Interview: Bela Escapes Euthanasia, Instead Heads to Utah Sanctuary


Just in time for Christmas comes the news that Bela will be going to Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

Bela’s owner, Connie Lay, passed away on Nov. 25. The story of her will exploded onto social media earlier this month. Dog lovers everywhere were unhappy that Lay had asked, in the will, that Bela (named after Bela Fleck) be euthanized and his ashes placed with her own. In fact, the first request in her will is that her animal(s) be sent to Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary. Based on that, Bela’s future will follow the path Lay wanted most.

Bela while he was awaiting his fate. (Photo via Fox 19 reporter Lisa Hutson's Twitter account)
Bela while he was awaiting his fate. (Photo via Fox 19 reporter Lisa Hutson’s Twitter account)

Yesterday, the sanctuary was able to announce the good news. The group has been working hard to help make this outcome a reality, even sending someone on its team to Indiana to help Lay’s attorney, Doug Denmure, better understand what Bela’s life would be like at Best Friends. Cincinnati TV station WCPO had quoted the attorney as saying the dog was aggressive and that those who needed to enter Lay’s home to claim her body were afraid to do so in fear of Bela attacking them.

A protective nature is not uncommon for a family dog and certainly not at all extraordinary for a German Shepherd. The sanctuary’s representative explained to Denmure that its team has experience working with aggressive dogs. After all, they are well known for rehabilitating the fighting dogs seized from Michael Vick into adoptable pets. According to Eric Rayvid, senior manager of public relations for Best Friends, “Ultimately, that was the course of action that helped bring about the wonderful news that Bela is coming to our sanctuary.”

In fact, Bela is on his way right now. Two employees of Best Friends sacrificed their Christmas at home to fly to Bela and drive him to the sanctuary. The hope is that Bela would be there by Christmas, but weather in the area has slowed travel.

Best Friends Sanctuary (Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society)
Best Friends Sanctuary (Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society)

Rayvid is quick to point out that Best Friends has not had one of its experts evaluate Bela yet, so is unsure what kind of, if any, rehabilitation will have to take place. The evaluation will come after Bela is made comfortable and happy. “It’s going to be stressful to be moved across state lines. It’s a long car ride he has to take, so first and foremost we [Best Friends] want him to be happy. Once he gets settled, we will start working with him.”

The next chapter of Bela’s life is currently unknown. “Our goal is to always get any of the animals we take in to an adoptive home, but sometimes it just isn’t appropriate. Once the evaluation happens, and once we work with Bela, we will be able to make that determination.”

This means after Bela gets some well deserved TLC, he will either work with the Best Friends team to find a new family or he will live out his life in the comfort, loving, and beautiful atmosphere found at the Best Friends Sanctuary.

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