1,800 animal lovers descend on Dallas with one goal in mind: No-kill 2025

By Francis Battista

More than 1,800 animal lovers of every stripe — rescue, animal control, animal welfare professionals and individuals — gathered at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas, for three days of intensive training, intensive networking and intensive celebration.

Phew! Sound exhausting? It would be if the whole concoction wasn’t so intensely inspiring!

The big news and noise from the 2019 Best Friends National Conference was the reveal of the community lifesaving dashboard, profiled in Julie Castle’s blog post on July 25. The dashboard’s rather bland name, like a superhero’s alter ego, underplays the superpower of this remarkable innovation.

In unveiling the dashboard to the packed conference hall in Dallas, Julie referenced her declaration of Best Friends’ commitment to leading the country to no-kill by 2025 at the 2016 national conference, where she invoked President Kennedy’s 1962 moon shot speech at Rice University in Houston and JFK’s bold statement that we would need “new metal alloys not yet invented.” Julie likened the dashboard to one of those alloys because in 2016 she knew that we would need breakthrough innovations to reach our 2025 goal. 

While the term “game changer” is way overused, it aptly describes the community lifesaving dashboard. Julie handed off to Holly Sizemore, our chief mission officer, and she took the assembled company for a spin through the basics of the dashboard. Please check it out at bestfriends.org/2025 and give us your feedback.

In a tiny nutshell, the dashboard will give anyone anywhere the latest raw shelter data, noses in and noses out, for any brick-and-mortar animal sheltering operation in the country. It will also let you know if a given shelter has not shared their data and provides a place where each shelter can communicate more info to the public about what they do and how the public can help.

Bookending the conference, Julie inspired the crowd on Saturday with the example of Shannon Wells, Kansas City Pet Project’s operations manager, and her 2012 reaction to receiving two parvo puppies. Although they were working out of a 45-year-old building originally designed for not much more than holding animals to be claimed by owners or killed when their mandatory hold expired, Shannon declared, “Not today, you are not going to die today.” And she set up a makeshift parvo ward in a hastily cleared janitor’s closet. She has gone on to save more than 500 parvo pups since then.

Appropriately enough, the conference was just a week removed from the highly publicized 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” moon landing on July 20, 1969. Julie dipped into the Apollo program well once again to further illuminate that kind of indomitable spirit. This time, she drew upon the scrappy, seat-of-the-pants resolve of the historic “Houston, we have a problem” scenario that saved the lives of three astronauts all but stranded 205,000 miles from earth when the oxygen fuel cells in their life support service module exploded. Ground control came up with the ultimate MacGyver, using only items on the Apollo 13 spacecraft (duct tape, a piece of cardboard, two socks, two plastic bags and a hose from one of their space suits) to whip up an adapter that extended their breathable air supply and saved their lives.

Like shelter workers, rescue groups and individuals who scrap, fight and come up with makeshift solutions every day to save the lives of pets in shelters, just as Arya Stark, from Game of Thrones, said when asked what you tell the Night King: “Not today.” 

That “not today” spirit is what will get us across the 2025 goal line, and empowering the animal-loving public to be able to say “not today” and to help save more lives is the secret sauce of the community lifesaving dashboard.

However, the remarks that stirred the crowd the most came earlier in her address, when Julie asked the gathering to make a promise that they would be good to themselves and each other. She said, “This is a really tough movement. Be good to each other. Drop the hate.” The hall erupted in applause. We can only do right by the animals by doing right by each other.

A clip from the closing session can be seen below and recordings of all breakout sessions can be acquired here.

Next year’s conference will be held in Orlando, Florida, and if you have never been to a Best Friends National Conference, you owe it to yourself to attend.

Together, we will Save Them All.

Photo courtesy of Abandoned Pet Project

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society