Over the course of this three-month program, you’ll learn what it takes to run a successful animal sanctuary from Best Friends founders and other subject-matter experts. 

Animal sanctuaries provide safe places for pets and other animals to get healthy enough so they can be adopted or safely live out their lives surrounded by care and love. They’re places that are created and run by caring people like you.

Many people dream of running an animal sanctuary, and you might already have the skills, resources and talent needed to do just that. This program will show you how to use those skills to save lives and what to consider when thinking about running a sanctuary.

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Running a Lifesaving Animal Sanctuary is geared toward people who are interested in starting an animal sanctuary, not those looking to work in a municipal shelter or humane society.  Our goal is to help people respect and reflect their community’s cultural diversity so that everyone feels welcome and comfortable.  



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What you’ll learn 

Once enrolled in the program, you’ll learn about the realities of running an animal sanctuary and gain some of the skills needed to be successful.

As a program participant, you will evaluate whether starting an animal sanctuary is the best use of your skills, identify the key steps involved in starting a sanctuary, learn about common animal issues and analyze if starting a sanctuary will fill a specific need within your community. Plus, you’ll be part of a community of fellow students who can provide support on your journey.  

Topics covered include an introduction to the history of Best Friends, how to create a nonprofit organization, turning your passion into a strategic plan, animal housing, fundraising tips, engaging volunteers, pet adoption, fostering and transport essentials, basic veterinary care, long-term animal care, successful communication and managing risk.  

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What to expect 

This three-month hybrid course offers the best of both worlds through online modules, live weekly Zoom calls and a six-day, in-person experience at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

You’ll participate in weekly live cohort calls and discussions; complete 16 comprehensive, self-study online modules; and complete weekly assignments. You can expect to spend about five to six hours per week on assignments, self-study and live classes.  

You will also create an action plan on behalf of the animals and participate in the six-day in-person experience at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The in-person experience includes an in-depth tour of the Sanctuary, live group classes with subject matter experts, and creating your own individualized schedule of immersion sessions.

This course is offered twice a year, typically in winter/spring and summer/fall.

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Benefits of the program 

You’ll learn about Best Friends’ history and experience with running an animal sanctuary, and you’ll gain knowledge, resources and insights to aid you in starting your own successful organization. 

You’ll earn one continuing education credit (CEU) and a Southern Utah University Institutional Certificate for Running a Lifesaving Sanctuary, including six days at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

If you’re taking the fast-track option, you’ll earn three credits that may be used for participating in undergraduate degree programs at Southern Utah University.

And best of all, you’ll spend six days at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest sanctuary for companion animals in the United States.

What past participants have to say about the program 

Holly H
“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.
Running a Lifesaving Animal Sanctuary Graduate
Cherie E
“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.
Running a Lifesaving Animal Sanctuary Graduate
Karen W
“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.
Running a Lifesaving Animal Sanctuary Graduate

Ready to up your lifesaving game? 

You can make a difference for homeless pets in your community. We invite you to start the application process today.

Scholarships may be available

Tell us that you’re interested in Running a Lifesaving Animal Sanctuary, formerly known as Running a Lifesaving Sanctuary Certification, and we’ll let you know when the next session opens for enrollment.

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If you still have questions, check out our FAQs or email us at learning@bestfriends.org.