Proven Strategies

lady holds a puppy in an animal shelter

The Best Friends Podcast Episode 135

What’s the data telling us about shelter adoptions?
November 17th, 2022

It’s been a challenging year for animal shelters and rescue organizations across the country. Lifesaving gains made during the COVID pandemic seemed to disappear for many as a new set of external factors played havoc with the animal welfare industry.

Those lifesaving gains certainly seemed to disappear, but did they? Anecdotal stories from scores of individual organizations say some version of the same thing; that intake is up, and positive outcomes are down. Many say that adopters are simply not coming into their facilities as they have in the past, and there are more requests for help with pet relinquishment than ever. But what does the data show?

This week we hear from the Senior Director of Lifesaving Programs at Best Friends, Brent Toellner. He analyzed the numbers from hundreds of organizations to put our current reality in perspective. To read Brent's editorial that has the numbers talked about in today's episode, click here. Share your experience with us! Is your intake up or down? What about your adoptions, are folks still coming in to find their next pet? Send us an email:

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Brent Toellner Best Friends Animal Society

Brent Toellner

senior director of lifesaving programs, Best Friends Animal Society

Brent Toellner is the Senior Director, Lifesaving Programs, for Best Friends Animal Society. In this role, Brent oversees the programmatic work in the central region and the Best Friends Network Partner Program. In this role, he works with the regional programs teams to create strategies to help and support shelters and Best Friends’ nearly 4000 Network Partners toward the goal of ending the killing of shelter pets by 2025.

Brent joined Best Friends in 2016 as the Regional Director of the South Central and Great Plains Regions and was responsible for connecting, consulting, and collaborating with animal shelters, advocates, spay/neuter groups, and rescues across the 11 states in the two regions.

Prior to joining Best Friends, Brent, and his wife Michelle co-founded the Kansas City Pet Project (KCPP). In July 2011, they formed KCPP to bid on the contract to run the Kansas City, Missouri, pound — a place where, for decades, more animals died than were saved. After KCPP took over in January 2012, adoptions increased by more than 200%. They helped elevate KCPP to a live release rate of more than 90% for seven consecutive years while remaining an open-admission shelter, making KC Pet Project one of the largest open-admission no kill shelters in the nation. In 2017, KCPP finished the year with a 96% Live Release Rate.

Brent has a Bachelor’s in Journalism from the University of Missouri and a Masters in Marketing Communication from the University of Kansas. Brent lives in Kansas City with his wife Michelle and share their home with both dogs and cats. His outside interests include hiking, bicycling, and photography.

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