Sara Autori
  • Psychology and Sociology/Anthropology
  • Class of 2012
  • South Walpole, MA

Local residents, Saint Michael's students care for abandoned animals during winter break

2009 Jan 16

Sara Autori, daughter of Anthony and Paula Autori of South Walpole, spent her winter break from Saint Michael's College, Jan. 3 to 10, caring for abused or abandoned animals at the largest animal rescue site in the nation, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Autori, a first-year student biology major, graduated from Ursuline Academy before coming to Saint Michael's, a residential liberal arts Catholic college located in the Burlington area of Vermont.

Six Saint Michael's students and two staff members were participating in the Saint Michael's extended service program that took groups of volunteers to five sites across the country during the winter vacation-Immokalee Friendship House, Immokalee, Fla.; Big Thicket Preserve, Texas; Habitat for Humanity, East St. Tammany, Slidell, La., Catholic Center (middle) School, Buffalo, N.Y., and Best Friends.

At Best Friends the students encountered some 2,000 rescued animals at the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for homeless animals. The center provides adoption, spay/neuter and educational programs by relying on volunteers to help care for the animals and prepare them for new homes. The students worked with a different group of animals each half day, cleaning cat areas, walking dogs, watering the horses, once taking a couple of pot belly pigs for a walk, and even taking dogs home for overnights at their dormitory.

Student leader, Caitlin Wilkins, back for her second time at Best Friends, said, "It was absolutely incredible to be at the sanctuary. We worked with animals that have gone through more than most of us have in our entire lives." She said some of the animals had illnesses, some dogs were feral or semi-feral, but "The people there are passionate about what they do, and they do incredible things daily. . . . They make you think about the role animals play in our lives; they teach you to respect them as individuals and listen to them, beyond just physically caring for them."

SMC vice president for human resources, Michael New of North Ferrisburg, Vt., who with his wife Patricia, took the trip with the students, said the staff at Best Friends "will do whatever is needed to keep an animal alive and healthy," which explains their care of the horse Riley, who New described as a brave horse.

"You can be brought to tears each time a staff member tells you the history of a dog, cat, horse or even a rabbit," New said. They expose the volunteers to all areas at the sanctuary, he said, dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses and pigs.

According to their website, "The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary at Angel Canyon, at the heart of the Golden Circle of national parks in southern Utah, is home on any given day to about 2,000 dogs, cats, and other animals, who come from shelters and rescue groups around the country for special care they can only receive at Best Friends.

"Most of the animals who find their way to Best Friends have special physical or behavioral needs, and our expert staff of veterinarians, trainers and caregivers offer them all the help they require. Most of them are ready to go to good new homes after just a few weeks of special care. A few, who are too old or too sick, or who have suffered extra trauma, find a home and haven at the sanctuary, and are given loving care for the rest of their lives."

Saint Michael's College,, founded in 1904 by the Society of St. Edmund and headed by President John J. Neuhauser, is identified by the Princeton Review as one of the nation's Best 368 Colleges. A liberal arts, residential, Catholic college, Saint Michael's is located just outside of Burlington, Vermont, one of America's top college towns, and less than two hours from Montreal. As one of only 270 institutions nationwide with a prestigious Phi Beta Kappa chapter on campus, Saint Michael's has 2,000 full-time undergraduate students, some 500 graduate students and 200 international students. In recent years Saint Michael's students and professors have received Rhodes, Woodrow Wilson, Guggenheim, Fulbright, National Science Foundation and other grants, and Saint Michael's professors have been named Vermont Professor of the Year in four of the last eight years. The college is currently listed as one of the nation's Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the 2009 U.S. News & World Report rankings.