How to Start and Run an Animal Sanctuary

Due to the current pandemic, we have canceled our in-person workshops for 2021. To stay informed about the status of future Best Friends workshops, please enter your information below.

Keep me in the loop

Starting and running an animal sanctuary for companion animals, such as dogs and cats, can be challenging, but we can help. Since 1998, Best Friends has been presenting this workshop at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah, giving folks the tools and knowledge they need to open a lifesaving sanctuary and keep it operating successfully. You’ll leave the workshop with an understanding of the work and dedication required to create a sanctuary for companion animals.

This one-of-a-kind week-long workshop offers a series of classes that will help you save the lives of more pets. We hope you’ll join us.

Topics covered include (but are not limited to):

  • General animal care
  • Setting up a nonprofit
  • Risk management
  • Fundraising
  • Engaging volunteers
  • Relating to your community
  • Buildings, utilities and maintenance
  • Adoption and foster programs
  • Veterinary care
  • One-on-one mentoring in pet care
  • Long-term care for dogs and cats
  • Feral and stray cats (aka community cats)
  • Dog training
  • Marketing

Cost: $650. Includes lunches, snacks and program materials. Travel, lodging and additional meals are not included.

Planning your trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Get the most out of your Sanctuary visit and make traveling easy. Check out important travel and Sanctuary visitor information.

To get a sense of how you may choose to spend your time at the Sanctuary, you can view a sample schedule of the workshop. The actual itinerary for your workshop will be sent to you after you sign up.

Testimonials about the workshop

“This workshop has been life-changing. The amount of knowledge I was able to absorb was beyond words. The connections and relationships that I formed here are a lifetime treasure. The classes were formed perfectly. Each class was as exciting as the first. I also loved how we got an in-depth tour and got to see a lot of behind the scenes.”

Jackie S., co-founder of Pawsibilities in Nevada

“The course covers such a broad range of vital information yet manages to be so thorough at the same time. I am extremely impressed with the level of organization displayed throughout this course. Very impressed by everything. Thank you!”

Colleen E.

“This experience was truly incredible. Never in my life have I been surrounded by a group of people that shared my ideals, hopes and positivity. What you have created is remarkable. Your presenters were incredible; they were passionate and focused.”

Alyssa L.

Accredited certificate from the University of Utah

The University of Utah offers an accredited certificate for graduates of this workshop. This university certification is optional. Though the accredited certificate is not for actual credits, it can be submitted to your school for possible college credits at the school’s discretion, depending on the school’s policies and the program(s) you are taking. Registration for the accredited certificate is $50 and can be paid directly to the University of Utah.

Pre- or post-workshop mentorship experience

Want more time with the animals? You can shadow one of Best Friends’ caregivers for a day. Sign up to watch a caregiver work his or her magic. You can soak up knowledge from a Sanctuary caregiver either the Saturday before the workshop or the Sunday after the workshop. Throughout your shift, you’ll learn what it takes to care for the animals, how to provide enrichment and more.

The cost for a day of mentorship is $100, and this experience is offered as an optional add-on for workshop attendees only. Openings are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Spending time with the animals

Since most of the workshop is conducted in the classroom, interaction with animals will be limited. If you’d like to spend quality time with the animals, you are encouraged to extend your Sanctuary visit beyond the workshop 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 workshop schedule, sleepovers with animals are not available during the workshop.

Best Friends workshop refund policy

If you cancel 30 days before your workshop, you'll receive a full refund minus a $25 cancellation fee. There are no refunds after 30 days. Please contact us at if you have questions.