Best Friends Take Road Less Traveled

by Mary Haight on September 14, 2009

Gregory Castle

Gregory Castle

I had the good luck to book an interview with co-founder Gregory Castle a couple of weeks ago, when Best Friends was in Chicago(coming here soon) about the state of the state of animals, and areas where we can all help push change forward to achieve a no kill goal. But first I attended a Best Friends member meeting, packed with information well worth passing on.  

Samantha Robson and Gregory Castle spoke, sharing Best Friends’ history, how all the partners started the sanctuary with their own money, and their own capable, but inexpert, hands in building buildings for homeless animals out in the middle of nowhere.

They faced adversity, almost went broke, went out and found like-minded people beyond their piece of Utah (those who believed in the no-kill philosophy) and this year in October they and their now 1,700 animal capacity sanctuary are celebrating Best Friends’ 25th Anniversary.

Best Friends got to where they are by doing what they have always done—traveling, listening to other “boots on the ground,” sharing their own experiences and offering help through proven programs that save more lives.

When you stop to think that national kill rates have gone from 17 million pets per year down to 4 – 5 million in the past 25 years, you really get the big picture…and why it’s time to pitch in and push the numbers even lower. Castle said when people decide to act, change happens.

Remember the Hollywood shop, Pets of Bel-Air , that made headlines for days when celebrities’ puppies died? Animals were advertised as coming from reputable home breeders, but were actually from puppy mills.( Can you say “lawsuit?”)

Grassroots pressure and the media glare were harsh, focused and closed the shop in short order.  Woof Worx replaced it, and adopts out rescued pets, selling pet supplies, not lives.  Castle told me this was Best Friends’ first successful pet shop conversion. Who knew?!

Take a look at their Puppies Aren’t Products campaign—it’s a game changer. It advises peaceful protests in front of pet shops educating consumers until the pet shop either closes or signs on to a humane business model. Forceful in a matter-of-fact way; I like it. It currently operates in LA, New York and Las Vegas.

You know, if you can get just one pet shop to change the way it does business, think of the impact over time.  It’s a great way to be part of a solution; work with Best Friends and your local shelter, or work behind the scenes with suggestions listed on the sites outreach page. 

If you’re the type who likes a challenge, maybe working to get rid of breed discrimination laws in the Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dog program is for you.  This is one of the toughest problems going and re-educating people that the root cause lies with irresponsible owners is key to this long term project.  There are two other core programs, so take a look at the site.

There was a lot of information presented over more than two hours, but the time never lagged–if you have a chance to check this out in your town, it’s well worth the time. 

Maddie’s Fund has projected that no kill levels can be achieved in five years–it can happen if you and I and our communities decide to get it done.  You too can choose to take the road less traveled.  ‘nuf said.

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  1. […] I can’t speak for all of the “humane” pet stores nationwide, but of the ones I know of, either (1) independent rescue groups come in and host mobile adoptions whereby they showcase their own adoptables, or (as in the case of WoofWorx)  the store pulls animals directly from the shelters, paying the same adoption fee as anyone else. [read more on  WoofWorx in Best Friends Take the Road Less Traveled] […]

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