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OC Sanctuary Design Provides Animals with Unparalleled Benefits

by Steven Block


The cats and dogs at Our Companions Sanctuary in Ashford have several advantages over animals at most other facilities. One of the most important of these advantages is the living environment created by design for Sanctuary residents until they are adopted into their forever home.

When construction began to accommodate both cats and dogs, the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, served as one of the inspirations for housing. However, the climate in southern Utah differs greatly from winters in New England. With the specific needs of the Our Companions animals in mind, cottages were erected that would provide an unparalleled experience to suit the local environment and aid in behavioral management and adoption preparation.

Upon entering the Sanctuary cottages, visitors quickly notice the amount of vertical space, maintained outdoor play areas, and places for animal privacy. These characteristics of the Sanctuary benefit both cats and dogs.

TJ and Rosie

While cats at most animal shelters experience the majority of their shelter life in confined cages, the cats at the Ashford Sanctuary live in colony or privacy rooms, depending on their social behavior. “We have our group living so social cats can have exercise and camaraderie, but some cats come in and have lived their whole life as an only cat,” said Laura Jordan, Our Companions Director of Feline Operations. “These cats don’t have to live in their own cage, but can still be in a room.”


Other unique features of the cat cottage include the outdoor catio area and comfortable seating within the rooms. With accommodations geared toward the specific needs of individual cats, any concerns about boredom are easily averted.

Outdoor cats

According to Marie Joyner, Our Companions Canine Operations Director, the single most important physical difference between the Ashford Sanctuary and traditional shelters for dogs is the lack of restricted kennel runs. At the Sanctuary, dogs have their own rooms with crates available so they can be crate trained while living in a residential environment. Typical kennel cages can provoke barrier aggression between dogs and increase stress.
“We have curtains up in front of the rooms so they don’t have to deal with having that happen,” said Joyner. “It’s a place of their own.”

Sue and DixonThe residential environment also gives staff, volunteers, and potential adopters an opportunity to envision how the dogs will react to real-life situations following adoption. Physical features, such as private rooms, furniture, living areas, and a large exercise yard prepare the residents for life after the Sanctuary. Other amenities include comfortable bedding and consistent walks twice a day.

Although the ultimate goal for all the cats and dogs is a permanent home, the Ashford Sanctuary provides a temporary, loving environment where animals can grow and prosper.

To visit the Sanctuary and experience this unique environment first hand, click here.