Proven Strategies

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The Best Friends Podcast Episode 146

Time for a language checkup!
April 6th, 2023

Animal welfare is an ever-evolving field, and as our understanding grows, it stands to reason that the way we talk about our work should also change.

When you realize the impact words can have, this carries more importance. For example, if we describe adoption returns as failures and publicly call adopters out for doing so, how likely is it that other adopters will return to us if they have issues?

This week we sat down with two Best Friends staff members to get their take on words and terms we use in our work; the senior director of lifesaving programs for the east coast region, Makena Yarbrough, and the manager for the east coast region, John Graves.

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John Graves with dog

John Graves

strategist, east region, Best Friends Animal Society

Throughout his life, John Graves has lived and worked in the state of North Carolina, from the Appalachian mountains to the Atlantic coast.

John began his animal welfare career in Manteo as an animal services officer in 2006. John went on to become kennel manager, then executive director, and has filled every role in between, all within open-admission shelters.

John is dedicated to creative and progressive animal welfare practices with an exceptional passion for enrichment and community relations. He believes It takes a village to best serve the animals.

Makena Yarbrough Best Friends Animal Society

Makena Yarbrough

senior director, lifesaving programs Best Friends

Makena Yarbrough is the senior director of lifesaving programs for Best Friends Animal Society. She is working with coalitions and partners in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina to establish lifesaving programs and policies to help them reach no-kill by 2025. In her home state of Virginia, she is a board member for the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies and has been working toward a no-kill Virginia for many years.

Before joining Best Friends, Makena was the executive director of the Lynchburg Humane Society, the largest no-kill organization in the state of Virginia, and was recognized by Maddie's Fund as a recipient of the 2018 Maddie Hero Award. When she joined Lynchburg Humane Society in July 2009 as its first executive director, the organizations save rate was 49 percent. She quickly worked with the organizations board to develop and implement a long-range plan to take the community to no-kill. Under her leadership, the organization tripled the size of the board of directors developed a more financially equitable relationship with the city of Lynchburg began managing the regional spay/neuter clinic created a citywide effort to provide free spay/neuter for community cats and substantially increased community funding, awareness and involvement in the cause. The result was an increase in the save rate to 94 percent.

Makena began her animal welfare career in 2000 with the Richmond SPCA, first as the director of education and then as the director of operations. Before assuming her position at the Lynchburg Humane Society, Makena was the associate director for the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA.

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