Proven Strategies

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Activating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Animal Welfare

This series of town halls was a two-part discussion on Best Friend Animal Society's approach to DE&I work and provided actionable next steps for organizations. 

Best Friends is committed to continuing the important conversations on how to acknowledge and dismantle the deep-rooted systems in place in animal welfare that prevent our movement from being truly and deeply diverse, equitable or inclusive. We are further committed to sharing what we learn with others, so we can create a kinder world for animals and the people who care for and love them. 

Part 1

Part 2



Part 1

Part 1 was moderated by José Ocaño, senior director of people and culture for Best Friends, and featured:

  • Julie Castle, chief executive officer for Best Friends
  • Best Friends Culture Council Co-Chairs

  • Advancing the Movement- 12:50 
  • Education and Accountability- 26:28 
  • Inclusive External Communications- 38:40 
  • As an animal welfare organization, how do you balance taking a bold stand publicly on social justice issues and retaining donors?- 46:43 
  • What process did you use to select your 60 council members from the 200 applicants?- 50:45 
  • How often do your council members meet? Do findings get shared organization-wide? Are they shared with volunteers? Do you include volunteers on your councils or only staff/board?- 55:49

Part 2

Part 2 was moderated by José Ocaño, senior director of people and culture for Best Friends, and featured:

  • James Evans, president for CARE
  • Best Friends Culture Council Co-Chairs

  • James Evans Introduction - 1:40
  • People Experience Council- 15:00​ 
    • Dawn Binion-Stewart, human resources generalist- 15:34​ 
    • Mike Bricker, animal services director- 16:50​  
  • DEI Data Council- 29:00​ 
    • Karl Ruetz, senior application architect- 29:11​ 
  • Living Our Values Council- 43:00​ 
    • Jane Jetabut, corporate engagement specialist- 43:30​   
  • What are some examples of current action items put forth by the culture councils?- 51:27​ 
  • What is next for CARE?- 55:49​   


Here are some additional questions that were submitted by town hall attendees that we did not get to during our live event. 

We would love to hear from you! What questions do you have about diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Submit your question

How do you feel regarding dog training certifications, the high fees required to take the "good" certifications, and the fact that force-free, positive reinforcement training techniques seem to be years of research backing up what indigenous peoples already knew in terms of using food to domesticate animals? Don't you think the high fees, lack of resources, and standards for a modern day "responsible" trainer, is a major barrier for BIPOC peoples who are already facing the majority of social economic barriers?

In short, yes. There are plenty of barriers that prevent all people from marginalized communities from receiving the support they need to keep or adopt animals. We can make a change when we start to recognize those barriers and start talking about ways to help out our individual communities.

Additionally, with most major leading orgs having white or white passing leaders, how do we hold the leaders accountable? How does the organization feel regarding the phrase "No White Saviors"?

​We have to start where we are and with the leaders we have. Accountability happens when leaders are authentic in their commitment to DEI by being transparent and involving and engaging everyone in the organization, from the most junior position to the Board Chair, as part of this work. DEI has the best chance of being part of our work culture when everyone is accountable, and if everyone is engaged and accountable, the CEO's will be, too.

Is there any recommended language, or framing (in terms of how info is presented) you recommend for job postings?

We are still learning! We hope to gather more of this information in our work with CARE (Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity) conversations with HR, and conversations being led by our "People Experience" council. One of the places we have started is by diversifying the forums where we post job openings, so as not to "hit" the same groups repeatedly, and not just posting open jobs online. Another area we want to address is the language we use in our job postings to see if we can look at areas where we might be creating barriers, so for example taking unnecessary required experience out to open the job applicant pool up to those willing to learn on the job.

Completely see the value of leveraging your extensive volunteer base to support you on this journey.  As you work diligently to embed DEI into the culture of BF, how will this strategy/knowledge extend to volunteers?

Volunteers are magical in many ways as we all know. We want to be as transparent as possible with not only our staff but our volunteers about things we are working on as an organization regarding DE&I. We hope to hold town halls with volunteers as well as brainstorming sessions as a give and take of information.  Our "People Experience" council in conjunction with our other councils will be working to initiate these conversations. This is just the jumping-off point, it's important that we remember for all things DE&I this is NOT a sprint. We are in this for the long haul, and we need to take our time to make sure we communicate effectively to not only our staff but our volunteers.

Do you have a list/descriptions of your 6 Best Friends Culture Councils?

Of course!

  • Advancing the Movement - DE&I Education tool kits, podcasts, workshops, etc to share with shelter partners across the movement
  • DE&I Data - Establish a standard, audit data availability, explore sources for data collection, advise on best practices, integration with other councils for data-related support
  • DE&I Education and Accountability - Establishing DEI expectations, available and required training. Emphasis on kindness, inclusion and giving a voice to staff, and keeping the organization informed of the DE&I efforts 
  • Inclusive External Communications - Making Best Friends' positions clear with donors and in the marketplace, reaching diverse markets and ensuring external communications represent diverse markets, ensuring engagement inclusive of diverse markets
  • Living our Values (LOV) - Advancing culture commitments (Be kind, be generous, stay positive, do the right thing, act with transparency, and have fun) throughout the organization. Integration with other councils for culture-related support
  • People Experience - Attracting and developing more diverse staff and volunteers at all levels; opportunities for advancement and proactive retention efforts, particularly among front line staff. 





If you enjoyed this town hall, you can find our complete catalog of town halls here