During the past decade, a powerful social change has been sweeping through
American society, and many people are probably completely unaware of it.
Perhaps you've noticed those ads for "no-kill" animal shelters in the classifieds
and not thought much about it. In fact, a lot of people have taken serious notice.
Millions of people.
One of America's great grassroots movements is changing one of our society's
ugliest habits: the slaughter of unwanted domestic animals, that is, pets.
In 1987, there were 17,000,000 (!) unwanted pets put to sleep across the nation.
During the 1990's enough people finally said "enough is enough" and got together
to start changing the system. By 1998, only (!) 5,000,000 pets were euthanized, still a
grim number, but also a spectacular improvement.
The grassroots movement ranges from small "No More Homeless Pets" groups,
where individuals provide temporary foster care for a few animals in their homes,
to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary of Angel Canyon, the largest domestic animal
sanctuary in the United States. Located in the spectacular red-rock canyon
country (photos, above) of southwestern Utah, the sanctuary sprawls across
more than 300 acres on a 33,000 acre ranch.
While Best Friends houses primarily dogs and cats, it is also home to
bunnies, sheep, horses, burros, and at least one pot-bellied pig. It
also has a rehabilitation center for wild birds. The sanctuary focuses
on housing animals who would probably be unadoptable due to old age,
disabilities, or socialization problems. At any given time, there are at
least 1,800 animals on site.
The very affecting photo, left, poses Twinkie, the dog, with Virginia, an
extremely aged burro rescued from the Grand Canyon. Above, right, a volunteer
spends some quality time with the dogs. Many people devote their entire vacations
to doing volunteer work here.
The task of caring for so many animals is daunting. The 650 dogs are fed individualized
meals. And domestic animals require human attention. All the dogs
have to be walked each day. A full time veterinary staff is required.
Best Friends aims to gives its animals the equivalent of home care or better. The
superb facilities are immaculate as is the condition of the residents. As a long
time dog owner, I like to check a dog's teeth for proper care. The one I checked
here had teeth whiter than my own (and mine are pretty good).
The operations of this facility are on an immense scale. The dog compound alone
goes on for 50 acres! Yet even 1,000 facilities the size of Angel Canyon would
not be enough for all the euthanized animals. Not enough by half. Best Friends'
most significant role is therefore as one of the national leaders of the
"No More Homeless Pets" movement. It provides educational programs, it helps
people set up their own local no-kill shelters. It publishes an excellent
magazine. And it claims 170,000 paying members across the nation and world.
Best Friends goal is to eliminate the killing of unwanted pets in the United States. It advocates addressing the problem through
- Spaying and neutering of all pets.
- Adopting homeless pets rather than buying kittens and puppies.
- Support of no-kill shelters at the grassroots level.
- Provide education, especially to young people.
I asked Faith Maloney, the director of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, what she
would like to tell the readers of American West Travelogue. She said that, first, that there
is reason to "hope" that the movement will ultimately be successful in its goal
to eliminate the killings, and second, that people must come to understand that
pets are not commodities, but "living beings with value".
The goal of this site is to educate and inform about the natural resources of
the American West, its culture, history, and values. We extend our venue to
show support for the dedicated staff of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and the
no-kill grassroots movement. It is possible to "change the system"
if you are very dedicated, very persistent, and are willing to work very hard.
We'd like to thank our guide, Cyrus Mejia, for showing us the facility. We
admire his obvious dedication.
Photos on this page are Copyright © 2000, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary,
all rights reserved. Permission is required to copy or download.