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Kitten podcasts, animal control officer vlogs and pet policy town halls, oh my!

One year ago this week, hundreds of animal services professionals, shelter and rescue group volunteers, and animal advocates gathered in Dallas, Texas, for the Best Friends National Conference. This year, that event was canceled, courtesy of the pandemic. While there’s no replacing the energy and experiences unique to in-person events like our conference (or all the cheeky spay/neuter-themed T-shirts that go with it), it’s been inspiring to see how quickly the animal sheltering field pivoted to continue offering support and learning opportunities for its lifesaving members.

People flocked to Facebook groups that provided advice and networking for animal services staff around the country. Multiple organizations rolled out weekly COVID-19 operations calls and email digests to connect people with the latest news in pandemic-era animal welfare. Companies and nonprofits joined forces to funnel critical resources to those who needed them. Among the number of adjustments implemented at Best Friends to allow us to continue to support our shelter and rescue partners is a rich and growing collection of resources for every kind of animal sheltering enthusiast imaginable.

We know that, just like our beloved fuzzy and feathered companions, people are individuals and enjoy learning and consuming information in different ways. We also know that both within Best Friends and throughout the country, we are lucky to have some of the most innovative thinkers and expert problem-solvers around. Having access to expert thinking on critical issues in a specific field or subject matter is vital for effective learning. And getting that access for free when it involves subject matter that can help save lives is huge.

Below are a few ways that Best Friends has been working to make expert thinking and practice in the field of animal services available to others during the pandemic.

The Best Friends Podcast

Finally, a podcast equally suited for listening to while out walking your dog or while you’re in the car on your way to help trap some cats for a community trap-neuter-return (TNR) day. If you want to hear stories full of joy, heartbreak and life-changing experience from animal welfare professionals, this is the podcast for you. Get the scoop on what the no-kill 2025 goal is all about, listen to “Kitten Lady” Hannah Shaw talk all things kitten, and be inspired by the impact of shelter and rescue group volunteers.

Best Friends Town Halls

If you’re looking for the most practical, nuanced and engaging expertise that can be packed into a 75-minute Zoom call, the virtual town halls we started hosting in March are where it’s at. These unique discussions bring together the most experienced no-kill leaders and practitioners from every corner of the nation for honest conversations about our field’s most pressing issues. If you’ve ever wanted to sit down and chat face-to-face with the people who are helping to redefine animal sheltering in this country, here’s your chance.

For example, “Leveling the playing field” tackles the critical topic of removing barriers for under-represented communities and their pets. It features Akisha Townsend Eaton, Best Friends legislative attorney, and Larry Gross, president of the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services. “Making the case for a new tomorrow” highlights major changes implemented by shelter directors in Memphis, Tennessee, and Tampa, Florida, and their refusal to return to the status quo. And “The collective impact of community-centered lifesaving” brilliantly illustrates how community-based, collaborative lifesaving is changing the lives of dogs and cats in places like Dallas, Texas.

Saving America’s Pets Vlog

For those of you who want something short, sweet and video-based, our weekly vlogs are a great option for staying up to date on lifesaving during the pandemic. Hosted by Best Friends chief mission officer Holly Sizemore, this series covers a huge range of stories and topics relevant to Best Friends’ work and the no-kill movement. Among the must-watch episodes that I recommend are this conversation about the community-based work of animal control officers with Scott Giacoppo, president of the National Animal Care & Control Association; an essential conversation about diversity in animal welfare with Best Friends team members Leah Long and Kirstie James; and a chat with Brent Toellner about the incredible efforts to empty kennels in animal shelters nationwide during the early days of the pandemic.

Connecting animal welfare professionals and advocates with expert tools and information to help pets and people in their communities during COVID-19 will be our obsession for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also enjoy the obligatory animal-inspired mental health break. Puppy cam, anyone?

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