Proven Strategies

two puppies in an animal shelter

The Best Friends Podcast Episode 114

The 2021 Lifesaving Dataset
June 9th, 2022

When saving shelter pets' lives, you can't know what's working or not if you're not tracking your efforts. So in 2016, Best Friends began an ambitious project to create the most comprehensive and accurate dataset tracking the lifesaving efforts happening in shelters across America.

Since we began collecting the data in 2016, the number of animals unnecessarily losing their lives in shelters has steadily decreased. But there were many questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected our lifesaving work. Would the number of pets entering shelters rise as the world tries to return to normal? How would the staffing crisis and the challenging economic period in 2021 impact our ability to save lives?

This week we welcome the senior director of lifesaving programs for Best Friends, Brent Toellner, back to talk through the headlines from the 2021 dataset.

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Brent Toellner Best Friends Animal Society

Brent Toellner

senior director of lifesaving programs, Best Friends Animal Society

Brent Toellner joined Best Friends in November of 2016. As the senior director of lifesaving programs, he oversees Best Friends’ regional work and helps the organization prioritize national initiatives in working with local partners to facilitate lifesaving programs that have a maximum impact toward achieving no-kill nationwide by 2025.

In 2011, Brent, his wife Michelle, and a few others co-founded the Kansas City Pet Project (KCPP) to bid on the contract to run the Kansas City pound, a place where, for decades, more animals died than were saved. They won the contract, and since KCPP took over in 2012, the shelter has had a live release rate of more than 90 percent while remaining an open-admission shelter, making it one of the largest open-admission no-kill shelters in the nation.

Brent still serves on KCPP’s board of directors and writes the “KC Dog Blog” (, in which he shares information about the fight against breed-specific legislation and no-kill practices. Before forming KCPP, Brent volunteered in animal rescue and then advocacy as the legislative chair for KC Dog Advocates.

Brent lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with his wife, and they share their home with both dogs and cats.