Executive Leadership Certification Program group photo with dog

Turn your love of animals into a career

What if you could transform your passion for saving homeless pets into an exciting new career?

The first-of-its-kind partnership between Best Friends and Southern Utah University offers a range of unique professional learning opportunities in contemporary animal services. Choose from a variety of degree programs, certifications and non-credit courses (see below) and start your lifesaving professional journey today.

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A groundbreaking partnership

Best Friends and Southern Utah University have partnered to create the nation’s first university-endorsed animal services leadership program. You can join the next generation of leaders who are implementing the lifesaving programs, policies and practices that will empower us to achieve and sustain no-kill for cats and dogs nationwide.

Programs and courses in contemporary animal services

From individual certifications in dog or cat lifesaving to a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, you can find the learning opportunity* that’s right for you.
*Course availability may vary by date.


Academic courses

Principles of Contemporary Animal Services

Learn the rich history of animal services in the United States and develop a better understanding of the data, policies and practices driving the field today. This course is open to students of all knowledge and experience levels and can be applied toward credit requirements for an undergraduate or master’s degree program.

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Degree programs

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies with an Emphasis in Contemporary Animal Services Leadership

Pursue your passion for helping animals by earning an advanced degree tailored to your professional interests. This 30-credit master’s degree focusing on contemporary animal services leadership can be completed online and covers everything from management of people and organizations to crisis communications and fundraising strategies. Develop the knowledge and expertise needed to lead an animal services organization and create lifesaving change.

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Certification and college credit programs

Start your professional learning in animal services by choosing one of several certification or coursework opportunities. The programs are open to anyone. New students must enroll at Southern Utah University to register.

Executive Leadership Certification

Focus on developing connection and community with fellow animal services leaders and learning the principles critical to saving cats and dogs in shelters, and achieving no-kill nationwide in this comprehensive, six-month program. Designed for current top-level leaders in animal welfare and experienced professionals transitioning to animal services from another field, program graduates may apply their six academic credits to a degree program.

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Management Leadership Certification

In this program, you’ll focus on aligning their efforts with the needs of their communities to save more cats and dogs. This comprehensive, six-month program is tailored for animal services managers and coordinators who want to learn best practices and create lifesaving change within their organizations. Program graduates may apply their six academic credits to a degree program.

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Running a Lifesaving Sanctuary Certification Program

Dreaming of starting an animal sanctuary but want to be sure you have the necessary knowledge and tools before diving in? This unique hybrid program covers everything you need to know about running a successful sanctuary. It features a combination of online learning, weekly Zoom team calls and an in-person visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

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Learn more and download a program overview.
Still have questions? Ask to speak to a learning advancement team member.

Dog Lifesaving Certification Program

In this online program, you’ll learn how to save more dogs’ lives and help our canine companions thrive in and beyond the shelter. You’ll get expert information on everything from animal behavior and shelter medicine to adoption policies and marketing. The program can be taken to earn either a certificate or course credit. It features a combination of instruction on progressive lifesaving practices for dogs and presentations from guest subject-matter experts in the field.

Yes, I'm interested
Download a program overview.
Still have questions? Ask to speak to a learning advancement team member.

Cat Lifesaving Certification Program

Cats and kittens are some of the most at-risk animals entering shelters today, and you can be one of the compassionate people working to change that. In this online program, you’ll learn about everything from community cat programming to newborn kitten fostering. The program can be taken to earn either a certificate or course credit. It features a combination of instruction on progressive lifesaving practices for cats and presentations from guest subject-matter experts in the field.

Yes, I'm interested
Download a program overview.
Still have questions? Ask to speak to a learning advancement team member.


Still not sure which path is right for you?

Email edu@bestfriends.org for more information or fill out this form to be contacted directly by a learning advancement team member.