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Partisan politics aside, a presidential candidate adding animal welfare plan to campaign is a big deal ... and big progress

Best Friends Animal Society never favors one political party over another. After all, we’re a charity, not a political organization, and even the IRS would frown on it if we took sides! But one thing we can and do stand for in the political arena is kindness to animals. 

Julián Castro’s presidential campaign with animal welfare component 

And yesterday was a great day for the animals, politically. It was also a great day for our no-kill 2025 campaign, our No More Homeless Pets mission and that of other animal advocates, because a major candidate in the 2020 presidential race has publicly declared animal welfare as a national priority. 

When Julián Castro’s campaign announced a comprehensive animal welfare plan this week as part of his presidential campaign, it marked the first time in history that a presidential candidate elevated our cause to end animal shelter killing as a priority platform. The fact that a presidential candidate — as a matter of personal compassion or as a political calculation — has identified animal welfare as a campaign issue is huge. And given that 68% of U.S. households have one or more pets, it’s also good politics and about time that policymakers got the point that most people regard pets as part of the family. 

Support for breed neutrality, TNR, puppy mill policies and more

Portions of the plan echo the no-kill 2025 playbook with support for trap-neuter-return (TNR), breed-neutral policies in federal housing, community level grants to support pet health and puppy mill-related policies. In addition to policies related to homeless pets, the plan includes a measure to address animal cruelty, abuses related to factory farming, private ownership of big cats and animal testing.    

Americans’ love of animals and pets

It’s time that members of both parties at all levels of electoral politics wake up to the fact that we are a nation of animal lovers. According to the market research report, “U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2018-2019,” the pet care sector of the economy has topped $86 billion and is still climbing. Such an enormous level of financial investment is a logical follow-on from our enormous emotional investment in the relationship to our animal companions. This is also reflected in overwhelming support for no-kill policies and practices. This is not news. In 2012, an AP-Petside.com poll revealed that seven of 10 pet owners believed that shelters should not be allowed to euthanize homeless pets unless they are too sick to be treated or too aggressive to be adopted.

Castro may have had a leg up on his competition because as mayor of San Antonio in 2012, he oversaw an overhaul of San Antonio Animal Care Services (SAACS), with the aim of making the city a no-kill community. As part of that effort, Best Friends, in partnership with PetSmart Charities, inaugurated our first community cat embed program in collaboration with SAACS. I’d like to think that the demonstrable benefits of that work had a trickle up effect that contributed to raising no-kill policies to the level of a presidential campaign. After all, over the course of our engagement in San Antonio, the save rate for community cats increased from 29.6% to 77%.  

Backing for no-kill at the federal and community level

Every candidate has an opportunity to get on the right side of history with this issue and demonstrate to our country of animal lovers that this bipartisan cause is important. It's about time that this values issue has been elevated to the national stage. And it’s also time for everyone — regardless of who you support — to ask your favorite candidate to make it a priority to do what’s possible at the federal level to support no-kill efforts at the community level.

Together, we will Save Them All.

Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society Julie Castle
CEO
Best Friends Animal Society