Best Friends Blog

“Imagine it … achieve it”

The 2011 No More Homeless Pets National Conference wrapped up yesterday at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, and I must say it was an extraordinary event. This year’s theme, “Imagine It … Achieve It,” was embodied in the many presenters who have defied convention or developed a lifesaving program powered by their own vision and dedication.

Best Friends started hosting these conferences just over 10 years ago, with 250 animal lovers in attendance, and they just keep getting better. This year, nearly 1,400 animal lovers were on hand for three days of intensive workshops, networking and plenary sessions.

The No More Homeless Pets National Conference is a great indicator of the vitality and energy that is lifting the no-kill movement to greater heights. About 70% of the attendees had never been to a No More Homeless Pets conference before and about half again had never been to an animal welfare conference. That’s a lot of new blood, energy and potential for the animals — and they got to learn from the best.

I was particularly excited about the Friday and Saturday morning plenary sessions. Friday’s featured a brief introduction to seven different communities that have achieved no-kill status or are making significant strides in that direction, and each community featured a different model. Highlighted were Bonney Brown and the public/private partnership model that thrives in Reno, Nevada; Bill Bruce and the municipal animal control, community outreach and enforcement model of Calgary in Alberta, Canada; Jane Weatherford and the rural model of Brown County, Indiana; Peter Marsh and the publicly funded and targeted low-cost spay/neuter model that made New Hampshire a no-kill state; Susanne Kogut, whose Charlottesville-Albemarle model of a nonprofit with an animal control contract has maintained no-kill status for five years; Arlyn Bradshaw of the Salt Lake County Council, where they are translating Bill Bruce’s Calgary model into a working American model at Salt Lake County Animal Services; and Dr. Ellen Jefferson, executive director of Austin Pets Alive, which has demonstrated the potential for a private rescue organization to take a city to no-kill. After a brief round of introductions, attendees could choose to attend a workshop with the no-kill leader whose community and work best reflected their own community.

On Saturday morning, I was privileged to be part of a “fireside chat” discussion that also included Rich Avanzino, Mike Arms and Becky Robinson. The chat was hosted by Francis Battista and Julie Castle and provided an opportunity for those of us who were on the frontlines back in the 1980s and early 1990s to share some of the challenges and obstacles that were faced and talk about how they were overcome. In many cases, the problem-solving tactics that were employed became primary strategies for our movement — high-volume adoptions, TNR, public/private partnerships, the role of sanctuaries and the creation of national networks and collaborative partnerships. The session received a very long and enthusiastic standing ovation.

There is no doubt that, as happens every year, attendees will return to their community with new ideas and inspiration to save more lives. And, as also happens every year, a few new stars will be born for our movement from those who attended for the first time and, a few years hence, they will be presenting at the conference as experts on a new way to help achieve our mission of bringing about a time when there will be No More Homeless Pets.


Gregory Castle
CEO, Best Friends Animal Society


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  • Really I feel that conference is the wonderful opportunity to gather experience and knowledge. Still now I had attended only two conferences. Today I have gatheres more information from your post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Becklau

    I dont know where to turn, and thought I would contact you. I live in a rural area, Lynchburg, Ohio. My small family & myself moved here June 2010 and noticed smack dab in the middle of our new small town is an abandoned feed mill closed down a few years ago. At this building we noticed asst. cats gathering there, sunning themselves on the porch & seemingly right at home. I pass by there numerous times per day & thought I’d take a closer look. I was shocked as to what I found.

    The porch was squirming with maggots as there was rotten food in piles along the porch. My daughter & I put an end to this by cleaning it up…..and from that day forth placed fresh cat food & water in clean bowls daily. We also observed that these cats…. although a bit scared, were fairly well groomed & almost immediately would plop on our laps for some love.  I have continued to feed & water the cats everyday, not missing one single day, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc since June 2010….. a total of 485 days now!

    A neighbor told me who owned the building and we got permission to feed and care for them daily without concern of trespassing, etc. The owner also owns a local business & seemed to be a very kind man. We became increasingly concerned with this situation because come to find out these cats did not just decide to gather here…..but are a result of the current economic downturn and loss of jobs, income etc here in our nation…..and are pets that have been dumped by persons who could no longer afford to keep them! We KNOW this to be true because they are friendly, visibly recently someone’s pet, also the fact that at times there are litters of kittens which suddenly appear, new FACES & TAILS! from time to time. Also this IS the talk of the town with witnesses to them being dumped! At first there were 22 cats, June 2010 but now we have just 16…..and at last count 12. The kittens dumped here apparently did not make it as I call for
    them, search for them but, they are apparently gone. I have one kitten I found there….NOT EVEN WEANED only 3 weeks old, brought it home as I knew it would not make it there and have nursed he/ she….as it is TOO YOUNG TO TELL! back to health. WHO throws a small kitten like this onto the streets? I cant imagine doing this no matter what my financial situation as I have 7 babies, or cat friends all found strays of my own, ages 17 through 2 years old. I am struggling to care for them all, but somehow we get by.

    This may not seem to be a matter of concern but these babies come to us daily with swollen eyes….one has even lost an eye somehow!…..another is an old Tom and blind, obvious by his mannerism, etc……they come limping, also with visible lesions, blood soaked pawns, etc. What is happening is because they cannot easily get inside for shelter even for some warmth in cold weather…..these babies have to fight off raccoons, possums, fox & Lord only knows what else every night. Because of the change in numbers, it seems some do not make it.

    On October 30th our concerns became even greater when the owner of the building came to us and said…..I have 30 days to get rid of these cats OR HE WILL! I asked him what he meant & he said I don’t want to find out! I have since told him, without actually knowing….. I am working on a rescue for these babies and may be able to buy more time. But I am afraid what he meant may be extermination by some means.

    I am searching the state for someone, anyone who can help me with placing these animals anywhere they maybe able to find homes and receive even just a little medical attention as I have spoke to a local Veterinarian…..RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET who simply does not care! I have placed 2 of the babies with local families and have had NO luck in finding homes on my own for any more. On October 31st I went to the Hillsboro Times Gazette Newspaper & spoke to Lori Tuttle-Boatman and she guided me to the situation here in Highland County where a woman lost her home & did not know what to do with her pets which was remedied with your help. She has also given my pictures and my story to those who may be able to help but I have not heard from them and am feeling desperate in this most heartbreaking situation.

    There is SO much more to this sad story here in Lynchburg and if we get the chance to make a difference in these poor, abandoned, FORECLOSURE PETS lives…..I could fill anyone who may be able to help, in on the life and struggle of these neglected animals.

    I want to THANK YOU for what you do! And also am in constant prayer & HOPE that these babies will soon be rescued…..before their time is up.

    PLEASE contact me with any advise or remedy you can offer concerning the lives of these beautiful cats….or babies as I call them! I have no place to take them, although I search every day but to no avail.

    Becki Hunt
    PO BOX 234 Lynchburg, Ohio 45142

  • Ast3509

    I attended the No More Homeless Pets Conference two years ago and it was wonderful!  I wish the shelter people in my area of the U.S. would attend and be inspired to achieve a no-kill nation.  SC is way behind the times in animal care and rescue.  I’d attend this conference every year if not for the expense from the east coast.

  • SueAnn Sheridan

    Have you ever thought about putting this on in a more central location?  It is difficult and expensive if you live in the east.  I have a lot of friends back east that would love to attend but it is just too far.  I’m sure there is a suitable central US place for this great event.

    SueAnn Sheridan

  • Adriana Tschernev

    It was, by far, the best and most useful conference I’ve ever been to.
    Congratulations, I was deeply inspired!

  • Glenda

    Best Friends Animal Society sounds great.  Glad you are helping animals and finding homes for them.

  • Aleta Pahl

    One of the biggest obstacles I see with dog pounds or shelters is that even the best people do not believe this dream of no homeless pets is possible and they quote many logical reasons. But as Best Friends quotes our Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, you have to start with the right mental attitude that this dream IS POSSIBLE and then you work on each and every obstacle until you have that goal in reach. And what a day that will surely be.

    • The Social Pet

      “One of the biggest obstacles I see with dog pounds or shelters is that even the best people do not believe this dream of no homeless pets is possible and they quote many logical reasons”

      I agree completely. I have worked in public shelters, and that is why employees of shelters are not the best people to make a decision in the fate of each individual animal. Private rescues and private shelters can be objective.
      Like the Hayden law here in CA says that if a rescue or a shelter wants to take an animal, then let them take the animal, without the bias of the current shelter getting in the way. Animals act so much different when they are in homes compared to when they are in shelters. A shelter environment is not the place to determine the personality of an animal. 

      All groups need to work together rather than at each other’s throats and calling each other good guys or bad guys. 

  • Diane

    You are a terrific organization!  Always enjoy the newsletters and all that you do for the animals.  The banner for your recent conference quoting Thomas Jefferson stopped me in my tracks.  It is gender specific. I think “person” in place of “man” and “their” in place of “his” would be universally appreciated and the quote could be foot marked as taken from Thomas Jefferson.  In the 14 years I have been TN/SVR cats in my neighborhood, the majority of organizations and individuals I come in contact with who do cat rescue are women.  Thank you and much applause for what you do!     

  • The conference was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to further the No More Homeless Pets movement and grow their organization.  Incredible insight…and a lot of work ahead of us!  Great job BF!!

  • Eadie Metz

    We didn’t make it this year – but, what we did do instead was have a fundraiser for TNR. We raised $5400 and it really was inspired from the NMHP conference. We are already planning our fundraiser for next year and it will be just before the conference in 2012 – cause we are coming again.

  • Linda

    Wish I could have attended. I am part of a great  group just newly started with TNR on the  east coast of Newfoundland. With no low cost or free spay.neuter clincs and high kill shelters it has not been easy but we are committed to the helping our free roaming community cats. We’re called Mollie’s Dream. We are determined to make Mollie’s ( our first cat ) Dream become a reality” better lives through TNR. We’d love for you to visit our FB page to see what we have been doing. Thanks

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a great conference to attend someday along with volunteering at Best Friends.  Two trips of a lifetime.

    • Lattemundy

      I had the privilege of going to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and the NMHP Conference this year. You are right, two trips of a lifetime. Thanks for reminding me of my fortune, and I know you’ll be doing it too! See you soon.