Animal welfare: Doing what we do best

By Julie Castle

It’s times like these when I am grateful to be working in a field like animal welfare. A field in which everyone’s gut response to a major crisis is to work together to get things done — for the animals, for people and for the greater good. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.

We have all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way and we will continue to be affected for a very long time. We are all concerned about our families (human and non-human alike), friends, neighbors, colleagues, and even people we haven’t met but who we know are out there trying to navigate this altered reality, just like us.

The information that we know to be true as I’m typing right now might not be true by the time you actually read this post. That’s how uncertain things are and how fast things are moving.

But here’s what I do know: Our commitment to our fellow humans is as strong as our commitment to the animals, and this commitment is what’s driving real-time decisions and creative solutions across the country in an effort to keep both people and pets safe.

Making tough decisions to save people and pets

In the last two days, Best Friends made the difficult decision to close our sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, to visitors and volunteers — for the first time in our 36-year history — to ensure our staff’s health so that they can keep caring for the animals. We are rolling out disaster response operations to support our staff, our animal welfare partners and pet owners nationwide. And we are planning for the inevitable: closing our lifesaving centers around the country to the public indefinitely.

Creative pet adoption and foster solutions during COVID-19

One of the most enduring features of the no-kill movement, and something that I absolutely love, is the scrappy, seat-of-the-pants way we get stuff done. It’s in times like these that we shine the brightest!

This past weekend, Best Friends and hundreds of animal shelters across the country blasted out messages to their communities about the urgent need to move pets out of shelters — and the public responded. Organizations like Fort Bend County Animal Services cranked up their lifesaving ingenuity, implementing creative COVID-19 compliant programming such as virtual and curbside adoptions.

Animal Care Centers of NYC put a fun spin on working from home with this new video on the benefits of fostering a pet. And yes, nearly every adoptable pet in the country now comes with a free roll of toilet paper! We love these fun promotions from places like Palm Valley Animal Society and Berkeley Animal Care Services.

Essential lifesaving services for animals

For many shelters around the country that have contracts with the government, closing to the public (including volunteers) while still having to take in and care for animals will become the new reality as cities and counties nationwide roll out mandatory closures for certain types of facilities.

Lawrence Humane Society in Kansas has drafted detailed adoption plans for finding homes for pets while following social distancing protocols. Further, they shared those plans with other organizations online to get feedback and share ideas.

Best Friends is working together with lifesaving leaders from around the country, such as Pima Animal Care Center in Arizona, Albuquerque Animal Welfare, Dallas Animal Services and thousands of others. We're all coming together virtually to ask questions, offer advice, share resources, support one another and keep saving lives in the face of a constantly evolving crisis.

Community support during times of crisis

In Virginia, Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center put out a call to the public that they needed help from their community, and within two days, 50 pets were adopted and five went into foster homes.

Some places like Gateway Pet Guardians in St. Louis and our very own Best Friends Lifesaving Center in New York moved entire animal populations into foster homes in just one or two days.

This is who we are. This is what we do.

Like I said, so much of what is true right now might not be true tomorrow. But what is true today, yesterday and every other day is the capacity of animal welfare people to shine in times of major need and come together for people and animals alike.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of one another. We will get through this together.

Together, we will Save Them All.


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society