For nearly 30 years, Best Friends has helped pioneer the no-kill movement. Perhaps, best known for operating the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals, over the years they have branched out to include a diverse program of outreach and education that ranges from a popular television show to Strut Your Mutt events, and one of their most valuable projects—the No More Homeless Pets® conference. Each fall, Best Friends brings together experts in the no-kill movement, experts in animal care and behavior, marketing and fundraising, animal welfare professionals, rescue groups and volunteers to share knowledge, strategize and work together to save animals. This year’s conference is October 10–13 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Bark spoke to Barbara Williamson, Best Friends media relations manager, about this important event.
How did the No More Homeless Pets Conference come about? It’s a collaborative approach to a big problem … which is great to see.
Best Friends started the conference to help groups become more effective in addressing the issues related to decreasing the number of animals killed in shelters, reducing the breeding of community cats, increasing adoptions and helping families keep their pets. Plus, to help organizations be more effective, the No More Homeless Pets Conference offers opportunities to engage with leaders in the animal welfare movement and shares information on how to successfully apply for grants.
Can you talk about the kinds of people and organizations that attend, and what kind of impact this shared knowledge is having?
Many of the nation’s leaders in the animal welfare movement will be attending the conference and sharing their innovative programs and no-kill solutions with attendees. Every year extraordinary connections are made. At last year’s conference Linda Gage, one of Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets Network specialists introduced Denise Bitz of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue (BWAR) in Asheville, North Carolina, to Emma Dawley of Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA) in Providence, Rhode Island. Their meeting would turn out to be fortuitous for dogs in need.
Denise, founder of BWAR, has been involved in animal rescue for years. She’s been to three No More Homeless Pets Conferences and intends to be at the conference in Jacksonville. What she hadn’t planned on at last year’s conference was meeting the person whose organization would help her move 25 dogs, many of them seniors, out of the South up North, where forever homes have been waiting in the wings. “It’s been amazing working with Emma and Friends of Homeless Animals,” shares Denise. “We’re saving so many more dogs. FOHA really takes the time to match the dogs with the right adopters, and they start to promote them before they even get on the road. FOHA also shares the amazing updates from their new adoptive families, which continue to inspire our volunteers.”
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FOHA is able to take so many dogs, in part, because they are helping the market meet the supply and demand. While they regularly pull from local shelters and accept owner-surrendered animals, they have found that those dogs alone do not fill the need for smaller dogs in their region.
Both groups are looking forward to attending No More Homeless Pets Conference in Jacksonville. As Denise puts it, “I think the conference is an invaluable resource for anyone in animal rescue, from volunteers to staff that share the Best Friends mission, and this conference has so many opportunities to network and really grow your organization.”
If there is a major trend that is shaping animal rescue and sheltering what would it be? This fall Best Friends is unveiling the call-to-action “Save Them All™.” In many ways this program crystallizes what Best Friends has believed all along and was a strong impetus for the No More Homeless Pets Conference in the first place: Alone you can save many, but together, we can Save Them All. More than 9,000 animals are killed every day in America’s shelters—that’s about 4 million a year. It doesn’t have to happen. We know that by increasing the number of people who adopt animals, and implementing more spay/neuter programs to reduce the number of animals who enter shelters, we can SAVE THEM ALL.
What speakers, topics or workshops are you most excited about this year?
All of our speakers are amazing! We’re featuring 7 communities that have reached, or are in the process of, getting to no-kill using varying approaches. The conference features our in-depth, three-hour animal behavior sessions, professional development sessions, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program track, Technology track and much more.
Can your share some good news with our readers about the impact that the No Kill Movement is having?
More and more communities have reached no-kill status or are getting close to achieving it—from Austin to Kansas City to Jacksonville. It’s a movement that’s picked up incredible momentum and we’re seeing communities all over the country embracing the notion that it’s unacceptable to kill pets in shelters when viable solutions exist to save them. We are on track to take Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the country, to no-kill by 2017 with our NKLA (No Kill Los Angeles) initiative. The energy and the momentum is undeniable, together we will Save Them All.
For more information on the No More Homeless Pets National Conference go to: conference.bestfriends.org