Countdown to the Big Event!
The first-ever virtual national BF Conference promises something for everyone
The Best Friends National Conference is right around the corner—June 23 and 24—and I think I speak for all of us when I say how excited I am to “see” everyone again! We may not be able to chill together in the hotel bar after the sessions are done for the day, but this first-ever virtual event promises to deliver the kind of high-quality, insightful content and engaging speakers that attendees have come to expect from us. In fact, you may have noticed the sheer amount of content being offered this year—there are currently nearly 100 sessions and over 150 speakers. That’s a lot, but before you worry about picking the sessions you want to attend, we’ve made all of the recordings available on-demand through July 30 for all conference attendees!
As we planned out this year’s event, we knew that there are many voices out there with something to share yet who never get the chance to speak to a large group. So we blended some of our splashy, big-name speakers (looking at you, Jackson Galaxy!) with individuals from all levels of organizations and people outside of animal welfare altogether. Though 25% of the speakers are from Best Friends, a vast majority aren’t from national organizations at all. Finally, to reflect our mission to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion in our work, about 25% of the sessions are presented or co-presented by speakers who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color).
The conference sessions include many of our most popular topics—transport, community cat programs, fundraising, working with challenging dogs, using social media—but we’ve also included a variety of topics that haven’t been touched on before. A few that I’m excited about:
- Peer-to-Peer Mentoring: 20% to 90% in Louisiana (Adam Lamb, David Owens, Linda Torelli). With roughly half the shelters in the country at no-kill, we’ve often thought that if each one could mentor one other shelter, we would reach our 2025 goal. This year, we were able to provide funding to create just such a relationship between the Brandywine Valley SPCA, located in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and Tangipahoa Parish Animal Services, in Hammond, Louisiana. The partnership has had mutual benefits; not only has Tangipahoa improved its lifesaving substantially, but the team at Brandywine is getting first-hand knowledge about what shelters in other areas of the country are facing.
- Socializing with Challenging Canines: Why Behavior Modification Isn’t the Answer (Lexi Cone). Even though more than two cats are dying for every dog in our shelters, organizations are still really struggling with handling dogs who are not easily adoptable. Lexi takes an interesting approach to this topic by suggesting we not turn shelters into behavior schools, since the behavior we are often focusing on is relevant only to living in a kennel and not in a home.
- Innovation in Lost Pet Services: The Story of Evolution in El Paso, Texas (Sheila Kouhkan, Adan Parra, Michele Anderson). The City of El Paso Animal Services took steps to reunite more lost pets with their owners by partnering with PetHealth to rethink how animals do find their way back home. Not only did they increase returns, but their new approach enhanced the shelter’s ability to work with the community in other ways as well.
- Navigating Change: Creating a New Workplace Culture to Save More Lives (Michelle Dosson, Annette Ramirez). Our society is changing so rapidly that businesses—and animal sheltering IS a business—must keep their fingers on the pulse and evolve along with the rest of the community. Michelle and Annette both work in tough environments in different parts of the country and have really helped bring people along with those changes while not getting overwhelmed. And they have reached close to no-kill while doing so.
- Balancing Equity and Enforcement in Animal Welfare (Jace Huggins). Jace has a unique take on how shelters can connect with their communities by understanding the variety of belief systems that exist there. Only by looking at “both ends of the leash” can we know how to best help the people and pets that live in the areas we serve.
Just because we don’t have a brick-and-mortar location for the conference doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten one of the most popular aspects of the event: the exhibit hall!! Nearly 40 exhibitors will be available for live chats on June 23 from 10 a.m. to noon MT and on June 24 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. MT, but you can schedule meetings with them outside of those hours as well.
Finally, since the conference is as much about recharging and connecting as it is about learning, we have built-in ways to support video chats with sponsors, speakers, and other attendees, and incorporated live chatting and Q&A opportunities during presentations.
The year 2025 will be here before we know it, and we have miles to go before we can consider ourselves victorious. We hope you will find time to attend the conference sessions so you can learn how to save more lives in your day-to-day work, and of course because this year’s event will once again be an opportunity to reignite the spark that keeps us all committed to doing the tough work of animal welfare.
Chief Program Officer
Best Friends Animal Society