Group of people who attended the SUU executive leadership program

Academic learning opportunities through Best Friends and Southern Utah University partnership

Animal welfare is a rapidly evolving field as animal services organizations become resource centers. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the change and innovation that we were already leaning into, creating a path toward realizing the future of animal sheltering. The partnership between Best Friends and Southern Utah University (SUU) offers advanced learning opportunities for practitioners and students in the field of contemporary animal services.

"This is an exciting partnership for both organizations. Best Friends is known for its pioneering work in animal welfare and commitment to the same innovation and learning as we are. Our aim is to provide lifelong learning solutions, and we value this recognition by Best Friends for our educational offerings, student success, and neighboring location in this beautiful area of the country."
- Scott L. Wyatt, SUU president

Academic programs

Institutional Certificate in Principles of Contemporary Animal Services

This program offers students an introduction to a profession in animal services and an opportunity to apply academic credits toward an undergraduate or master's degree. This certificate program gives anyone at any level an opportunity to study lifesaving animal services rooted in data, science, proven practices and the needs of the community.

  • Begins January 11, 2021
  • No prerequisite course work
  • Six-week, 29-hour online program
  • Professional certificate with option for three academic credits
  • Entry point to advanced education opportunities at SUU

Principles of Contemporary Animal Services Course Work

This program includes online modules, assessments, reading reflections and a summary paper. Students are encouraged to participate in discussions relevant to their modules and assignments, with the end goal of building a learning community focused on contemporary animal services as a profession. Lessons include:

  1. History of Animal Welfare in the United States: Students will examine an overview of the evolution of the animal welfare movement by reviewing the origins of animal shelters, the role of public safety and the transition to animal sheltering.
  2. The Role of Animal Shelters: Students will review data and statistics related to pet ownership over the past 40 years, reasons for pet relinquishment and the role of animal-related nonprofits in the community.
  3. Contemporary Animal Services: Students will review the programs, policies and procedures needed to save pets before they reach the animal shelter door, in the community and inside of the shelter.
  4. Practicum: Students will research their community's animal services history and their current organization's performance metrics.

To express interest in this certificate program, please visit the SUU website.

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies with Emphasis on Study in Contemporary Animal Services Leadership (CASL)

Southern Utah University's online master of interdisciplinary studies (MIS) degree is ranked third nationally by Best College Reviews. SUU's MIS degree launched in January 2018 with 15 possible programs of academic study. The degree can be completed entirely online or via a hybrid format. Learn more about the MIS and see the MIS catalog.

Best Friends Executive Leadership Certification (ELC)

The ELC is the nation's first university-endorsed executive leadership program with a focus on the top-level leadership skills needed to end the killing of pets in our nation's shelters. By using data and proven strategies from across the country, the ELC program empowers animal services professionals at the helm of their organizations, giving them opportunities to strengthen their skills and abilities as leaders.

Graduates of the ELC have the choice to apply their six academic credits to an undergraduate or a master's degree. Please note that the ELC program is by invitation only. To express interest in the program or if you have questions, email

Read more about the announcement of the ELC.

"Southern Utah University has been at the forefront of innovation and educational excellence for years, and I am beyond thrilled to be partnering with them on this history-making program."
- Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society

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