Best Friends Blog

Community Animal Assistance: Keeping Animals Out of Shelters

Community Animal Assistance, an important department here at Best Friends, is a critical piece in achieving No More Homeless Pets. Each week, the team takes over 500 calls for help from all over the world. We recognized early on that sometimes all it takes is some helpful advice to keep pets in homes and out of shelters. Here’s an example:

“Thank you so much for your advice regarding my pit bull, Irie. Before I heard back from you, I had pretty much resigned myself to finding a new home for him. My roommate, his registered owner, was very set on it. Thanks to your thoughtful response to our concerns, I have made some very important decisions. Yesterday I signed official adoption papers for Irie.”

Occasionally, like the time we received a call from Arkansas authorities about a hoarding situation, it involves sending in the cavalry:

“When Best Friends’ Emergency Response team arrived on the premises last Tuesday, they found dogs starving. Many were suffering from mange, parvovirus, worms and other illnesses. While some were running loose on the trash-strewn property — the site of a former hog farm and two former puppy mills — others were crammed into barns piled with feces.”

The department began as a simple admissions request and advice line for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, but as our national membership grew, the possibility of activating local networks in communities around the country to resolve animal problems locally became a reality … and a necessity. Last year alone, this small team of people handled cases involving over 40,000 animals.

In the early days, staff cold-called members in a geographic area to enlist them in helping out with a regional problem, such as transferring the care of a feral cat colony from someone who was headed for a retirement home to a new team of caregivers. The work has evolved significantly since those days, but the principle remains the same: help keep animals out of shelters with practical information and local, usually grassroots, resources.

Out of necessity, Best Friends was a pioneer in this type of intervention. We were a remote operation getting requests for help from literally all over the country, and we had the choice of simply saying “Sorry, can’t help” or coming up with a way to provide meaningful help and support at a distance.

The universality of e-mail and the rise of social networking sites like Facebook have changed the game considerably. What used to be done by phone and fax is now a few mouse clicks away. A recent example:

“Hi – Happy New Year! I just wanted to share the good news that today (Sunday) Tootsie, the cocker spaniel who was found abandoned and neglected in Newark, has been adopted by a wonderful family who adores her. We couldn’t be happier!

Linda and I are thankful for the help that Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah gave us by sending an email message to their entire NY/NJ Metro membership. That’s how we found the family who adopted Tootsie (her name is now Blondie)

Thanks for all your email messages and for your concern. Our prayers were answered.”

Over the years, the Community Animal Assistance department has built a network of Best Friends members and supporters, along with regional rescues and humane organizations, that comprise a sort of safety net for homeless (or about to become homeless) pets. It’s not foolproof, but tens of thousands of lives have been saved and countless people have been given the tools to keep their families together.

Here’s to utilizing every tool in our box to bypass America’s shelter system entirely!

Gregory Castle


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  • Redriveratdawn

    It appears that Best Friends gives token lip service to the No Kill movement, and that the ONLY time it is desirable to keep pets out of shelters is when it, “is a critical piece in achieving No More Homeless Pets” because NMHP is a Best Friends idea. Yet another group which proudly states that ending the killing of innocent animals is a really great idea, but ONLY when “we” do it.

    Oops – When “we” do it “our way.”

  • Amy Affrunti

    I don’t even have the words to thank you properly. Some should throw you a parade. There is a very special place in Heaven for you. God bless!

  • Mspvtstashs

    What is the number to call? I am disabled, live in rural east TX in a KILL county. Every year cats are dumped and then there are strays. I now have about 50 cats. On SSI, I can’t feed anymore! Nearest so called low cost clinic wants $60 per cat to fix, no way I can afford that. I desperately need help!

    • Anonymous


      You can email the department at – please allow
      sufficient time for a response. As the article notes, we receive hundreds of
      responses every month so it may take some time for them to respond.

      Thank you for your comment!

      Jon Dunn
      Best Friends Animal Society

  • I think its a good initiative to assist a lonely animal with a good home to live on.

  • Sharon

    Really terrific blog, Gregory — about a very essential aspect of Best Friends work!

  • Lovefelines2003

    Community Animal Assistance DOES rock – here’s an example – 3 years ago I was working a temp job I hated at Long Beach City College and noticed the hundreds of stray bunnies living on campus that kept multiplying and getting dumped. Many were in bad shape. The college wanted them “culled”. They were being fed by some kind staff, but no one was really addressing the problem. I contacted Medha Issacs in Community Assistance who was so helpful, kind, and caring – I left the job a month after my initial contact with Medha but 2 years later learned that BF had done the work, sent in the cavalry and had done the VERY FIRST TNR for rabbits in the country and has now in place a sensible and manageable program in place on this campus with the help of staff, faculty, and volunteers, and other local rabbit rescues in the Long Beach area. The bunnies are being cared for and there are no more newborns appearing and signs have been posted prohibiting the dumping of unwanted bunnies. I was thrilled that by making one call, Best Friends took action. You guys rock and I am eternally grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.