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The Best Friends Podcast Episode 51

Serving the Underserved in Rural America
February 11th, 2021

The United States Census Bureau classifies 3% of the land in the country as urban, and they say that 80% of the total population lives in that area, which means tens of millions of pet owners spread out across a vast, rural area of the country.

Rural America is as diverse as it is big. It's multicultural. The people and communities span the socioeconomic spectrum, and just as we see in urban communities, there is a lack of services for pet owners. Helping underserved rural communities can be a big challenge, whether it's due to a complete lack of services available or simply logistical issues. How can we create practical programs to connect pet owners with veterinary services if the closest veterinarian is 20, 50, or even 100 miles away?

On this episode of The Best Friends Podcast, we take our first look at this issue of underserved communities in rural America. What is the data telling us? And we learn how the Oklahoma Humane Society is ignoring city limits, listening, and using partnerships to increase lifesaving statewide.

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This week's guests
Brent Toellner

Brent Toellner

senior director of national programs, Best Friends Animal Society

Brent Toellner joined Best Friends in November of 2016. As the Senior Director of National 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 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 municipal shelter in Kansas City, Missouri. Since KCPP took over in January 2012, adoptions have increased by more than 200 percent. KCPP has had a live release rate of more than 90 percent for five consecutive years while remaining an open-admissions shelter.

Dana McCrory Oklahoma Humane Society

Dana McCrory

president and CEO, Oklahoma Humane Society

In April 2017, Dana McCrory took over as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. As the leader of one of Oklahoma’s largest non-profit animal welfare organization. Dana is dedicated to increasing the reach and effectiveness of the programs of OK Humane and leading the organization into the next decade. In 2019, the Central Oklahoma Humane Society initiated a statewide program and is now the Oklahoma Humane Society.

Prior to joining Oklahoma Humane, Dana spent a little over a year with the Integris Medical Foundation where she provided senior leadership and management for philanthropic programs, specifically working on the campaign to build Arcadia Trails, an addiction recovery facility. Dana also served as the Executive Director for the Oklahoma Zoological Society where she led the Society from 2008-2016. Her leadership initiated and completed the Society’s first capital campaign in 13 years, resulting in the 9.5 million dollar state-of-the-art Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital. The Zoo’s membership program increased by over 60% and during her tenure, the Oklahoma Zoological Society experienced unprecedented growth. Conservation initiatives stretched across the globe and the largest gifts in the Zoo’s history were secured. Her previous experience also includes 10 years with the Oklahoma State University Foundation where she served as Vice President for Development, leading fundraising for Student Affairs and assisting the OSU Alumni Association to raise 18-million dollars for a new Alumni Center.

Dana is a Class 28 graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City and now serves as a board member for Leadership Oklahoma City. She is a 2019 Honorary Commander for Tinker Air Force and she resides in Oklahoma City with her husband Dr. Mac McCrory, and their menagerie of rescue animals.

Rhonda Norris - PAAS Vinita

Rhonda Norris

director, PAAS Vinita

Rhonda Norris has had a deep passion for animals her entire life, from rescuing wildlife, stray animals, and even exotics.

She became a Registered Veterinary Technician and worked in private practice for over ten years before joining the PAAS Vinita team in 2015. She's helped grow the relocation program, which so far has placed over 7,000 homeless dogs in Colorado. Through the Pets For Life program, she's helped over 3,000 pets and their families in the local communities and has been instrumental in growing the low-cost clinic capacity, which has provided over 3,000 spay/neuters and vaccinations.

She's originally from Oklahoma, growing up in the small town of Harrah, just east of Oklahoma City. Her passions are her two dogs Trigger and Scout, fishing, kayaking, and riding her Harley Davidson.