160,000 animals saved during 2014: Best Friends' 30th anniversary year

The arrival of Bela at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary over the weekend was an appropriate close to 2014, the 30th anniversary of the founding of Best Friends. Bela, of course, is the handsome German shepherd dog from Indiana who was the subject of a will that called for Bela, upon the death of his person, to either come to Best Friends or be put down, cremated and buried with his lifelong companion. You can read more about Bela’s story here. Now that Bela is with us, our priority is to observe the provisions of Bela’s late owner’s will.

Bela is the most recent and one of the more highly publicized of the tens of thousands of animals who have found a new life at Best Friends. In fact, on any given day there are more than 1,700 dogs, cats, bunnies, birds and horses here at the Sanctuary, which is the heart and headquarters of an organization that has an international reach and a national mission to end the killing of pets in shelters. We are engaged in public-private partnerships in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Baltimore and Atlanta, and we sponsor no-kill coalitions and a nationwide network of more than 1,000 partner organizations, each committed to the no-kill movement.

It’s been an incredible year. Below are just a few of the highlights of our impact across the nation. Some of these stats only go through October as the final results are still coming in, so expect even better numbers once the final tally has been done.


  • More than 165,000 pets were directly helped across the organization.

  • There were about 41,000 adoptions across all of our programs.

  • Around 106,000 animals were fixed through our many spay/neuter programs across the country. If we include trap/neuter/return (TNR) surgeries, this number is more than 123,000.

  • In Los Angeles, our programs are showing incredible results. There’s been an overall 46.8 percent reduction in shelter killing since the NKLA initiative was launched (down more than 17 percent since last year).

  • The NKLA Coalition found homes for more than 24,000 animals.

  • Utah is seeing similar results. There has been a 70 percent reduction in shelter killing and 26 communities are now no-kill in Utah since our work began in the year 2000.

  • Seventeen cities, four counties and three states were victorious over breed-discriminatory legislation, which means a safer future for more than 239,000 pit-bull-terrier-like dogs.

  • Twenty-seven new communities enacted bans that prohibit the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. That brings the total to 72 communities in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Nearly $700,000 was distributed in grants to No More Homeless Pets Network partner organizations.

  • Our nationwide dog walk and fundraising event — Strut Your Mutt — raised $2.2 million, with $1.6 million of that distributed directly to approximately 250 participating partner organizations.

  • The No More Homeless Pets Network partner groups total more than 1,100, and the Network in total helped more than 88,000 animals.

  • We took in more than 1,100 animals at the Sanctuary, and nearly 1,000 have been adopted.

  • More than 25,700 people visited the Sanctuary, with more than 7,900 people volunteering their time.


As 2014 draws to a close, I can’t help but look back with some degree of wonder on the intervening decades between the early days of Best Friends and the Best Friends of today. After all, the history of this organization is an improbable story of success and accomplishment for the animals, one that few people would have imagined possible when we began shoveling sand in the high desert of southern Utah in 1984. Raw land, no power, no phones, no water, no roads and very, very little money. In fact, the money ran out a few years into the pursuit of our vision.

And that’s when the most amazing thing of all happened. We discovered that we were not alone in our dream of saving the lives of homeless pets and ending the killing of animals in shelters. That revelation occurred when a letter arrived in the mail with a small donation and an accompanying note that read something like this:



Dear Best Friends,
I thought I was the only one who felt as I do about the animals, but now I know that I am not alone. Thank you. I hope this small donation will help

Remember, this was before the Web and email and long before social networking. Most animal lovers around the country had never heard of a no-kill sanctuary, let alone a no-kill movement that was in its infancy. Most animal lovers had no basis for arguing with the animal welfare professionals of the day, who assured them that killing pets in shelters was the lesser of many evils that might befall a homeless pet. That is, until someone handed those animal lovers a Best Friends brochure or magazine, at which point a light of hope entered their lives. I don’t want to make too much of this, but we have received thousands of versions of that letter over the years, and we continue to do so.

Here at Best Friends, we understand that as a charitable organization we are accountable to the public to faithfully pursue our mission of bringing about a time when there are No More Homeless Pets. More pressing for us is our accountability to the 9,000 pets who die every day in our nation’s shelters.

However, of greatest importance to me is our accountability to that person who wrote that first letter, and to people who, through the years, have invested their hope in Best Friends Animal Society for a better world for homeless pets and an end to shelter killing. That trust is of the greatest importance to me because without those people who share our dream — without you — that dream would long ago have disappeared into the desert from which it sprang.

As this year of milestones, memories and landmark achievements gives way to 2015, and with Bela safely settled and making new friends here at the Sanctuary, I want to thank each of you who have supported Best Friends’ lifesaving mission over the years. Everyone here at Best Friends knows how passionate you are about our no-kill mission because we share that passion. The most important thing that we learned from that first letter and donation was that we were not alone in our dream, and that together, someday, we could Save Them All.

As a movement, we are in the homestretch of bringing an end to shelter killing because the animal-loving public knows now that there is a better way. I invite you to join us in our mission to make this a no-kill country by donating to Best Friends right now. Because today, I can say with confidence that, together, we will Save Them All.

Wishing you all good things in the new year.