Living in the desert, we don’t always “do” winter with a lot of grace. The thought of being outside in the cold is a bit much for people who live here for the sunshine and mild climate.
But winter is unavoidable, and we’ve got a great reason for animal lovers to bundle up and get moving … actually, about 1,600 furry and feathery reasons. You will leave with a grin on your face, we promise.
Every year, about 30,000 people visit and/or volunteer at the nation’s largest companion animal sanctuary in nearby Kanab, run by Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society. But, just like the national parks, it is really busy during the summer.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located five miles north of Kanab and is home to dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, pigs, goats, mules, sheep, burros, and wildlife. The animals come to this sanctuary in the canyon from far and wide. Some are ill, some have been neglected or abused, and all are homeless. But once they’re at this animal refuge, they receive everything they need — physically, emotionally and psychologically — to thrive and find good homes.
But the big secret is that the greatest time to visit the sanctuary is in winter. Just like all the other great attractions in southern Utah, most out-of-state visitors visit the sanctuary in the warmer months. So during the winter, the tours don’t book up as quickly.
Volunteering provides a unique opportunity to combine a love of nature with a love of animals in an exquisite setting that’s rich with outdoor recreational adventures. As a volunteer, you’ll enjoy the rewards and feel-good memories of helping make a difference in the lives of homeless animals. Wonderful weekend getaway for the entire family. Winter’s a great time for volunteering because the Sanctuary has fewer volunteers which means a broader range of options for working in all the animal areas. And a special bonus for volunteers in Dogtown and Cat World is that they can even take a dog or cat back to their hotel room for an overnight stay.
“The volunteers in the winter find they can spend even more special one-on-one time with animals,” said Lori Bernath, Best Friends’ manager of volunteer engagement. “In the ‘slower’ months is when we can really use the help with walking dogs, socializing dogs, cats and other critters, cleaning, etc. Because there are less volunteers, people have a greater chance of being able to volunteer in their preferred areas or to help in an area that can accommodate fewer volunteers such as Piggy Paradise, Horse Haven, Bunnies and Parrots. Also it so much fun to watch the dogs play in the snow!”
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary also hosts free tours every day of the year except Christmas. General sanctuary tours are offered as well as a variety of specialty tours including a guided walking tour to horses and pigs as well as focused tours in the dog, cat, bunny, and parrot animal care areas, photography and bird walks, and many others.
And since the sanctuary is so close to St. George, it’s easy to make this a day trip or spend a night or two in Kanab. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has eight cottages and four cabins, and guests can take advantage of our discounted winter rates. Our guest cottages are $95 per night, and our guest cabins are $60 per night from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28. To make an onsite lodging or tour reservation, please visit reservations.bestfriends.org.
In addition, Kanab and the surrounding area has many wonderful accommodations that Best Friends volunteers and visitors enjoy. Ask about special discounts. Several properties also participate in the sleepover program for dogs, and Best Western and Holiday Inn also welcome cats for sleepovers. Please visit bestfriends.org/sanctuary/visit-our-utah-sanctuary/places-stay for more information, or go to visitsouthernutah.com to find out more about other area attractions.