Who We Are

Purpose of the Best Friends Network

Our Purpose

The Best Friends Network is comprised of thousands of public and private shelters, rescue groups, spay/neuter organizations and other animal welfare organizations in all 50 states. We are a coalition committed to saving the lives of homeless cats and dogs through collaboration, information-sharing and implementation of proven lifesaving strategies. Our partners support each other and inspire their own communities to increase lifesaving of dogs and cats across the country.  

We are here to help with free programs to directly support your work 


Shelter engagement and program support 

Two kittens sitting in metal kennelBest Friends provides direct program support to your organization by analyzing your data, reviewing your operational procedures and working alongside your staff. Together, we design programs to best serve your community’s specific needs and support you both on-site and virtually as you implement those programs. 

Best Friends Animal Society provides proven lifesaving support and training for animal services agencies through the national shelter support program. We help create and sustain successful animal welfare operations for all types and sizes of communities throughout the country. The national shelter support team offers several opportunities for agencies looking to improve their animal control and shelter operations, create an ideal balance between public safety and animal protection, and improve their agency's reputation through community programs.

The National Shelter Support team offers services such as:  

  • Assessments: Best Friends works with organizations to provide onsite and/or remote professional assessments of shelter operations, emergency readiness, community programs and field operations. Assessments are designed to identify specific areas of need and help guide the implementation of proven strategies in animal welfare. Ongoing support is provided during and after implementation to ensure new programs and practices are sustainable and successful. The assessments Best Friends provides are free, comprehensive and include evaluation of areas such as organizational culture, internal communications, dispatch and field services, customer service, shelter policies, staff structure, population management, and animal care and behavior.  
  • Manuals, Operational Playbooks, Plan Templates and E Learning Modules: Best Friends recognizes that the world of animal sheltering is a fast-moving, ever-changing environment with new lifesaving programs popping up all the time. Some of the most tried and true programs have proven to be critical in today’s daily operations, yet some agencies struggle with implementing them or even knowing where to start! What you will find here are basic starting points on what you will need to get these programs up and running and some resources to take you to the next level.  
  • In-house training program development: Our national shelter support team provides guidance and resources for creating your own in-house field and shelter operations, along with training programs from the ground up. This includes learning how to write vision statements and standard operating procedures reflecting nationally proven strategies, creating job descriptions and hiring practices to ensure new team members successfully embody organizational mission and beliefs, and establishing an effective training program to set up new staff for success.    
  • One-on-one coaching and mentorship: Best Friends expert team members, utilizing various telecommunications platforms, will work individually with agency leadership and/or staff to review proven strategies in field and shelter operations, address questions and concerns, and successfully implement those strategies for their services areas.  
  • Professional development workshops and seminars (in-person and/or remote): Best Friends offers a complete list of course offerings related to animal services.   
  • Team culture and communications guidance: Setting animal services teams up for success includes establishing best practices and protocols for managing team members with a variety of experiences and beliefs. We provide guidance on everyday communications to create team cohesion and buy-in like how to conduct effective staff meetings, what to include on meeting agendas, and how to host daily roll call.   
  • Panel webinars: Live-recorded panel-style webinars feature Best Friends trained staff and network partners who have successfully launched animal sheltering programs. Panelists share how they started their programs, marketed a new program, successes and challenges, and tips for launching programs in your community.  
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The national shelter embed program has roots dating back to 2011, when Best Friends piloted Community Cat Projects in partnership with PetSmart Charities®, which placed staff members in shelters to lead a game-changing program to dramatically increase cat save rates. Today, Best Friends is partnered with Maddie’s Fund®, and thanks to that partnership the national shelter embed program continues to place Best Friends staff members in agencies across the country. These staff members work side by side with agency staff to help them implement proven strategies to take their community to no-kill.   

Working directly with you, we learn about your current programs and goals, and then customize our support to match your needs. Support involves one of our dynamic team members working with you for an extended period to coach you through transformational change to achieve your goals, and almost always involves direct funding. This unique combination of support has proven to expedite progress. Embeds are sometimes done remotely or as a combination of in person and remote support, all depending on what’s the best fit for your specific needs. Agencies with the largest gap to reach the 90% benchmark may qualify to have leadership level staff embedded at their agency to lead and sustain systemic change. Backed by a diverse array of subject-matter experts, embedded leadership helps partner organizations accomplish lifesaving outcomes that normally would take years in just a matter of months.  

Agencies who have not yet achieved the benchmark 90% save rate and are interested in customized support to close their lifesaving gap should reach out to their regional team to discuss opportunities. 

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Training and continued education 

We offer training with industry experts designed to provide tactical ways to implement new programs and proven strategies. We also provide free educational resources including playbooks, online courses, editorials, vlogs, podcasts and more, covering a variety of program areas. 

Orange and white cat sitting in front of black laptopConnect with the Learning Advancement team to explore various academic learning opportunities through Best Friends Animal Society and our partnership with Southern Utah University. This partnership connects industry and academia to offer advanced learning opportunities for practitioners and students in the field of contemporary animal services.  We have opportunities for all levels whether you are interested in pursuing academic credits or not. Now’s the time to learn more about our offerings and to find a pathway no matter where you are on your journey.    

With any additional questions or to learn how to win a scholarship that covers tuition for the Principles of Contemporary Animal Services online course, please reach out to: edu@bestfriends.org

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Network to connect with your peers 

The Best Friends Network brings together more than 3,600 shelters, rescue groups and support organizations. Learn directly from each other in protected spaces such as our private network partner Facebook group. Create new partnerships using our transport connection map and our spay/neuter provider map

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The shelter collaborative program matches shelters that are leaders in animal welfare with shelters that are working to achieve a 90% save rate. Best Friends helps to facilitate these matches, works with mentors to create a contract that includes clear grant parameters, provides mentors with seed grants, and offers ongoing training and coaching to mentors. We don’t dictate what the mentor-fellow relationships should look like because we want to allow mentors to do what they do well without restricting them to what we think they should do.   

To get more information about joining the shelter collaborative program, contact sheltercollaborative@bestfriends.org 

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Grant making and fundraising opportunities 

Best Friends offers millions of dollars in program grants annually, including our Rachael Ray Save Them All Grants. We also support you after the grants are provided by troubleshooting project issues, helping with project management and more. Additionally, we offer various free fundraising resources and training opportunities online. 

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Leading industry experts 

Our staff members come from a variety of different professional backgrounds including municipal shelters, private shelters, rescue groups, spay/neuter organizations and other support organizations. We understand firsthand the challenges you face, and we are here to help you.  

Senior black dog sitting in front of chalkboard with formulas on itThe Regional Program Team works to establish relationships, look for opportunities and find common ground for lifesaving with agencies throughout our regions. Our primary goal is to create pathways, reduce obstacles and to introduce, implement and support lifesaving ideas and strategies to help organizations save more lives. The regional team utilizes many strategies to drive lifesaving, including multi-agency collaboration, peer to peer connection, strategic grant funding, disaster assistance and training opportunities to connect with agencies and help create opportunities for life saving programs. If you need help or assistance, reach out to your regional representative to learn more about the programs and resources we can provide. 

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