Proven Strategies

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The Best Friends Podcast

An animal welfare professional’s typical day includes unparalleled joy and heart-wrenching despair, often in equal measure. The burnout is real but it’s the hard-won progress that sustains us.

On the Best Friends Podcast, you'll hear stories from the front lines of lifesaving. You’ll hear from leading experts on topics that impact all of us. These are stories that matter to shelters, rescue groups, and the animal welfare organizations that enable their service to a community and its animals. These are stories for all of us.

We want to hear from you! Send us your ideas for future episodes at

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90. Applying 12-Step principles to succeed, stay sane, and save lives: This is the busiest time of the year for many in animal welfare, with the end-of-year fundraising efforts in full swing. December is when we often focus on giving to others but we can't forget about ourselves.

89. Julie Castle on Saving America's Pets: On behalf of all of us at Best Friends, we'd like to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! Season two of the Best Friends network vlog series Saving America's Pets recently wrapped up, and we're thrilled to share the finale with you on the podcast.

88. Changing minds with David McRaney: From hot button issues such as climate change or accepting new strategies to save more dogs and cats, changing minds can be very difficult. This week we talk with best-selling author David McRaney who shares with us the cognitive biases and other factors that help shed light on why changing minds is so hard and how we might overcome it.

87. The healing power of pets: connecting shelter dogs and veterans: To commemorate this Veteran's Day, we talk about the healing power of pets and how the right animal can help veterans through tough times as they readjust to life back at home.

86. Language matters: Best Friends recently conducted a research project to understand better the public’s knowledge of and affinity for the myriad terms used around cats and cat issues. What did we learn?

85. Building partnerships to maximize lifesaving: Lifesaving coalitions can be incredibly effective. This week we are sharing a session from the 2021 Best Friends National Conference that offers tips on how to forge those relationships and give you some ideas on how to create targeted programs to save the pets that need the most help in your community.

84. The art of storytelling for year end fundraising: At the core of every good end-of-year fundraising campaign is a good story, and every single day the work we do presents us with countless stories as we impact the lives of people and pets. So which stories are the best ones to use for your end-of-year fundraising campaigns?

83. Keeping ourselves whole (rebroadcast): We all know how important the work is, but dealing with the pandemic and other serious issues such as the growing staffing crisis - has not made working in the field any easier. These challenges are driving people away from the field at what seems like a higher rate than ever. But as you’ll hear from our guest, even the smallest of actions you do for yourself can make a world of difference in your day-to-day work.

82. Expanding our reach with multilingual marketing: For decades, the lack of positive outreach into bilingual communities has left generations of people unaware of animal shelters, what is happening at them, and how they, as pet lovers, can help save lives. The focus on DE&I across the industry has brought visibility to the untapped potential for more pet lovers in our communities, ready to help us achieve our goal of ending the killing of pets in shelters by 2025.

81. "I just trust people": After more than twenty years of practice and research, there is no evidence that reducing or eliminating adoption fees does either of those things. So why do we still see so much resistance to it?

80. Professionalizing the profession: Animal welfare is more professional than it’s ever been. Across the country, collectively, we’re saving more lives on any given day than some ever thought possible. So why are we still fighting to have animal welfare recognized as a critical community service?

79. Animal welfare feeling the effects of the nationwide staffing crisis: The United States is suffering from a severe labor shortage and just about every industry is feeling it, including animal welfare.

78. Saving senior pets with Vintage Pet Rescue: Saving senior pets from shelters is expensive and challenging work and another part of our work where the need outweighs the amount of available help. Compared to the total number of rescue organizations coast-to-coast, only a fraction focus solely on saving this highly at-risk group of animals.

77. Saving senior pets with The Gray Muzzle Organization: Solid data around what’s happening to senior pets in shelters is hard to come by, but we do know this. Senior animals are a highly vulnerable segment of the shelter population that is more difficult to save and more needs to be done to help them.

76. Increasing adoptions through effective marketing: If you're feeling more overwhelmed than usual, you are not alone. The year-to-date shelter data shows a dramatic drop in adoptions over the last "normal" year of 2019. So this week, we talk through some marketing tips and tricks to help you break through the noise and get adoptable pets where they belong - in loving homes.

75. It’s not rescue if they already have a home: One Tail at a Time Dog Rescue in Chicago recently announced the launch of a new Pet Mutual Aid project. There are no invasive questions, no judgments. Just community-centered support for people and their pets with what they need, when they need it.

74. Helping Indigenous people and their pets on the Navajo Nation: Achieving no-kill 2025 means every shelter in the United States hitting that 90% save rate benchmark. Every shelter, including the four that are part of the Navajo Nation. This week we take a look at the effort to overcome the immense challenges and help the people and pets of this nation within a nation.

73. It’s not back to business as usual for animal welfare: As the world returns to “normal,” many shelters and rescue organizations are at capacity or getting very close. Through the mid-point of 2021, the year-to-date data showed that intake was still lower than in 2019, but adoptions were also down. The data further underscores the point that community-supported sheltering is needed now more than ever.

72. Innovation and collaboration - lifesaving in El Paso, Texas: Thanks to visionary leadership, dynamic problem-solving, and a pet-loving community that won't rest until every life is saved, El Paso Animal Services is quickly becoming one of the country's most innovative animal shelters.

71. Compassionate Badassery (rebroadcast): As the world is continuing to ease COVID-related restrictions it seems we have a ways to go before we can settle into the “post-COVID era.” It's a difficult time, so we thought it would be a good idea to revisit the words and wisdom of Jessica Dolce on compassion fatigue.

70. Best Friends pet lifesaving dashboard: The dashboard puts lifesaving statistics for every shelter in the country at the fingertips of individual advocates, policymakers, animal shelters, and rescue organizations for the first time.

69. 2020 by the numbers: Did you know that nearly half of the animal shelters in the United States are now no-kill? That is just one of many encouraging discoveries in the Best Friends 2020 National Dataset.

68. Unicorn Foster Squad: One of the most at-risk populations in animal shelters is large dogs. In this episode, we learn about one organization's unique and creative foster program designed to rally the community to help save these "behavior dogs."

67. If "nobody's perfect," then why do we expect all pet adopters to be?: Every time someone chooses to adopt an animal, we have the opportunity to positively change that person's life and save the life of an animal. So why do we still put up so many barriers that make adopting an animal so unreasonably difficult?

66. The 2021 Best Friends National Conference: After being canceled last year due to COVID-19, the Best Friends National Conference is back for 2021. What's in store for this year's virtual event?

65. Managed intake programs: Learn how changing a shelter's intake procedures saves lives, keeps families together, and fosters a positive relationship with your community.

64. Kitten Action Team: When a resident of Sacramento calls 3-1-1 to report kittens in need, a volunteer - not an animal services officer - responds to the call through their recently launched Kitten Action Team.

63. Saving lives in rural Indiana: The Brown County Humane Society, an open-admission shelter, has been a shining example of no-kill success, first reaching the 90% save rate benchmark in 2008. They didn't stop there, in 2019 they hit a save rate of 98.3%

62. Ed Jamison - Part Two: In this second part of our discussion Ed, we talk about the status of the DEI efforts, his new role with the nonprofit Operation Kindness, supporting, and the role he thinks rescue organizations can play to support municipal shelters.

61. Ed Jamison - Part One: With an annual intake of more than 32,000 animals in 2017, Ed Jamison accepted what many would call a formidable challenge laid out by city officials to create a safer community for people and pets.

60. Keeping ourselves whole: Due to the importance of the work of lifesaving, we are continually living in a state of urgency quite literally with lives hanging in the balance. It is easy to become lost in our work and not take time to recharge and care for ourselves.

59. Reimagining field services: Helping people and pets in Sacramento: It’s National Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week! This week we honor these front-line heroes by sharing a story of how officers in Sacramento, California, are doing their part to save lives - of both the two and four-legged kind.

58. Community-supported kitten care: Kitten season has arrived, which means shelters and rescue organizations across the country are starting to feel the crunch.

57. Who Wants to Be a Lifesaver? This week we transform The Best Friends Podcast into our version of one of the world’s most beloved game shows. Players representing four Network partner organizations put their knowledge to the test!

56. When leading requires a push: Societal change is challenging. It often requires agitation but in a movement driven by kindness, how do you find the right balance while lives hang in the balance every day?

55. Los Angeles now a No-Kill City thanks to NKLA Coalition: Los Angeles is now the most populous, most racially and economically diverse, and largest community geographically to attain no-kill status.

54. Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in animal welfare: Animal sheltering and animal welfare have long suffered from a lack of diversity, and it has negatively impacted both the people and pets in the communities we serve. We share our approach to the DE&I work and provide actionable next steps you can use for your organization.

53. Deadly Texas Weather Brings Together Lifesaving Partnerships: We all know collaboration is key to our work and no time is that more apparent than during a weather-induced crisis. Listen in as we connect with organizations across the country coming together to help shelters in Texas during this historic winter storm.

52. Julie Castle Returns!: Julie Castle, the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, was the first-ever guest on The Best Friends Podcast, and we were excited to have her back for episode number 52! It's not even been a year since we last spoke, but we had plenty of things to discuss in what has been a very tumultuous year for our field and the country overall.

51. Serving the Underserved in Rural America: Rural America is multicultural and the people and communities span the socioeconomic spectrum. And just as we see in urban communities, the need for services to help pets and their owners is great, but the resources available are sparse - and in far too many cases there are none at all. So what is the data telling us, and how can we provide assistance to rural American people and their pets?

50. Francis Battista: It's the 50th episode of The Best Friends Podcast! To celebrate the milestone, we sat down with one of the co-founders of Best Friends, Francis Battista. His contributions to the organization are vast, from his discovery in the 1980s of the land for sale, which now is the sanctuary in Southern Utah, to helping develop much of the outreach work that's integral to reaching the Best Friends goal of No-Kill 2025.

49. A New Day for Animal Sheltering in the United States: If we’re going to meet the 2025 goal of ending the killing of pets in animal shelters, we need to redefine the relationship the community has with animal shelters. What is the best way to keep people and pets together and keep animals out of shelters unless they truly need to be there?

48. Strategy: paving the way to achieving your mission: Strategic planning is a phrase that can strike boredom in the hearts of, well, a lot of us! But over the last year, from the ongoing pandemic to the political division and civil unrest, we’ve seen how critical it is for us to react and do what is necessary to continue saving lives.

47. Mary Ippoliti-Smith: It’s hard to imagine animal welfare and sheltering without Maddie’s Fund. Mary Ippoliti-Smith has been there since there very beginning and has been directly responsible for much of that impact.

46. Best of and B-Sides: As we say goodbye to 2020, we are taking a moment to pause and reflect. While many are saying good riddance to 2020 (justified!), we are also trying to focus on the positive things that have come out of what is possibly the most stressful and challenging year in more than a generation.

45. Mark LeBlanc and Ace from Amazon’s The Pack: Mark LeBlanc and his dog Ace were one of twelve teams competing to win the around the world race that challenged the contestants - both two and four-legged - through a series of different tasks designed to test their skills. The top prize was $500,000 but contestants also were able to choose a charity that would receive $250,000. We won’t say who wins but Mark’s charity was Best Friends!

44. Fundraising During COVID-19: As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of our lives, it meant overcoming obstacles to every aspect of our work - including fundraising. With our communities in lockdown, effective online engagement and digital fundraising efforts are more important than ever before.

43. Historic Moment for L.A.'s Cats: This week, the City Council unanimously approved a plan that is a huge first step towards making TNR an official policy of Los Angeles Animal Services.

42. Cracking the Code: Animal service officers historically have been trained to function as code enforcement officers, and in many communities that is still the case. Continuing the discussion on moving from punishment to support, we look at changing the animal services culture one officer at a time.

41. Jackson Galaxy: The star of the Animal Planet TV show My Cat from Hell talks about his life as one of the most recognizable figures in the world of animals, what life has been like for him and his family during the pandemic, and what he says is the most effective way to help cats who are waiting for their forever home.

40. From Punishment to Support: Animal services officers know that an owned pet in need usually means there's also a person who needs help, so how can municipal agencies rethink their approach and implement new strategies that are support-based to improve the lives and humans alike?

39. What Makes a Home?: You see an outdoor cat. What do you do? There’s a good chance your instinct is to save the cat. An outdoor cat is a cat in need. Right? What if that isn't the case?

38. Stacy LeBaron - The Community Cats Podcast: Podcasting is more popular today than ever before, giving listeners their choice of more than 1.5 million podcasts. While there are plenty of shows to feed your true crime habit, there aren’t too many podcasts that focus on saving the lives of shelter pets. One of the best and longest-running is The Community Cats Podcast, hosted by Stacy LeBaron.

37. All Dogs are Individuals: How far have we come on the issues facing pit-bull-terrier-like dogs? What is the status of the legislative work taking place to ensure no dog is ever discriminated against simply for how they look? And how successful have we been at changing the public’s perception?

36. To Save Them All, We Must Reach Them All - Kenny Lamberti: The Best Friends 2025 Action Team is made up of like-minded and diverse individuals and is proving that when we work together, we can create positive and sustainable change for pets and the people who love them in every community in America.

35. Keeping Families Together: Keeping families together should be a primary goal of today’s field services operations. To do that, it is critical to understand the difference between cases of true cruelty, and when it is a case of neglect brought on by a lack of resources, knowledge, or both.

34. Embedded in Big Country, Abilene Texas: Earlier this year, the City of Abilene officially became the latest community to join the Best Friends Shelter Embed Program. This unique approach to public-private partnerships has already proven successful in other communities, including Edinburg, Texas, where Palm Valley Animal Society’s save rate increased from 34% to almost 90% in two years.

33. Access to Care - Shannon Glenn: Pets need food, water, veterinary care, adequate shelter, and love. But what happens when an owner can provide endless amounts of love but struggles to deliver the rest?

32. Emergency Planning for Pets and People: Right now we are getting hit with some of the worst wildfires and hurricanes in recorded history. There’s civil unrest nationwide, the economy is on the brink, and of course, the pandemic has turned our lives upside down. We must be prepared to respond to emergencies - meteorological or otherwise - so that we can help pets and the people who love them.

31. Moving Beyond Bias with CARE: In previous episodes of the podcast, we’ve covered the lack of diversity in our industry and how that has affected our ability to save lives. But we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding what we need to do to continue moving forward on this issue. That’s why we must keep the conversation going.

30. Reaching New Heights in Animal Services - Innovator Series: What do you get when you take 18 of the best and brightest lifesaving innovators, pair them up, put them on a Zoom call and hit record? You get magic!

29. Best Friends Professional Development Symposium: The Symposium is a dynamic, two-day, online event featuring many of the leading lifesaving experts from across the country. This is part of a new initiative from Best Friends, presented in partnership with Southern Utah University.

28. Rebecca Guinn - Atlanta's Lifeline: In 2013, Lifeline Animal Project took on the Herculean task of running the sheltering operations in both Fulton and Dekalb Counties. Rebecca Guinn and the entire Lifeline Animal Project team's unwavering drive to take Atlanta to No-Kill has paid off, making Atlanta a model for the entire nation.

27. Idaho Shelter Coalition leading Push Toward No-Kill Statewide: Idaho may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of animal welfare, but it should! Two years ago, a coalition was formed in an attempt to unite the shelters and organizations spread out over this vast, mostly rural state, and it's a perfect example of what can happen when we work together.

26. Removing Lifesaving Barriers: Fewer pets in shelters. More resources for people with pets. More animal-friendly communities. Healthier, happier animals with safe places to call home. These are our shared goals. But are we all doing as much as we can to achieve them?

25. Spay It Ain't So! Far too many people still believe that spay and neuter is the only program worth spending money on. Of course, it's important, but it's not the *only* answer. But how much of your resources should go to fixing pets? Given the uncertain economy, how do you ensure your resources are maximizing lifesaving balancing the needs of getting pets out of the shelter while also keeping pets from coming in?

24. More than 40-million Pets at Risk of Eviction: Experts believe that by the end of this year, 28-million Americans will face eviction due to the economic downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic. What can we do to prepare for what may be the biggest challenge we've faced in the modern era of animal sheltering?

23. One Million Cats and Counting: We’ve gotten pretty good at saving dogs in shelters, but that’s not the case for cats. 69% of all animals killed last year were feline. That two-to-one ratio of cats killed to dogs has not improved year over year, and it’s clear that what we’ve been doing isn't effective. So what is working when it comes to saving cats?

22. Owner Requested Euthanasia: The latest lifesaving data shows that last year, roughly 50,000 dogs and cats may have been killed even though they were healthy or treatable. The owner requested euthanasia service provides the opportunity for shelters to remove these deaths from their save rate calculation, masking the true picture of the saveable animals dying in a community. It’s delicate and may be uncomfortable, but this conversation has to happen if our goal is to treat each animal as an individual with a chance at life

21. Treating Animals and People as Individuals: We have made great strides in treating every animal as an individual, but that objectivity isn’t always applied when it comes to people. Our inherent biases can sometimes play out in ways we may not even realize - from racism to classism, ageism, sexism, and ableism. These subconscious isms restrict our effectiveness in saving animals.

20. Telling Great Stories to Save Lives: Every animal is an individual and their journeys are as unique as they are. Each of them has a story waiting to be told and these stories are how we connect our community to the work we do. We look at ways you can inspire action and build awareness through the art of storytelling.

19. The New Data is Here, The New Data is Here!: Each year, a dedicated group of Best Friends staff and volunteers compile a colossal spreadsheet with 611,000 individual cells of data. This comprehensive dataset tracks lifesaving across the country and the latest numbers are in.

18. What's the deal with cats?: America loves cats. There are conventions entirely devoted to felines and the internet's obsession has given rise to kitty superstars that have forever changed popular culture. Despite that, they continue to be the animal most often killed in shelters. So, what is the deal with cats?

17. Permission to Feel with Dr. Marc Brackett: Caring for and protecting companion animals involves strong emotions. Understanding how we feel and harnessing our feelings for productive solutions, recognizing and respecting how others feel so that we can bring them along is equally as important as we navigate lifesaving change across the nation.

16. Leaning in and Listening - Diversity and Inclusion in Animal Welfare: Animal welfare and animal services still struggle with a lack of diversity and inclusion, both in our staffing and how we relate to the public. Addressing this is a moral imperative. It's high time to listen to concerns and try to understand how we can do better and be better moving forward in our lifesaving work.

15. Emotional Intelligence - Our Super Power!: Our skill at managing emotions - of all kinds - can be measured by something called emotional intelligence. It’s not about removing the emotions, quite the opposite. How do you manage them so you can continue working towards your goals?

14. Mission Possible - Lifesaving in the Florida Panhandle: Santa Rosa County Animal Services has been progressing toward the no-kill benchmark but needed some guidance to help push through that 90% barrier. They opened their doors to the Best Friends embed programs team and their success will be the anchor to lead the entire panhandle to no-kill.

13. American Pets Alive Piloting Social Services Model of Sheltering: Led by American Pets Alive!, a pilot project in 13 cities will determine if an “Animal Social Services Model” is the wave of the future.

12. The Moonshot - No-Kill 2025: The progress towards a no-kill nation has been remarkable.
 Working collaboratively, aligned around this common goal, together, we are ending the killing of pets in our nation’s shelters. That’s No-Kill 2025.

11. Let's Spay Together: What is an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic? While there’s little debate that animal control is necessary as a component of public safety, other elements of our work were being judged on their merits as governments debated on what should stay open. Spay and neuter surgeries were handled differently across the country both by government officials and people in our field. So just how essential are they?

10. Hannah Shaw - Kitten Lady: Neonatal kittens are one of the most vulnerable populations in animal shelters. Hannah Shaw, the Kitten Lady, has helped grow a committed group of volunteers and advocates that have offered a lifeline to newborn kittens.

9. Cultivating Resilience: Stress and adversity are part of life. How we deal with it is what matters most. How do we stay gritty, persevere, and show up as our best selves even amid a pandemic?

8. When the Budgets Get Tough, the Tough Get Going: The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming clearer for municipal governments, and the projected revenue shortfalls are causing across the board budget cuts. How do you keep up lifesaving while also providing necessary services to the public when your budget is cut by 15%?

7. Compassionate Badassery: The work in animal welfare, municipal sheltering, and field services can be emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing. The emotional peaks and valleys affect us all differently but over time, the impact of them must be acknowledged. The evolution of our profession has spurred a heightened recognition of the need to care for ourselves and each other so that we can continue our lifesaving work.

6. Norfolk - Your Time has Come: A recent change in leadership in Norfolk, Virginia, converged with the need for community collaboration as the pandemic set in. The results were nothing short of magnificent. If it was ever Norfolk's time to get to no-kill, it's right now.

5. Volunteers - Powering Lifesaving Everywhere: It's National Volunteer Week! We'll go dancing in North Carolina, and to Philadelphia, where one volunteer turned her passion and energy online to raise serious cash to save lives.

4. Chicago - A Story of COVID-19 Collaboration: There are communities around the country that are thriving during what is a very difficult time. What makes them so successful and what lessons can we all learn from them?

3. Front Line Life Saving during COVID-19: Animal control is always an essential service, especially during a pandemic, which means field services teams are shifting what they do and how they do it.

2. Pivot on a Dime to Make a Buck: Saving lives takes money, so fundraising is always an integral part of what makes us successful. With a recession looming, shifting your tactics to pivot on a dime is the only way you'll make the bucks you need to thrive.

1. Julie Castle: On this episode of the Best Friends Podcast, Best Friends CEO Julie Castle talks about what she believes is the future of animal care and sheltering, the critical yet forgotten power of neighbors, and why she thinks that “the best of us is showing right now.

Introduction Episode: Welcome to the Best Friends Podcast. This short trailer gives you a preview of what we have planned for future episodes.



Jon Dunn


senior specialist, communications

Jon has been involved with Best Friends since 2005 beginning as a volunteer with No More Homeless Pets in Utah. Since he started as a full-time employee in 2007, he has worked in various roles, from advocacy, social media, web, policy, innovation, and technology.

Tawny Hammond


director, national no-kill leadership advancement

Tawny leads Best Friends’ leadership advancement initiatives with a focus on strengthening existing leaders’ skillsets for the goal of ending the killing of shelter pets in their communities. She has more than 30 years of experience in the public service arena, creating and implementing programs and services for people and their pets, working effectively with appointed and elected officials, and creating and leading teams focused on professional excellence and lifesaving best practices.

Aimee Charlton


senior manager, educational programs

Aimee Charlton is the Senior Manager of Educational Programs where she connects people and resources to create meaningful learning opportunities for rescues and shelters, with the goal of empowering leadership among animal advocates across the U.S. Prior to joining Best Friends, Aimee worked at Intuit for 12 years, building online communities.

Marc Peralta


chief program officer

Marc brings together Best Friends’ newest initiatives and aligns all things related to developing the knowledge and capabilities of individuals and organizations involved in lifesaving in order to empower them to achieve no-kill in their own backyard. These initiatives include shelter outreach, mentorship, staff-embedding programs, community cat programs, no-kill leadership training, and emergency response training and operations. Before coming to Best Friends, Marc served as vice president, chief operating officer and interim CEO at Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.