No More Homeless Pets Conference connections

The Best Friends conference offers networking opportunities for people and rescue groups to collaborate to save more animals.
By Denise LeBeau

There are plenty of reasons to join us at the Best Friends National No More Homeless Pets Conference this October in Jacksonville, Florida. Sure, there will be experts from every field of animal welfare, and, of course, it will be rejuvenating, inspiring and fun - but it also may provide you and your organization with further lifesaving opportunities.

No More Homeless Pets Network partners unite

Friends of Homeless Animals dog Maggie munching on a treatAt last year's conference, there was a VIP lounge for the first time for our No More Homeless Pets Network partners. It was a place to meet and mingle, get a nosh and swap info. It was also a place where lifesaving connections were made.

Linda Gage, No More Homeless Pets Network specialist, was thrilled to be able to put faces to names of the partners she'd previously only met through correspondence. "The VIP lounge was just fantastic," says Linda. "It was so wonderful to meet the people who are working every day to save the lives of at-risk animals. Everyone was so friendly and eager to share their stories of triumphs and challenges; it was just a great place to connect."

During a VIP breakfast, Linda introduced Denise Bitz of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue (BWAR) in Asheville, North Carolina, to Emma Dawley of Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA) in Providence, Rhode Island. Their meeting would turn out to be fortuitous for dogs in need.

Lifesaving connection

Denise, founder of BWAR, has been involved in animal rescue for years. In fact, one of her first seminars on the topic was at the Best Friends How to Start an Animal Sanctuary workshop back in 2006. She's been to three No More Homeless Pets Conferences, and she plans on attending her fourth this fall. She says, "I want to gain as much knowledge as I can." What she hadn't planned on at last year's conference was meeting the person whose organization would help her move 25 dogs, many of them seniors, out of the South up North, where forever homes have been waiting in the wings.

"It's been amazing working with Emma and Friends of Homeless Animals," shares Denise. "We're saving so many more dogs. FOHA really takes the time to match the dogs with the right adopters, and they start to promote them before they even get on the road. FOHA also shares the amazing updates from their new adoptive families, which continue to inspire our volunteers."

Real friends to the animals

Of the 25 dogs FOHA has taken from BWAR, over 20 of them are now in their forever homes, with the remainder in foster homes around New England. In addition, FOHA is a receiving group for quite a few groups out of the South: Woodruff County Animal Rescue Friends and Jackson County Humane Society in Arkansas, American Boston Terrier Rescue in Texas, and Boston Terrier Rescue of the Carolinas, along with other miscellaneous shelters in Texas and Arkansas.

Dogs Reese and Hershey from Friends of Homeless Animals with their adopters"Our network of volunteers spans from Maine to Texas, and we have many individuals rescuing dogs under the auspices of FOHA," says Heidi Durand-Lenz of FOHA. "Because of our vast reach, we are a go-to group for many high-kill shelters in the South and Midwest. We have about 10 first-responder volunteers across the country who identify at-risk dogs which we are able to help. These volunteers are critical to getting the dogs on their way to their forever homes. They facilitate on-the-ground logistics for those dogs - pulls, quarantines, vetting, transport arrangements."

FOHA is able to take so many dogs, in part, because they are helping the market meet the supply and demand. While they regularly pull from local shelters and accept owner-surrendered animals, they have found that those dogs alone do not fill the need for smaller dogs in their region.

Sign up for the conference

Both groups are looking forward to joining us at the No More Homeless Pets Conference in Jacksonville. As Denise puts it, "I think the conference is an invaluable resource for anyone in animal rescue, from volunteers to staff that share the Best Friends mission, and this conference has so many opportunities to network and really grow your organization."

Emma and Heidi are equally excited: "We are looking forward to Jacksonville this year and are hoping that we can get a few more of our foster folks and volunteers to attend."

Learn more about the Best Friends National Conference.

Photos courtesy of Friends of Homeless Animals