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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. Small triumphs are huge, huge losses are expected. The burn out 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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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 put 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


Jon has been involved with Best Friends since 2004 beginning as a volunteer with No More Homeless Pets in Utah. Since he started as a fulltime employee in 2007, he has worked in various roles, from social media, web, policy work, to 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


senior director, national mission advancement

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.