How to start and run an animal sanctuary

Starting and running an animal sanctuary can be challenging, but we can help. Since 1998, Best Friends has been presenting this workshop, 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 involved and dedication required to create a sanctuary or found another nonprofit to help pets in need.

Join us for this one-of-a-kind workshop that will help you save the lives of more animals.

Topics covered:

  • Setting up a nonprofit
  • Risk management
  • Fundraising
  • Engaging volunteers
  • Relating to your community
  • Buildings, utilities and maintenance
  • Adoptions
  • Foster programs
  • Veterinary care
  • One-on-one mentoring in animal care
  • Long-term care for dogs and cats
  • Community cats
  • Dog training and assessment

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

View a sample schedule of the workshop.

Register for March 22-28

Register for July 12-18

Register for October 18-24

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

What past participants had to say 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.”

“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!”

“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.”

Accredited certificate from the University of Utah

The University of Utah offers an accredited certificate for graduates of the How to Start and Run an Animal Sanctuary workshop. We will register you with the university. Registration for the accredited certificate is $50 and nonrefundable.

This university certification is optional, so you don’t need to do anything if you don’t want it. 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. Whether you receive the credits will depend on the school’s policies and the program(s) you are taking. 

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. (Note: The mentorship cannot be purchased separately from the How to Start and Run an Animal Sanctuary workshop.) Openings are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please keep in mind that you can always sign up for volunteer shifts to spend time with the animals at no extra cost. To volunteer, visit

Please note: Because of the full schedule, sleepovers with animals are not available during the workshop. Participants are encouraged to extend their visit to the Sanctuary beyond workshop days if they’d like to spend additional time with the animals.

Best Friends workshop refund policy

If you cancel 30 before your workshop, you'll receive a full refund minus a $25 cancellation fee.

To modify or cancel a registration, click on the link in your confirmation email that says, 'Click here to view event summary.' Enter your confirmation number as requested then click on the My Registration tab and modify or cancel as needed.

To change a workshop date, you will need to cancel your current registration and re-register for the date desired. Please note that the refund policy will apply.

Please contact us at with questions.