Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: Really?

Last week (2 Aug 2013), I took two of my granddaughters on a visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, located in southern Utah.  The tour was a real eye opener.  I left scratching my head.

My Granddaughter at Kitty Carlton at Best Friends Animal Rescue Facility

My Granddaughter at Kitty Carlton at Best Friends Animal Rescue Facility

The sanctuary is located on a large plot of land in and above a beautiful red rock canyon.  Its facilities are like a Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons Hotel, except the living quarters are for displaced and injured pets.  The animals at Best Friends live a life of luxury.  They have dog and cat condominiums, excellent medical facilities, and the place is overrun with volunteers ready at a moments notice to pamper the pets.  One of the more bizarre sights at Best Friends is the massive pet cemetery complete with wind chimes and meditation spots.  It all seems extremely excessive.

The Pet Cemetary at Best Friends Animal Rescue Facility

The Pet Cemetary at Best Friends Animal Rescue Facility

When I look at the human and primate need around the world (I live part-time in Africa), I have trouble relating to all this pampering.  While their cause may be just–the better treatment of throw-away pets–Best Friends has gone overboard.

The organizers of Best Friends have a rather convoluted history.  According to wikipedia:

What became known as the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary originated in Arizona in 1971, developing from a charitable retreat set up by The Foundation Faith of the Millennium, a religious group formerly known as the Process Church of the Final Judgment.

And aparently the Process Church (unrelated to the Process Theology of Alfred North Whitehead) is an offshoot from Scientology.  The history of Best Friends makes them look a little like a cult, and our tour guide–Bill–acted like I imagine a cult member might act.  He was clearly overly caught up in the mission of the sanctuary.  But in the end, does all this background information really matter?

One of the things that Best Friends takes pride in is their rescue and “rehabilitation” of Michael Vick pit bulls.  However, some question Best Friends’ motives.  For example, each of the dogs came with a $18,275 dowry which was paid from Vick’s sentencing deal.  While many of the pit bulls were “rehabilitated” and subsequently put out for adoption, this process has been questioned., for instance, “does not believe that pit bulls seized from dogfighting raids can be rehabilitated for adoption.”  I personally wouldn’t want a Vick pit bull anywhere near any of my grandchildren.

The tour of Best Friends is eye-opening.  And everyone should make their own judgment.  But this operation does NOT work for me.  But let’s treat our animals and pets better.

This entry was posted in other animals, Personal Essays, Social Justice, Travel, utah. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: Really?

  1. Kristin Hansen says:

    I cannot understand having objections to an animal sanctuary, no matter how posh. Considering the neglect, abuse, and abandonment of the vast majority of domestic animals, the only objection I can imagine having would be that there aren’t more of these places. Humans have the ability to care for all domestic animals AND fellow humans with compassion and serve basic needs, but we do not. This fact will always baffle me.

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    For me, the issue is the allocation of scarce funds. Would you rather fund a gorilla homeland, an orangutan rescue facility, or provide posh living conditions for less sentient beings?

  3. Susan says:

    Roger, this blog is interesting. I myself have never been a real animal lover, but I will fiercely defend my adorable cat, Monster, until the day he dies. I only have so much money to give to charity. Would I rather donate my tiny allotment elsewhere? Yes (like AIDS and Diabetes research). Would you rather spend it elsewhere? It appears to be so (like funding for gorilla homeland, orangutan rescue facility). But animal loyalists and activitists are fiercely loyal to their cause. I have never visited the sanctuary near Kanab. But I have heard wonderful things about it. When I heard about the dogs of Michael Vick, and how they were moved to this place, it did my heart good because of the torture and treatment they had received. Does a pit bull deserve a bit of “posh”? I guess so, considering their life before they ended up in Kanab. Sorry, I’m jumping all over here, but the bottom line is this: I will reserve judgment until I can actually see the place, but until then, I’m glad the facility is there.

  4. rogerdhansen says:

    Susan, you mention Vick’s pit bulls. Best Friends received $400,000 to rehabilitate 22 dogs. They have since placed the majority in private homes. I have 2 concerns: (1) if you are looking at how to expend $400,000, is this really the best way to use it? (assuming you have other options) and (2) should we really be placing pit bulls (bred and trained to fight) in homes?

    Kristin, my response to you wasn’t very clear. My only concern is getting the most bang for the buck when it comes to rescuing or saving animals. So much “animal” money is spent on frivolous stuff, if we were to act more rationally, we could save a lot more animals (and humans).

    Yesterday, I asked by 2 granddaughters who took the tour with me, what they thought of Best Friends. They thought the cat facility was a little over-the-top. But not the dog facility.

  5. Kristin Hansen says:

    The preservation of wild animals can be gained by people not killing them. Domestic animals are dependent upon humans for their survival. This one “over-the-top” facility is quite possibly the ONLY shelter/ rescue in the country (the world?) that has resources to meet the needs of its residents, and the first NO-kill sanctuary in the US.
    The bottom line for me is 1. All animals deserve human care and compassion, sentient or not and 2. Let us not deny a few domestic animals the good life when most are abused, tortured, neglected, and/or euthanized.

  6. rogerdhansen says:

    Kristin, Why don’t you come to Utah and we can volunteer at Best Friends for a week?

    I would say that BF is the “only shelter/rescue in the country that has the resources to EXCEED the needs of its residents.” Wouldn’t it be better to save more animals, than save a few in luxury?

    You are right, “sentient” was a bad choice of words. And I agree that animals deserve a good life (within reason).

  7. Kristin Hansen says:

    Of course I agree it would be better to have all animals cared for appropriately, wild and domestic. Unfortunately that is not how the masses wish to allocate their funds, public or private. Like anything else in a free economy, it’s up to the people en masse or private funds to support animal welfare, environmental issues, world hunger, etc. Or private money, which we can’t control (do we want to control private money?)
    It is also this way with people. There are more super wealthy now than ever before, and still people go to bed hungry, sick, neglected, etc….
    My feeling is why begrudge a few animals that are getting cared for… with private funds? Lets focus on the have-nots when it comes to charity. Maybe then it will balance out. But people have the right to give to whomever he/she decides fit, and BF is one of those places, just like LDS is one of those places.
    I already care for rescued animals every day on my farm, I support trap and release programs for feral cat colonies, The Humane Society of America, and many rescues. I sign petitions, talk to people who are making a difference, and promote education. I am doing my part with animals and people. I have been volunteering in human services since 1987. Made a career of social work for ten years working with homeless, abused women and children, and people with HIV/AIDS. These are things I believe are important.

    I think we all need to do our part to give time and money to what we feel is important, just like you are doing. You are making a difference! Some may criticize building swing sets in communities without basic needs. Some may say that is a luxury. But you and only you know the benefits of your work, and I applaud you for doing it! There is nothing wrong with making the world better and kinder, however we choose to do that.

    I think this says it best….

    Judge not, that ye be not judged. 1
    St. Mattew 7

  8. rogerdhansen says:

    You are right. What I’m arguing for is a utopian dream and not practical. And I do aplaud you for the work you have done with humanity and animals. I’m very proud of you; you set a great example for my grandchildren. But I occasionally have to dream.

    Your quote from Matthew 7 is very appropriate and something I need to do better. Please talk to EV and Mel about their visit to BF. I love you, Uncle Roger.

  9. gold price says:

    The transition process has not yet begun, but the cofounders are thinking about it, discussing it among themselves, considering how best to keep Best Friends from ever either losing the sense of communal mission that enables it to help new impoverished pro-animal groups to reach their own growth phase, or becoming cultish and insular.

  10. Bret Berger says:

    According to the BBB, BFAS has some problems with their board members and compensation.

    BFAS does not meet the BBB Standard because:

    5 members out of the 10 member board of directors (50%) are compensated either directly or indirectly. 4 of these board members are compensated directly as employees of the organization.
    The treasurer of the board of directors is compensated indirectly.

  11. Pingback: Do Dead Turkeys Deserve a Road Sign Memorial? | Tired Road Warrior

  12. Jane Doe says:

    Why is it always about the money? Would people accept the work done with the Vick dogs if less funds were given? Those dogs went through hell and deserve pampering and love. I work pit bulls on a regular basis and its HUMANS that need rehabilitating, not the dogs. I would take ANY of the Vick pitties in my home and walk them proudly through my neighborhood. I have a rescued pittie that is trained as a service dog. So there you go…
    Watch the movie “The Champions.” Perhaps it will soften your hearts

  13. erin says:

    i found this blog looking for reviews from those who have stayed at Best Friends on a vacation. Many seem to honestly enjoy the location to visit over say, Disney Land or Los Vegas. I myself maybe one of those people. This is exactly what the 12 year old in me finds to be heaven. They welcome the public. I have seen nobody comment that they go to a shelter for a vacation in this way. Sometimes a heart needs a place like this. I see this as a place for people as much as the animals and that is priceless. Reading this article has made me want to visit there even more so.

  14. Leeanna says:

    Since Best Friends started in on their “pit bull initiative” we have become over run with pit bulls.
    Sometimes, BF just “accidentally” gives pit bulls to rescues that are either hoarders or dogfighters.
    Their Cult, the Process Church of the Final Judgement started out as a way to scam money. Mary Ann Maclean and Robert Moore (later married and became the Degrimsons) found that begging for animals was the most lucrative scheme.
    Mary Ann is rarely mentioned, probably because she considered herself to be Goebal reincarnated. Hitler’s propagandaist. She called herself Hecate and cult followers considered her a Goddess.
    If you Google process Church of the Final Judgement magazines, you can see the issues that they put out. That equally worshipped Satan, Lucifer, Christ, and Jehovah.
    Mary Ann was a (high class, she made it clear) prostitute prior to coming to the United States. Money was her God.
    She died at Best Friends Sanctuary aka Society in 2005 after a two year coma.
    In the seventies, BF (as Process Church and before they were a non-profit- they only incorporated to avoid paying taxes according to one account) had a pack of Alsations, aka German Shepherd dogs.
    Mary ann didn’t like children. There are accounts of the children of Best Friends original founders and follower being treated worse than the dogs. They were raised away from their parents. One was whipped for taking a handful of raisins.
    Reviews on trip advisor, Glassdoor, and Indeed paint a picture of a BF that hasn’t changed much since they were a death worshipping cult. Read the reviews that are not five star.

  15. Leeanna Lynx says:

    It doesn’t work, either.
    Fighting g pit bulls are constantly being g recycled and spit back out into residential areas.
    Due to the pit bull fad, which has everything to do with the Beat Friends aka Foundation Faith aka Process Church cult, we now have people in the USA dying approximately twice a month and pets being killed daily.
    Those who survive are disfigured and disabled.

  16. Leeanna Lynx says:

    It doesn’t work for me, either.
    Fighting g pit bulls are constantly being recycled and spit back out into residential areas.
    Due to the pit bull fad, which has everything to do with the Best Friends aka Foundation Faith aka Process Church cult, we now have people in the USA dying approximately twice a month and pets being killed daily.
    Those who survive are disfigured and disabled.

  17. Leeanna Lynx says:

    Pit bulls should not be made into pets.
    When Best Friends was still a cult called The Process Church of the Final Judgement, they gave Jehovah, Satan, and Lucifer equal attention along with Christ. They preached killing as evidenced in Robert DeGrimstons writings on war, “thou shalt kill” and viewed humanity as the devil (except for themselves which they considered as Gods and “chosen.”)
    Their church was begun to avoid tac paying and later, after being involved with Charles Manson (see the Interview in their “Death” issue) they began calling themselves an animal Sanctuary in order to avoid scrutiny. Children brought up in the cult have told the truth, however, which is that they remained a cult who’s goal was to promote death and chaos.
    They have successfully done so with their “pit bull initiative.” Not a week goes by without a human fatality via pit bull and not a day goes by that pit bulls don’t kill real, non-fight breed pets.
    Your instincts are correct. BFAS is a bad organization (unless you’re a misanthrope which many of their members are.)

  18. L Kaspers says:

    Everyone is entitled to how they see this organization. However, every animal rescue need funding to go on helping them, to pay for their food, care and the staff who will run the place.
    They may have started from a religious group, however when you are there (volunteer, training, weminar, etc) no one will preach you or enforce you about religion, so its irrelevant to talk about what their former organizations are.
    I admire how they grew in the past 30 years. The founders live in a trailer home and nothing of a luxury, created an amazing sanctuary.
    Fund raising is a very important factor to make these kind of animal shleters.
    I believe the discussion has gone somewhat in different direction.

    • Leeanna Lynx says:

      The founders have taken over Kanab. They give themselves six figure salaries. They’ve opened for profit businesses throughout the USA. In Kanab, they have real estate offices and a fancy “wood fired pizza” place they the present CEO owns with other Founders.
      The present CEO, Julie Castle, took over her husband’s position. Best Friends takes in millions. They call themselves the world’s most beloved animal sanctuary but anyone who knows anything about them despises them. They pay employees almost nothing while they live in luxury off of taxpayer generosity. They charge people for the priviledge of staying in their cabins and volunteering, as if the volunteers aren’t doing the favor. They have 2,400 network partners and all they care about is yanking fight rescues off of death row and transporting them some place safe for the dog, unsafe for everyone else. Innocent people AND pets are mauled every single day because of BFAS.
      They are a cult today as they always have been. They care nothing for obeying America’s laws and never did.
      They spend a fortune on lobbyists for fight dogs and they have to give the fight dogs away for free. They do this every month.
      When they ran out of animals and got close to saving them all, they had to get more at auction. Pit bulls are their meal ticket. Dogfighting is more popular than ever. Not pushing for breed bans and spay/neuter laws will keep the shelters packed forever with come of age pits that are not handleable. It’s job security for BFAS.
      Their past is relevant. They were misanthropes and misanthropes are still in charge with the kids they raised. They are the same people, so of course the past matters.
      They don’t care at all that the dogs they clear from the shelters kill loved pets every single day.

  19. Gary Goldstein says:

    Timothy Wyllie’s book about the beginnings of Best Friends can be read on Amazon’s Kindle. It is replete with photos of some of the “Founders” in their robes, etc. as well as the former CEO/CFO practicing self-flagellation. It is pretty dark.
    Did they suddenly stop all of this activity and cult-like behavior and turn into just a group of nice people who oversee an animal sanctuary?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s