Animals of all stripes celebrate Christmas at Southern Utah animal nonprofits

Solo and Rapinoe chew on a Christmas toy at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah, undated | Photo by Molly Wald, Best Friends Animal Society, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Even on Christmas, the caregivers of orphaned kittens, support dogs in training, feathered friends and hooved companions work diligently to provide loving care to creatures great and small.

St. George News asked several Southern Utah-based animal charities how they and the animals they care for spend Christmas together.

Archie the cat awaits Santa at P.A.W.S. in St. George, Utah, December 2017 | Photo courtesy of P.A.W.S., St. George News

Providing Animals With Support (Dixie P.A.W.S.)

P.A.W.S. is a nonprofit animal rescue based in St. George. During the Christmas holiday, stockings are hung in the shelter above each animal’s kennel in anticipation of Santa Claus’ arrival. Reportedly, none of the animals were found to be naughty this year.

P.A.W.S.’ volunteer staff has been busy this holiday season getting adoptable dogs and cats into homes before Christmas.

“We have been doing adoption events every weekend in December – we usually only do one or two a month,” Sabrina Todd, P.A.W.S. manager of fundraising and events, said.

Petunia show off her Christmas spirit at Lovin’ Arms Pet Center in St. George, Utah, December 2017 | Photo courtesy of P.A.W.S., St. George News

Several kitties and pups went to new homes during the adoption campaigns, but there are still some who have yet to find new two-legged parents.

“We love our animals a lot and we just don’t feel that any animal should be in a shelter on Christmas,” Todd said. “Each of our volunteers is going to step up and take one home for Christmas Eve and Christmas day.”

This will empty the shelter, meaning that in addition to the animals, no volunteers will have to report to the facility during the holiday.

The sponsored animals will receive Christmas presents and stuffed stockings at their temporary homes, thanks in part to generous donations of bones, chew toys and treats made by customers at Lovin’ Arms Pet Center in St. George.

Pets available for adoption at P.A.W.S. can be visited at the rescue’s facility, 1125 W 1130 North, St. George, where low-cost spay and neuter programs are also available.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is the country’s largest no-kill sanctuary. The Kanab-based nonprofit operates on a “Save Them All” slogan at a sprawling 3,000-plus acre sanctuary that houses all types of animals at the aptly named areas of Cat World, Dogtown, Bunny House, Parrot Garden and more.

Christmas, just like any other day at the massive sanctuary, is bustling with activity as hundreds of caregivers and volunteers work to give the animals an extra special day.

Cat World

A cat gets first dibs on toys and treats on a mountain of donated gifts at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah, undated | Photo by Molly Wald, Best Friends Animal Society, St. George News

Cat World caregivers do an extra-quick morning cleaning then meet at sanctuary headquarters to sort through cat gifts, such as beds, food, catnip and treats.

“The caregivers will line up at the doors and when the okay is given, it’s a free-for-all to grab as much stuff as possible for your building,” Cat World manager Jenn Corsun said.

After the free-for-all gift grab, caregivers spend the rest of the day giving out the gifts to their furry feline friends and spend a little extra time playing and snuggling with the cats.


Dogtown’s version of Santa’s sleigh – a flatbed trailer – hauls a mountain of dog toys, treats, blankets and other goodies donated by Best Friends supporters around the facility Christmas morning.

Scratch jumps into “Santa’s sleigh” on Christmas at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, undated | Photo by Photo by Molly Wald, Best Friends Animal Society, St. George News

Caregivers fill up bags of gifts from the “sleigh” then invite a couple dogs to jump into a giant pile of toys and take first pick of the loot.

“There is always an air of excitement and joy on Christmas day – we even have staff who switch their days around just so they can be at work and partake in the festivities,” Julie Tasch, Dogtown operations manager, said. “The dogs can definitely tell it’s a special day.”

“A lot of our staff are away from their families during Christmas so we want to make sure they feel celebrated and appreciated,” Tasch said, adding that Dogtown staff throw a big potluck dinner on Christmas.

Bunny House

Bunnies Cupid and Daisy show off their holiday cheer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, undated | Photo by Molly Wald, Best Friends Animal Society, St. George News

Volunteers at Bunny House spend the week before Christmas filling paper bags with dehydrated fruits and veggies, fresh veggies and hay to be given out to the animals Christmas morning.

“The caregivers will be spending the afternoon giving out presents to the rabbits and guinea pigs and will be hosting a small potluck to celebrate a wonderful year in animal care,” said Melissa Krepfle, rabbit team lead.

Parrot Garden

At the Parrot Garden, staff stockpile toys donated from people all around the world.

“Right before Christmas volunteers help wrap the toys in brown paper and tie them with bird-friendly string. Each bird is given a new toy wrapped up, and they tear off the paper and play with the toy,” Lisa Englund, a veterinary technician, said.

Because Animals Matter (BAM)

Hurricane-based BAM is an animal welfare organization that operates as a network of foster homes to assist pets in finding forever homes. The nonprofit organization also runs community programs focused on reducing animal abuse and neglect through education.

Umchi is an Old English Sheepdog looking for a person or family who would like an independent large dog in their life available for adoption through Because Animals Matter in Hurricane, Utah, December 2017 | Photo courtesy of BAM, St. George News

“Many of our adoptable pets spend the holidays in foster homes, waking up on Christmas morning with families who love them,” BAM President September Smith said.

“A handful of adoptable pets stay in our BAM Center until being transferred into foster care or adoption,” Smith said. “BAM has a few volunteers who show their devotion every day by going in and spending time with each dog, making sure all their needs are met.”

One volunteer in particular, Sue Sekerka, has dedicated countless hours to the pets at the center – even on holidays like Christmas.

Smith said that this year, at least one of their foster dogs will be hiding in a stocking or under a tree for a “big Christmas surprise.”

“No matter the day of the year, that is what it is all about,” Smith said, “being able to find a home and family for a pet while bringing joy to two- and four-leggeds alike is why we rescue.”

BAM is in the process moving its adoption center to 16 W. State St. in Hurricane with a new thrift store set to open soon, also in Hurricane. The organization is growing and in need of volunteers.

Loving Angel Service Dogs

Loving Angel is a nonprofit based in St. George that trains and places service dogs for children and adults with disabilities. The massive effort of raising and training as many as eight puppies at a time is made possible by many dedicated volunteers.

A puppy from the latest litter of service dogs-in-training at Loving Angel Service Dogs in St. George, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of Loving Angel Service Dogs, St. George News

“Christmas day is like every other day around here as far as taking care of the puppies,” Loving Angel Executive Director Cathy Powell said. “We feed them, play with them and exercise them.”

Cathy Powell and her husband, Hoagan, give their volunteers the day off and perform all the dog-raising duties themselves – from poop-scooping to grooming.

The Powells reward the parents of the service-dogs-to-be with a special raw bone Christmas morning. Momma dog Lucy has been especially busy this holiday season nursing her latest litter of puppies born in October.

The Powells’ best Christmas memory was placing two dogs from a previous litter, Ginger and Katie, to new handlers just one week before Christmas.

Read more: Loving Angel Service Dogs graduates 2 puppies to new handlers

“It was a great Christmas present to them,” Cathy Powell said.

Loving Angel is always looking for new volunteers to join in the joy of puppy-raising.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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