StoryCorps
10:57 am
Fri November 15, 2013

The New Animal Sanctuary: Founding Best Friends Animal Society

Francis Battista and Cyrus Mejía discuss the founding of Best Friends Animal Society.
Credit STORYCORPS / UTAH PUBLIC RADIO

Francis Battista (68) talks with his friend and colleague Cyrus Mejía (66) about founding the animal sanctuary Best Friends Animal Society.  He talks about the beginnings of the shelter, the ethics it was founded upon, and events that have put Best Friends in the national spotlight as a model for animal rescue work.

MEJIA: At some point, we started getting a whole lot more animals, because we took on animal control.

BATTISTA: The way it happened was this: We arrived and amongst the group of us, we had about 200 animals with us. One of our dogs wandered off, this was shortly after we got there. One of our colleagues went looking for his dog which had been lost, and he went to the local pound, which was basically a tin-roof shed, in a field, in the back of the airport.

It looked like a sort of concentration camp. It had a brick wall, fence around it, corrugated roof, baking heat. Once a week a vet would come over from St. George and put every animal to sleep. And we thought, 'My God this place is horrible. Anything we can do has to be better than this.'

Then, Battista said he decided to go to the Mayor.

BATTISTA: He was out watering his front garden. I said 'Mayor, hi. My name is Francis Battista and we just acquired this property up the canyon and... well... uh.... we'd like to do animal control.' And he looked at the flowers and looked at me and he said, 'OK.'

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