Julie Castle, chief executive officer
Julie Castle was born and raised in Bountiful, Utah, a descendent of pioneers and entrepreneurs.
Following magna cum laude graduation from Southern Utah University, Julie was headed for the University of Virginia School of Law when she happened to stop by Best Friends Animal Society with some friends while on vacation. The sanctuary, the no-kill ethic and the vision of the founders had a profound effect on her and inspired her to trade away her lawyerly ambitions for a low-paying, six-and-a-half-days-per-week job as employee number 17 at Best Friends.
Julie did whatever job or chore was needed to keep the organization running, including animal care, landscaping, off-site adoptions, answering the phones, taking visitors on sanctuary tours in one of several beat-up old cars and “tabling” in front of grocery stores for donations.
As the organization grew, in 2000, Julie led No More Homeless Pets in Utah, a statewide no-kill coalition led by Best Friends that comprised 166 rescue organizations, animal control agencies and veterinarians. During her six-year tenure, Utah achieved a 50 percent reduction in shelter deaths statewide.
While at No More Homeless Pets in Utah, Julie’s innovative approach to new lifesaving programs, along with her marketing and promotional skills, helped change the way animal welfare agencies across the country approached the work of saving animals in shelters. She led the creation of many nationally recognized model programs and business partnerships, such as the Big Fix, a statewide mobile spay/neuter clinic; Furburbia, the country’s first retail-style adoption centers; Strut Your Mutt; the Feral Fix; super adoptions; and multiple advertising campaigns that created a demand for adopting shelter animals (two of which won the advertising industry’s prestigious Addy Award).
In 2007, Julie was tapped to lead Best Friends’ community programs and services division, re-envisioning a Best Friends–led network of shelters and rescue groups into a mission-oriented collaboration now known as the Best Friends Network, which boasts more than 2,200 partner organizations nationwide. Identifying the primary reasons for animals entering shelters, she established Best Friends core initiatives to address three areas of focus: pit bull terriers, community cats (otherwise known as feral cats), and puppy mills and pet stores. In so doing, she led the organizational move to narrow Best Friends’ work into these highly focused and effective channels of activity, including spearheading the development of the organization’s first legislative team. The work stemming from that decision has changed the national landscape in terms of the pet trade, pit bull legislation and community cat programming.
In 2011, Julie was asked to lead Best Friends’ marketing and communications divisions. She streamlined Best Friends’ messaging to a single call-to-action campaign, Save Them All, which has doubled Best Friends Animal Society’s brand awareness. During her tenure, Best Friends earned the Harris Poll Brand of the Year four times.
In 2014, Julie took on leadership of the organization’s fundraising efforts. Under one combined division, the communications, marketing and development teams were able to flourish, with the result that fundraising grew by 48 percent to $130 million and membership grew by 30 percent.
Over the years, Julie has championed the unique concept of multiple organizations and municipalities joining forces publicly to tackle a shared social problem — to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters. She organized the design, groundwork and coalition-building for NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles), a community-focused initiative that brought together the city of Los Angeles and more than 130 organizations to make L.A. a no-kill city. NKLA formally launched in 2012 and has led the city of Los Angeles from a save rate of 56 percent to 87 percent by the end of 2017. As part of that work, Julie initiated a successful bid to operate the city of Los Angeles’ Mission Hills shelter as the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center.
In 2015, Julie put a stake in the ground on behalf of Best Friends to take the entire country to no-kill by 2025. The NKLA initiative and the Utah coalition are serving as groundbreaking and sustainable models for Best Friends’ bold, coalition-driven campaign to make the entire country no-kill by the year 2025.
Recognized as a leader and voice of the national no-kill movement, Julie lives with her husband, Gregory, in Utah, where they run marathons and hike in southern Utah’s red rock wilderness. Julie also enjoys restoring historic homes, is an avid gardener and owns a pizza joint in Kanab, Utah.