When Connie Ley died in late November in Indiana, a provision in her will required her 9-year-old German shepherd named Bela be euthanized and that his ashes be sprinkled with hers if a suitable home could not be found for the dog.
Ley worried that her faithful companion, who had shown aggressive tendencies in the past, could be a danger to any other person who might try and adopt the dog.
The Internet began to buzz and the hashtag #SaveBela was born as the public expressed outrage and voiced pleas to save the life of a perfectly healthy dog.
“Let Bela live the rest of his life where he can be loved and cared for. He could be buried next to his owner when his time comes. #SaveBela” wrote one woman.
In Indiana a dog is considered property, and Ley’s will was clear. There were just three options:Either the dog would be killed, Ley’s best friend had to take ownership of the dog or he had to be sent to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab.
Thankfully, Best Friends stepped up.
After negotiations with Ley’s attorney led to an agreement to release the dog into the shelter’s custody, Best Friends representatives John Garcia and Meghann Burke traveled to Indiana to meet Bela and to bring him back with them to Kanab.
“The initial meeting was a really spectacular moment,” said Garica. “It was incredible to see how many people cared about him and the relationships he had built with them.”
“He’s been awesome, people-wise,” Burke said, “and he learned to do doors and elevators in hotels.”
“Our trainers and specialists will give him special attention, and our caregivers will work to make sure he has a comfortable life, a wonderful life,” said Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle. “While the health and welfare of Bela is our first priority, we need to ensure that we are observing the provisions of Bela’s owner’s will as a priority as well. We will see what his future holds, but all indications so far are that he is a beautiful and wonderful dog.”
Having an animal shelter with as high a profile as that of Best Friends is an absolute blessing for animals like Bela, and we are proud to be able to claim the volunteers and employees of the Kanab shelter as our family, friends and neighbors in Southern Utah.
The reputation that Best Friends has — they are known worldwide for major stories like Bela’s, their status as the shelter that can handle the care of Michael Vick’s dogs, and for being the home of the DogTown reality television show — puts them in a unique position as arguably the most famous animal shelter in the United States.
It’s a hefty responsibility to be certain, but in every case the representatives at Best Friends have handled their celebrity with grace and aplomb.
While the work they are doing is important, it should also be remembered there are animal shelters throughout the United States committed to the same mission as Best Friends that are also doing what they can to ensure there are no more homeless pets.
In Southern Utah, organizations like Providing Animals With Support (PAWS), the Ivins No Kill Animal Supporters (INKAS), Cedar Animal Rescue and the Homeless Animal Rescue Team (HART) accomplish many of the same goals as Best Friends, albeit on a much smaller scale, and we commend them for the work they do as well.
But Best Friends is the big dog in the room, the organization with national clout and the one people think of throughout the rest of the nation and much of the world when they think of an animal rescue shelter other than their local dog pound.
We commend all those who look after unwanted pets and who work so diligently to save homeless animals. We hope they will keep up the good work and would encourage our readers to find an opportunity to volunteer or donate to the cause of helping animals find homes. Even if Best Friends in Kanab is too far of a drive for you, there are plenty of smaller organizations and animal shelters throughout Southern Utah that can use your help.