Utah animal sanctuary opens pet-centric hotel

Guestroom beds at Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile include a pull-out trundle for dogs to sleep on. Photo credit: Best Friends Animal Society

Starting later this month, animal lovers will have a new place to stay in southern Utah. Owned and operated by Best Friends Animal Society—a nonprofit dedicated to ending the killing of dogs and cats in U.S. shelters by 2025—the Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile will offer 40 rooms designed specifically for guests traveling with pets.

“In places I’ve worked, we’ve welcomed pets, but this is a different dimension of actually being there for pets and designing the property to care for pets that are our guests,” said Brooks Bradbury, GM of hospitality for Best Friends Animal Society and the temporary GM for the roadhouse.

Designing for Pets

The pet-centric approach Bradbury spoke of can be seen across the property. Inside guestrooms, furnishings are built 18 inches or higher to avoid entrapment or accidents; nightstands include little cubbies for smaller animals and beds feature pull-out trundles for large dogs; and all fabrics and materials are pet friendly.

Best Friends Animal Society has also worked to make the property’s grounds pet friendly. The roadhouse offers a dog park, a splash pad and a washing station outside the hotel. Its driveway uses red crushed stone instead of black asphalt to lessen the impact on pet pads and paws. It installed outside water fountains at both pet and person height.

“Other hotel properties say they’re pet-friendly, but those properties aren’t really designed for pets and here, that’s all we know to do is to provide comfortable spaces and accommodations for pets and their people,” said Bradbury.

Supporting Best Friends' Mission

The roadhouse significantly expands the accommodations the organization offers in support of its more than 3,000-acre Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which is 5 miles from the hotel. Last year alone, Bradbury said the sanctuary welcomed 33,000 visitors and 11,000 volunteers in total. The sanctuary currently provides lodging cabins, cottages and RV sites, all of which it nearly completely sells out year after year, year-round, according to Bradbury.

So, when a closed motel went up for sale a few years back, the group bought it. Though Bradbury said the organization initially discussed a lot of ways to use it—as more office space, additional animal care space, staff accommodations—the organization ultimately decided to transform it into the Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile.

When it opens, the hotel will cater to visitors and volunteers going to the sanctuary, as well as travelers passing by. The roadhouse looks forward to welcoming those who know nothing about Best Friends Animal Society, Bradbury said, because it “gives us the opportunity to tell our story and engage them in our work and encourage them to get involved either by taking a tour of the sanctuary or volunteering, becoming a member or even going back to become active in their own community.”

The hotel will tie in closely to the society’s efforts at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Guests will be able to visit the sanctuary and bring an animal back to the hotel for the night. Best Friends members will receive a discounted rate. The property’s mercantile will even sell Best Friends-branded merchandise. Additionally, once all loans and grants are paid off, Kari Hartkorn, senior manager of brand experience and hospitality for Best Friends Animal Society, said proceeds will go to the organization and furthering its mission.

Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile Fast Facts


Situated in Kanab, Utah, the roadhouse is 5 miles from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, less than 20 minutes from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and roughly 35 minutes from Zion National Park.


Late October




Brooks Bradbury




Best Friends Animal Society


Best Friends Animal Society


The Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile marks the fourth hotel opening Bradbury has been involved with. There’s “always something that's a little more challenging and in this case, it's been completion of the technology side of the project,” Bradbury said. As the hotel takes advantage of new technology, he said it’s had “some challenges, but nothing insurmountable.” Specifically, he pointed to the integration of the hotel’s property-management system, locks, some of the controls in the rooms and tablets that the hotel is placing in every guestroom. It’s “not any one thing, it’s just the complexities of wrapping up the final connections,” he explained.