An enormous thank-you to Best Friends volunteers

Volunteer wearing a Best Friends T-shirt sitting down and hand-feeding a treat to a dog
By Julie Castle

You’ve heard me say it before, but it bears repeating over and over and over again: Best Friends could not manage the lifesaving work that we do without our incredible volunteers. What started with a group of idealists in the desert of southern Utah in 1984 has grown into a national movement with Best Friends as the cornerstone, with over 800 employees, 4,200 animal welfare and shelter partners, and nearly 11,000 volunteers.

I became employee #17 in 1996, and before that, I, too, was a volunteer. And before Best Friends had its first official employee just a couple of years prior to that, the Sanctuary was entirely volunteer dependent. The value of volunteers is baked into our DNA.

This week is National Volunteer Week in honor of all the volunteers, past and present, so we are celebrating the extraordinary people who give their time, resources, and expertise to help Save Them All.

And it’s not just Best Friends that is powered by volunteers. Animal organizations large and small across the world depend on the passion and dedication of volunteers.

Without volunteers, the goal of making every community in America no-kill by 2025 would be a pipe dream at best. Volunteers are crucial for an effective, changemaking nonprofit organization. They are certainly crucial for Best Friends. In 2013, Gregory wrote something about volunteers that has always stuck with me, and I’d like to share it with you now:

For me, and I believe for everyone at Best Friends, volunteers are much more than a means to a noble end: They are an inspiration. Volunteers embody the passion and selfless commitment at the heart of our movement, and Best Friends is especially blessed to have the participation of the best volunteers anywhere. They are highly motivated, super talented and super passionate."

It was true 10 years ago, and it’s still true today. The nearly 11,000 people who volunteer with Best Friends help in many different capacities, whether volunteering at the Sanctuary, with one of Best Friends’ regional programs, or in their own communities around the country. And each minute of volunteer work adds up to make a real difference in the lives of homeless pets. In fact, in 2022, nearly 465,000 hours of volunteer work were donated. That has an astronomical impact on this movement. The importance and necessity of it cannot be overstated.

Volunteers take on many roles, including the more obvious in-shelter tasks like dog walking, cat enrichment, cleaning kennels, and feeding — but also the less obvious tasks, such as marketing, events, community cat care, and data entry, to name a few. There are also the crucial volunteers who advocate for pets in their communities through the Best Friends 2025 Action Team to make real, sustainable, and on-the-ground change that reaches every community in America.

Speaking of that, if you’re interested in learning more about taking action for animals, you can join our first ever National Action Week for Animals that’s going on right now. Our 2025 Action Team is hosting daily virtual sessions that will walk you through the step-by-step process of advocating for animals and give you the tools necessary to do it. You can sign up here to join the sessions ahead of this Friday’s big day of action.

I’m in awe of the work done by our volunteers day in and day out to make this country a better and safer place for animals and the people who love them. I’ve been volunteering or working for Best Friends for almost 30 years now, and the impact volunteers make still amazes and inspires me. I mean it wholeheartedly when I say that we wouldn’t be where we are without volunteers. This movement wouldn’t be the same.

So, this week and every week, we celebrate the volunteers across the country who give their time and energy to help the animals. I cannot thank our volunteers enough. We can’t do this work without them. And thank you to Pat Guerrero, our director of volunteer engagement, for cultivating a group of people who care so deeply about lifesaving.

Because of our volunteers, we will make our country no-kill by 2025 and Save Them All.

To learn more about volunteering, head to our volunteer page here. And keep up with our volunteer-centric stories here.

Follow Julie Castle on Twitter and Instagram.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society