The Best Friends National Conference — Texas style

By Julie Castle

I’m super excited that Best Friends Animal Society will be convening our national conference in Dallas next month from July 25 to July 27 because, like they say, everything’s bigger in Texas. It looks like that will be the case when we gather for what is shaping up to be the most well-attended Best Friends conference yet. If you haven’t been to one, it’s like no other gathering of animal people anywhere!

Dallas Animal Services’ lifesaving work

It’s also pretty cool that we will be in Dallas to celebrate the great work being done there. Since Ed Jamison took on the role of director of Dallas Animal Services in October 2017, the department has, to quote the Dallas News, “month by month, methodically debunked the myth that public safety and animal welfare can’t both be improved at the same time.” By December 2018, Ed and his team had reached a 91.3% live release rate. There’s a lot still to be done to make that level of dog and cat lifesaving routine, but a few years ago, an accomplishment of that order was almost unimaginable for the fourth largest animal control agency in the country.

No-kill progress in Texas

Texas is big — big enough to contain the best and the brightest of our movement, along with some of the most urgently in-need animal shelters in the country. At the top, there’s Austin. The city has been in the no-kill column since 2011, when Austin Pets Alive, led by Dr. Ellen Jefferson, partnered with the city to make history and hasn’t looked back. 

Then, of course, there is the fact that more homeless pets are killed in Texas shelters than in any other state, and four of the fifteen communities in the country with the highest number of animals killed are located in south Texas. 

Best Friends’ involvement in Texas

It’s not surprising that Best Friends is deep into Texas. We began working to build out programs in Houston prior to Hurricane Harvey, but the impact of that storm and the subsequent flooding put our engagement with the city into overdrive. In the critical months following Harvey, we forged lasting relationships with the people of Houston and with the animal welfare community and the county’s two municipal shelters.

Since Harvey, we have had Best Friends staff working out of the Harris County Animal Shelter (in the Houston area), along with a community cat program (CCP), all under the auspices of the shelter director, Dr. Michael White. We are also in the early stages of building out a new Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Houston that will serve as a transport hub, community adoption center and kitten nursey, and also provide low-cost spay/neuter services.

In south Texas, Best Friends is working side-by-side with local agencies in some of the most challenging communities in the country, with a Best Friends staff person acting as operations manager, and runs a CCP at Palm Valley Animal Center in Edinburg. And we are taking the first steps to develop comparable programs in neighboring Harlingen, Texas.

No-kill nationwide by 2025

I know I’m going on about Texas, but please don’t get the idea that the conference is about Texas. The Best Friends National Conference is about propelling the next quantum leap in our goal to lead the entire country to no-kill by 2025. At the conference will be inspirational leaders and presentations of replicable models from around the country that will get your no-kill heart thumping and powered up for the next big push to 2025.

But wait! There’s more!

At this year’s conference, we will be unveiling a game-changing tool that will empower policy makers, shelter operators, rescue groups, volunteers and, most important, the general public to create positive change for the animals in every community in this country.

It’s big stuff, and no better place to announce it than in Big D!

What: Best Friends National Conference
When: July 25–27, 2019
Where: Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas
Why: To achieve no-kill by 2025

Together, we will Save Them All. See you in Dallas!

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society