten by an animal. All states require you to have your staff covered by workers compensation insurance.

Attorney and/or Accountant
It is wise to find an attorney and/or an accountant with non-profit knowledge and sympathy for your cause. Though legal fees can be expensive, good professional advice is key to running your sanctuary correctly in the eyes of the law.

Release Forms
There are several areas where some kind of release form would be appropriate. For example, in your adoption contract you can cover limits of responsibility for health and behavior of an adopted animal. When you receive an animal, have the owner sign a release form stating that the animal is now the property of your organization. And you may wish to have any volunteers that are working with the animals sign a release form, indicating that they know that working with animals can be unpredictable. In our spay/neuter program, we include a release form for surgery in our admittance form. If you plan to board animals at your facility, then a release form would be advisable, too.

Kennel Licenses
Some municipalities may require a kennel license. It would be good to find out ahead of time if this affects you. Some areas make licenses hard to get. One area I know, insists that all the neighbors in the immediate area have to agree to your housing animals, before a license will be granted.

Wildlife and Birds
There are many regulations covering the housing and rehabilitation of wildlife and wild birds. If this is an area you want to work in, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator, and find out what state and federal regulations govern this work.

“The human spirit is not dead. It lives on in secret … It has come to believe that compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”
– Albert Schweitzer


To start, and then continue running a sanctuary you need money. The amount you need will be dependent on the plan you have developed. Your plan should include details on:

  • how many and what species of animals you will be taking care of
  • where you will be locating your facilities
  • what you plan to accomplish.

Planning in advance for the money needed monthly will ensure that the animals receive the care they need.

Note: No matter what you think it will cost to save one or many animals, it will always cost a lot more!

Fundraising basically divides into two basic areas:

Operating expenses. These are the continuing daily expenses of feeding the animals, paying the staff, etc.

Special projects. These are one-off events, like a spay/neuter drive or a new building. There are many ways to raise funds. Here are some suggestions based on what we have tried here at Best Friends.

Operating expenses
Operating the sanctuary needs a continuing and reliable source of funding. This might be a private endowment that guarantees a certain amount every year, or perhaps an annual grant from a foundation. But unless you know for sure that the foundation will deliver each and every year, you should be wary in case you suddenly find yourself with a lot of empty mouths Fundraising and a well that’s gone dry. Indeed, most foundations do not offer funding for operating expenses.

Like most other successful animal organizations, Best Friends relies on a membership program to meet the operating costs of the sanctuary.

The basic components of a membership program are:

  1. A way of reaching people and inviting them to sign up as members. This might include having a table or booth at a popular store.
  2. A way of keeping in touch with your members. Newsletters are the usual way of doing this.
  3. A simple computer database that keeps track of what you’ve sent out, who’s responding, and what the donations are.

You can make your membership program as simple or complex as you like. You can invite people to sponsor some of the animals, hold membership drives, buy mailing lists (quite complex); or just have a few kind friends who are committed to helping you pay the bills (quite simple). But your basic rule-of-thumb must always be:

Never commit to caring for more animals than you can pay the bills for now.

Your membership program is the backbone of your fundraising efforts. People give money to something they believe in and to people they know. Developing your membership is the most important thing you can do in this whole area. Keep your members informed and included in your work. Use your literature to do this. In the beginning, just a one-page letter can keep your members and supporters in touch. As you grow, your literature can also expand to a several page newsletter.

People will support you because they like what you are doing for the animals. Keep the focus on your animal work in your publications. Stories of your animals and adoptions are a lot more interesting to your members than details of your board meetings. Also, make sure your publications are well prepared and printed. Use professional expertise if you can.

Ask yourself what you like to read and hear about. We have found that people prefer to be uplifted than made to feel guilty by what they read about our work.

Maintaining your membership program is as important as initiating it. Thank-you notes for the donations you receive; responses to questions asked; assistance with animal problems. Keeping up with this whole area will give your members confidence in your whole operation. This will ensure that they will continue to support you as best they can. These days, sophisticated but easy-to-use, database programs for the computer make this job a lot easier. Here at Best Friends, we have an office staff to answer mail and send out information to our members. This is as much a part of our work for the animals as feeding and pooper-scooping, because without our members we could not do any of it.

Using the telephone. If a person includes their phone number when they put down their name and address on a membership sheet at a table or event, one of our staff calls them at home asking if they would like to be a member.

We keep these calls brief, and never pressure people into being part of the work. We outline the different levels of involvement, from basic member to guardian angel, so they can choose for themselves.

We also call people if we haven’t heard from them for more than a year. They may simply no longer want to be involved, but often they’ve moved or have lost the address, so they appreciate the call. We have found that some people respond more to a phone call than to a letter. They like to be called, and enjoy hearing about our work with the animals.

 A word on direct mail. People sometimes call us and ask how to start a direct mail program to raise funds for their shelter. They’re often a bit desperate for money and are hoping that if they buy lots of names from other people’s mailing lists and send out lots of letters, this will be an answer to their funding problems. It isn’t!

Direct mail programs can help build membership. But they’re a slow and expensive operation. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up losing the money you invested in all the printing and mailing and follow-up that’s involved.

People at home are already receiving more mail than they know what to do with. So, unless you can give them a very compelling reason to support something that’s not in their local town and which they’ve never heard of before, they’re unlikely to respond.

Publicity. On the other hand, there are plenty of other ways of getting the word out in your local region. Heartwarming stories about animals are always welcome on TV and in the local newspapers. Most TV news programs end with a light piece about children, animals, or other human interest subject.

If you can get your story on TV, make sure you have literature available, so that if people call or write in you can get right back to them. (You should also be prepared for people calling simply to ask if you’ll take their unwanted pet!)

Literature. Professional-looking literature is a must. It conveys to the public that you know what you are doing. Many high schools and community colleges offer desktop publishing courses, or perhaps one of your supporters works in graphic design or publishing and can help you put it all together. And print a lot! You need to get the word out about your plans, ideas, and work to as many people as possible.

 Special projects

These might include spay/neuter drives or a new add-on to your sanctuary. They can be paid for from different kinds of fund raising events. For example:

Bake sales and car washes are good ways to get young people involved. Proceeds will probably not be large, but the events are always fun.

Donation cans in stores around the neighborhood draw a small but steady income. Someone needs to be relied upon to go and empty them regularly.

Tables or booths outside popular stores are good ways of meeting people, talking about what you’re doing, collecting donations, and signing up new possible members at the same time.

One day’s profits from a store. Stores will often work with you and donate a percentage of the sales to benefit the animals. You’ll need to help them promote the day, since the benefit to them is drawing more animal lovers to their store.

Sales of products (T-shirts, hats, jewelry and other items) can help raise funds. Many groups utilize the creative abilities of their supporters in this area.

Benefit dinners, fashion shows, and other larger-scale events can raise considerable amounts of money, but take a lot of very good planning and organization.

Every event requires staff or volunteers, and a lot of coordination. Tables and booths outside of a busy grocery store can generate a lot of funds and valuable names for your list. Make the tables look interesting with photos of your animals and lots of literature to give out. You will need to ask the individual store managers if you can set up outside one of the doors. Most stores are only too happy to help a community project. But you need to respect their wishes about table placement and on how you approach the store’s customers. You will want to develop a good relationship with the store so they are happy to have you return on a regular basis.


I was introduced to large food donations by an animal control officer in Salt Lake City. There had been a miscalculation by a major food company in the amount of food to be sent overseas to Japan. He asked me if we would like some of this food. I readily agreed. So for quite a while, we fed the dogs from cans with Japanese writing on the label. It was also a strange pink color. The Japanese apparently prefer this color to brownish tones.

That was just the beginning. Since then, we have received donations of food with no labels – just code numbers. We have also benefited from design changes in labels. A company institutes a new graphic, and all the food with the old graphic becomes available for donation. However it comes, it is very gratefully received.

Many companies are willing to donate goods and materials to your program. (Refer to guidelines on this page.) We needed a commercial quality can opener for opening canned food at the cattery. So, Benton the cat “wrote” a letter to the company requesting the can opener, so he could get his breakfast promptly every morning. The company sent him his can opener! Using some imagination and fun helps put a smile into the giving and the receiving.

Lumber companies may help with building materials. Paint and vinyl can be relatively easy to acquire if you are not too fussy about colors or patterns. Many places have end runs, or less attractive merchandise that they are happy to donate for a tax write-off. Hotels and motels change their bedding often. We have found them to be very generous with the old blankets, sheets, and bedspreads. One of our members, who loves to sew, takes them and creates bed pads for use at the kennels and in the clinic.

Places that are not in a position to donate outright, will often give a non-profit organization a special deal. If you need something for your work with the animals, do some research, and call the company or store with the product you need and ask them to donate it. If that is not a possibility, then ask for a discount or special payment. It never hurts to ask. People enjoy giving, and we have made some very good friends this way who give regularly.

Once we were receiving large donations of pet food, we began to have a storage problem. One of our members in a nearby city was holding a yard sale for Best Friends and one of her customers expressed interest in our work. They got to talking, and soon she had promised that her husband would donate a large storage building. He, of course, found out about this later! Not only did he donate the storage building, but all the men to put it up. You never know who you will meet at a yard sale!

When we were building the sanctuary clinic, one of my staff happened to run into a friend who worked at a hospital in a nearby city. She told him that the hospital was about to demolish a wing in order to rebuild it in accordance with the new codes. We obtained permission to go in ahead of the bull dozers, and retrieve whatever we could use. We came away with cupboards, doors, surgical lights, incubators, x-ray viewers, and a variety of useful equipment. As you can imagine, this was a great boon to our new clinic.

Guidelines when asking for donations of products

  1. When you call a store, ask to speak to the person in charge of donating product.
  2. Explain what your organization does for animals. Be brief and friendly.
  3. Follow up your call with a letter to the person in charge, on headed stationery, stating your request to be considered for their donations. If you have your non-profit 501(c)3 status, include that in your letter. Then the company knows it can write their donation off against their taxes.
  4. Send samples of your literature or brochures.
  5. If they agree to donate, follow up with a personal letter of thanks to the person in charge.
  6. Whatever you are offered, accept it. Be prompt in your pickup of the items. If it is not something you can use, share it with other needy groups or individuals. The companies will require you to sign a paper stating that you will not sell the product, but there is nothing to stop you from sharing it, as long as they abide by the same requirement.
  7. At the end of the year, remember those who have given to you – with a plaque or some small gift. You can also mention their giving in your newsletters, which will encourage your members to support those businesses.


Caring for animals is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job. That is very hard on just one person. How much help you will need depends on how many animals you will be taking care of. People sometimes underestimate the stress of caring for many lives, and “burn out”. This can be avoided by getting in some help early on.

Although we are doing this work because we love the animals, we also have to work closely with people. I often hear people say that they would rather be around the animals than be with people. This is understandable, given the way some people behave! However, staff are people, and so are the folks who will be coming to you in distress about their failure to keep a pet. And most importantly, your financial supporters are people, too. So there is no getting away from it. People are going to be central in your life. You will want to have staff that are pleasant and considerate, both in person and on the other end of the phone. They will be representing your sanctuary.

We see a lot of places that have problems in this area. They tend not to be very successful. It is all too easy to allow oneself to become angry and overwhelmed by the public’s disregard for what is so dear to us. But this approach is short-sighted. It is best to adopt a position of kindness and compassion to all – including the people! After all, that is what ultimately helps the animals. Every encounter is an opportunity to share your philosophy, especially by your example.

At the beginning of Best Friends, I was prone to lecture everything that moved! I found this was not very effective, as people would tune me out after a while. Listening, sharing, and kindness seemed to work better. It was not always easy, but I would just remember what was best for the animals in the long run, and bite the bullet, so to speak.

Best Friends employs staff in a variety of areas: animal care, animal medical, office, accounts, fundraising, maintenance, manning the telephones, counseling, outreach programs, adoptions, and education. Many of the staff wear a number of hats. For example, our education director, when she is not speaking to schools or showing groups around the sanctuary, helps feed dogs. We try to get as many people as possible involved in direct animal care, even if their main job is at the computer. This helps remind people why they are working at a sanctuary.

Some programs cannot exist without the help of volunteers. In fact, many of them are run entirely by people who volunteer as much time as they can. Even if you have some full time staff, having volunteers on the team enables you to do more and is a wonderful way of including people in your work. Although volunteers are not on the payroll, they do require “payment” of sorts. People like to be noticed and acknowledged for what they give. They like to be listened to and appreciated. So be prepared to give these things to your volunteers.

Sometimes a volunteer just doesn’t work out. If you’ve done the best you can to resolve whatever may be the problem, it may just be that this person is not compatible with your way of working or with the rest of the team. Just because someone is giving their time, does not mean that you have to accept their involvement. Thank them for their help, explain that there’s a problem (without accusing them of anything), and tell them that you think it’s best if they stop working with you. It may be an awkward situation, but the sooner it’s done, the better!

Good and consistent volunteers are like gold and can make a big difference in the success of your program. Treat them well.


Finding a good home for an animal in your charge is a wonderful thing to do. A fact of life in a no-kill sanctuary is that unless an animal finds a home, he or she lives out his natural life in your care. This means that you will not be able to respond to other animals who need your help.

Finding new homes for as many animals as possible is a goal we should all pursue. There are many ways to go about doing adoptions. You can adopt from your own facility or utilize one of the major pet superstore chains that offer space to non-profit animal groups.

Best Friends offers a booklet – Finding Good Homes for Homeless Pets, which covers some basics in screening for a new home. You are going to be looking for a permanent home, with a secure facility, and with people who can afford the time and the money to care for a new member of their family.

Many of the animals that will be coming to your sanctuary have problems. You will be asked to take biters, chewers, diggers, barkers, and all around badly behaved dogs. Cats may have litter box problems, be biters, or have other quirky behaviors. Working with a trainer to prepare the animals to be successfully re-homed is very important. A lot of behaviors are very responsive to training, and we usually suggest that the adopter finds a trainer to continue a training program once the animal is re-homed.

Breed Rescue
There is a large network of breed rescue groups around the country. If your facility takes in an animal of a particular breed, for example, an Irish wolfhound, there may be a rescue group for that breed close to your location. The American Kennel Club has an up-to-date list of these groups. Most of them have a waiting list of people looking to adopt.

At Best Friends we sometimes work with other agencies to place animals. And, on occasion, we have been able to take in unadoptable animals from other groups to live out their lives at the sanctuary. It is a wonderful opportunity to work together for the good of the animals. Obviously this only works well if the groups share the same feelings and guidelines for adoption.


“The more we come in to contact with animals and observe their behavior, the more we love them, for we see how great is their care of their young.”
– Immanuel Kant

Humane education is another vital part of your sanctuary work – and not only for children. Every encounter with the public offers an opportunity to educate and inform. A lot of problems people experience with their animals stem from lack of knowledge about them and their behavior. So, giving the necessary information can often keep an animal in his or her home. This is part of your education program.

Visiting local schools and sharing your insights about animals and how to take care of them can be a fun experience for everyone. There are a lot of materials available for children of all ages. Our education director can help put you in touch with whatever you will need.

Having children visit your facility will help them understand some of the problems of unwanted pets first hand.

Publishing literature that enlightens people about animals and the problems they face is also part of your education program. For example, there may have been a rash of pet thefts from people’s yards in your neighborhood. Getting information out to the community about how to protect their animals is also education.

Best Friends also has an intern program. Young people who are interested in careers in the animal field spend time working alongside us at the sanctuary. This gives them a good first-hand experience of what is involved.

We also invite people who are thinking of working in animal welfare to come and spend some time here at the sanctuary to see if this is really what they want to do. This experience often helps people to focus on their goals, and clarify their vision.

Planning for the Future
As well as knowing what your limits are now, you should also plan for the future.

There will come a day when you can no longer take care of the animals. This may happen a long time from now, but it could also happen tomorrow. Who will take care of the animals you have rescued?

We hear sad news too regularly of a sanctuary or small rescue group that has failed. Someone else, like a nearby humane society, has to step in and try and rescue the animals. Perhaps the founder has died or become incapacitated without making provision for the animals. Or maybe he or she got in over their head, couldn’t say no to taking in more animals, and consequently became overwhelmed.

You need to have a plan in place early on for the animals in your care. And it is not feasible to think that larger sanctuaries like Best Friends can step in and relate to hundreds of new animals when the crisis occurs. (We have our limits, too!)

Earlier in this booklet we recommended that you do not take on the care of more animals than you can afford right now. We know that this is hard because the needs are so great, but it is even harder to have to cope with a failed situation when so many lives are involved. So get together with everyone involved in starting up your sanctuary and make a plan that covers a variety of eventualities. Write it down, too. It can be amended as you go along and as your organization changes, but it will give you some security should a crisis occur.

Last, But Not Least: Know Your limits!

Providing quality lifetime care for animals that can’t find a new home, or for the animals waiting to go to a home, is our goal. But it is not always an easy job. Dealing with painful situations can be very stressful. It helps to have friends to share your feelings and frustrations with. I cannot emphasize this enough. It is only too easy to “burn out” when we see the animals that we dearly love being treated with cruelty and neglect. So don’t try and take on the whole burden by yourself. If you become overwhelmed, who else is going to help the animals?

There have been times over the years when I needed that advice myself. Dealing with ignorance is very distressing, especially when it affects the innocent. It is only too easy to slip into negative attitudes and emotions towards those who don’t treat their pets with love and respect. But it is a short term approach. Hatred and negativity can eat you up, and soon you will not be able to do the work. So share your feelings with those of like mind. Take time out to be good to yourself. Prepare to be doing this work over the long haul. Because it will take time to change attitudes towards the animals.

We have all come a long way. Spaying and neutering are becoming the norm for the majority of pet owners. Adopting from a shelter or sanctuary is a cool thing to do. News stories about cruelty to animals draw a huge outcry from the public. More and more people are choosing not to wear fur or eat meat. Large companies that test products on animals are finding themselves hurting in the marketplace as more and more people refuse to buy their products.

There is still a long way to go. But if each of us does what we can to promote a world of compassion and kindness, one day we will see a very different world. It will be a world where we are all living in harmony with each other and with nature. Sounds too good to be true? Maybe, or maybe not. We will never know until we try.

Please share your own experiences with us here at Best Friends as you embark upon your goal. And we in turn will share them with others. And together we will all make the difference.

Best wishes from all of us at Best Friends.


Building Plans

Humane Society of the United States
2100 L St. Washington, DC 20037

American Humane Association
63 Inverness Dr. East, Englewood, CO 80112-5117

Animal Care Equipment and Services
P.O. Box 3275, Crestline, CA 92325. (800) 338-2237

Medical The Animal Foundation
700 N. Mojave Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89101
(702) 384-3333
For their spay/neuter manual, send a 9 x 12 stamped addressed envelope, with $1.70 in stamps.


Omaha Vaccine
(800) 367-4444

Doctors Foster and Smith
(800) 826-7206

RC Steele
(800) 872-3773

New England Serum Co.
(800) 637-3786


Finding Good Homes for Homeless Pets
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Kanab, UT 84741

American Kennel Club
51 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010
For Breed Rescue Clubs. They keep up to date lists of clubs all over the country.


Nathania Gartman, Education Director
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Kanab, UT 84741


Animal People
P.O. Box 960, Clinton, WA 98236-0960.
(360) 579-2505
This is an excellent publication for everyone who works in the animal field. It is newsy and informative, and it covers a large area of interests from wildlife issues, to zoos and marine animals, as well as shelter information, animal rights topics, and vegetarianism.

American Humane Association
63 Inverness Dr. East, Englewood, CO 80112-5117
Shoptalk covers a lot of interesting and valuable topics to help people who work in animal organizations. It is geared mainly towards traditional shelters, but many of the articles apply to any situation that deals with animals and people. They also include tips on fundraising, handling the media, organizing special events, and coping with stress.

Best Friends Magazine
The magazine includes a lot of stories about animal groups around the world, which helps you keep up with what others are doing as well as stimulating ideas for your own area. People also appreciate the positive approach to animal stories, and the fun style of presentation. Our members like being included in sanctuary news, and meeting the animals who reside here.

It creates a personal involvement with them and helps to make rescue and sanctuary work a reality.

There are magazines that specialize in specific animals. Many are published by the Fancy Publications, Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy to name but two. These include a lot of useful information on training and medical problems.

Courtesy of
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Kanab, UT 84741-5001
(435) 644-2001

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