Three adorable puppies looking at the camera

Learn How to Run a Lifesaving Sanctuary

Ready to do more to help animals? Best Friends Animal Society is here to help with a new three-month hybrid course called, “Running a Lifesaving Sanctuary Certification.

The course, offered through a partnership between Best Friends Animal Society and Southern Utah University, will give you the best of both worlds through online self-study, weekly live Zoom calls and an in-person experience at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The course is a three-month journey with Best Friends co-founders Jana de Peyer and Silva Battista, along with other co-founders and Sanctuary experts. If you have dreamed of opening your own safe haven for homeless pets or you would you like to take your animal rescue work to the next level, this is the course for you.


General animal care
Setting up a nonprofit
Risk management
Relating to your community
Buildings, utilities and maintenance
Adoption, foster and transport programs
Veterinary care
Long-term care for dogs and cats
Community or stray cats
Dog behavior training

Read the course syllabus here. Details subject to change.

Class size is limited. Feel free to contact us at with any questions.

Course information

Online portion of the course – The 10-week online portion of the course, offered through Southern Utah University, includes 16 self-study modules, plus 10 Zoom calls (90 minutes each) with Best Friends co-founders Jana de Peyer, Silva Battista, and other experts.

In-person portion of the course – After completing the online portion, you’ll spend six inspiring days at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in the beautiful red rock country surrounding Kanab, Utah. Your visit includes a tour of the Sanctuary facilities and live classes with animal care experts, plus group and individual mentoring.

Lunches will be provided. Travel, lodging and additional meals are not included. Check out the cool local accommodations created for visitors by Best Friends.

Winter/spring 2023 course 

  • February 22: Online orientation
  • March 8 - May 3: Self-study online material and assignments
    • Weekly live Zoom calls on Wednesdays from 1:30 - 3:00 MT
  • May 8 - 13: Sanctuary visit
  • Registration is now open! Apply and pay here. (Note: you will not be accepted until the registration fee is paid in full)


There are two options to choose from (lunch during Sanctuary visit included; travel to Sanctuary NOT included):

With the certificate option, successful completion earns an SUU Institutional Certificate and one Continuing Education Unit (CEU) at a cost of $998. 

The Fast-Track option is the same course, but successful completion of it earns three credits that may articulate into undergraduate or participating master’s degree programs at Southern Utah University; cost for that option is $1,298.

Note: The Faith Maloney Memorial Scholarship and the Canine World Rescue Scholarship for course registration may be available. Please email for more information.

Accredited certificate from Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University offers an institutional certificate and one Continuing Education Unit (CEU) for those successfully completing the course. Though the certificate is not for actual credits, it can be submitted to your school for possible college credit (at the school’s discretion, depending on school policy).

Course participants can choose the Fast Track option instead; successful completion of it earns three credits that may articulate into undergraduate or participating master’s degree programs at Southern Utah University.

Testimonials about the course

“If a person is thinking about starting a sanctuary, this will help them decide and will give them the skills and tools they need to do it. It will also open their eyes to what they are getting into and might cause them to change their minds before they get in too deep. We also learned ways we can help animals even if we decide not to start our own sanctuary. That was valuable too. The whole course was truly excellent and would be great for anyone who wants to learn more about this field.” Holly H., Kailua, Hawaii

“It really was great in every way. The class topics were informative and challenging and the speakers were knowledgeable and helpful. The onsite was a great way to make it all real and the class dynamic was awesome. I have been volunteering and engaged in the animal rescue and welfare industry for over a decade and yet I still learned SO MUCH from the entire course and it made me realize I can really make a difference in a way that works for me.”  Karen W., Bend, OR

 “If anyone is serious about starting a sanctuary or becoming involved in fostering and adoption programs, transport, forming an animal services non-profit, being involved in lifesaving activities and efforts, providing the best animals care, this course can be the best road to being assured of being successful at it.” – Cherie E., Langley, WA

Planning your trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

To help streamline your visit, take a look at this important travel and Sanctuary visitor information page.

To get an idea of how you’ll spend your time at the Sanctuary, check out this sample schedule. Your actual itinerary will be created for you prior to arrival.

Spending time with the animals

The course includes options for mentoring in the Sanctuary animal-care areas and/or for taking elective classes. Participants choosing these options will have limited time to interact with Sanctuary animals. If you’d like to spend quality time with the animals, you are encouraged to extend your Sanctuary visit beyond the on-site days. You can always sign up for volunteer shifts to spend time with the animals (at no extra cost).

Please note: Because of the full schedule during the six-day course, sleepovers with animals are not available to participants.

Course refund policy

If you cancel 30 days or more before the course begins, you'll receive a full refund minus a $25 cancellation fee (no refunds if cancellation is within the 30-day window). If you have questions, please contact us at

If the Running a Lifesaving Sanctuary course is not for you, please visit our lifesaving events page to find other fun ways to get more involved in animal welfare.