2020 Annual Report Best Friends Animal Society

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Thank you for being a beacon of hope for homeless pets everywhere, even during an unprecedented year. It’s your compassion and dedication to saving lives that put a no-kill country by 2025 well within reach.

From the Chair of the Board

“Today, the working model of Best Friends is a world away and, in many ways, years ahead of where we were a year ago.”

By the Numbers: In Summary

It’s safe to say 2020 was a year a lot of folks don’t care to repeat. But no matter what was going on in the world, compassion ruled the day. And that’s why there’s so much lifesaving progress to look back on. More lives saved, more no-kill communities than ever, more laws to protect the pets we love — and the list goes on.

Up next: A word from Julie Castle

A Message from the CEO

“Throughout this entire year, our commitment to saving lives never faltered. No matter what challenges arise, we remain wholly dedicated to our most beloved companions — adjusting our approach, but never our purpose.”

Pulling Together to Provide Relief

Over the past year, Best Friends worked closely with major animal welfare organizations and others across the country to provide critical support and resources for pets and people in response to the pandemic.

For example, in fiscal 2020, Best Friends:

LAUNCHED #SpayTogether, an initiative comprising 27 national organizations, which provided surgery support grants; on-the-ground assistance; training in high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter surgeries; and discounted veterinary supplies and services to shelters and veterinary clinics.

COLLABORATED with the Humane Society of the United States, the Association for Animal Welfare Enhancement and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association to send a joint letter to state governors to help relax requirements of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship to ensure access to essential veterinary care.

WORKED with Wellness Natural Pet Food, the official pet food partner of Best Friends, to provide food to communities in need throughout the country.

A Cat with Special Needs Inspires Others

When Waffle Love arrived at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Salt Lake City, the medical team noticed that he was incontinent and was having difficulty using his hind legs. For a time, he received acupuncture and electrotherapy treatment. Despite his special needs, Waffle Love is living life to the fullest. He is playful, loves to climb and is enjoying life as only an energetic kitten can.

Best Friends Lifesaving Efforts

The extraordinary events of this past year caused us to re-examine our processes and procedures and, as a result, we focused our lifesaving efforts on creating critical community-supported programs during fiscal year 2020.

We chauffeured pets out of areas where they were at risk and delivered them to places where they were more likely to be adopted. In fact, nearly 12,000 pets were given lifts from Best Friends lifesaving centers in L.A. and Salt Lake City, as well as from partner locations, and 11,076 dogs and cats were transferred to Best Friends from city or county shelters.

We also organized virtual meet-and-greets and nationwide virtual adoption events, like the Find Love Online super adoption during which 1,719 pets found loving homes.

Up next: Fostering and shelter support are key

Focusing on Fostering


For pets like Toro who were having a hard time in a shelter environment, the pandemic came with a silver lining — thanks in large part to droves of new foster volunteers. Showcasing dogs and cats on social media in the less stressful environment of a home and via virtual meet-and-greets allows the animals’ true personalities to shine and makes it easy for potential adopters to fall in love.

  • A whopping 4,758 families stepped up to foster in fiscal 2020, a 43% increase from fiscal year 2019.
  • The number of foster homes in Salt Lake City, Utah, grew 135%
  • In all, 14,491 animals moved into foster homes (some more than once).

Providing Partners with Tools and Resources

Through virtual town hall meetings, informative podcasts and operational playbooks on topics ranging from animal care to the latest in COVID-19 guidance, we provided our network partners with lifesaving tools and resources to keep saving lives.

“Having access to expert thinking on critical issues in a specific field or subject matter is vital for effective learning. And getting that access for free when it involves subject matter that can help save lives is huge.” Julie Castle, Best Friends CEO

Best Friends provided $7,895,826 in funding to network partners and other animal welfare organizations.

Rachael Ray Save Them All Grants

By providing funding for projects aimed at reducing the number of cats and dogs killed in U.S. shelters, supporting no-kill organizations so they are able to maintain their level of lifesaving while also helping other organizations in their communities reach a 90% save rate, and by providing COVID-19 relief, The Rachael Ray Foundation (TM) is helping animals in need and the partners who are saving them.

252 partners received funding through Rachael Ray Save Them All Grants, No-Kill Excellence Grants and The Rachael Ray Save Them All Grants COVID-19 Relief Program.

Up next: Boots on the ground make a difference

Shelter Embed Programs

Through Best Friends embed programs, shelters in need get intensive, comprehensive support. We provide shelters with expert staff members, assessments, recommendations and more.

The Maddie’s® Shelter Embed Project continued to fund embed programs at Palm Valley Animal Society and Humane Society of Harlingen in Texas, and at Santa Rosa County Animal Services in Florida. In fiscal year 2020, 17,585 pets were saved through Maddie’s® Shelter Embed Project (#ThankstoMaddie).


Palm Valley Animal Society

Humane Society of Harlingen

Santa Rosa County Animal Services

“In our embed programs, you don’t just get one person from Best Friends, you get an army of support.” Michelle Logan, Best Friends director of national shelter embed programming

Community Cat Programs

As part of our embed programs and mentorships, Best Friends operates hands-on community cat programs (CCPs) and mentorships for our shelter partners.

Best Friends and its partners operate more large-scale trap-neuter-return programs than any other organization in the country. Because Best Friends sterilizes, vaccinates and releases tens of thousands of community cats each year, many thousands of births are prevented.

22 shelters across 9 states had large-scale CCPs and community cat mentorships saving 23,618 cats.

Assessments, Training and Mentorships

Animal care and control services are redefining community support and embracing principles that promote safe, humane communities for people and pets. Best Friends believes that keeping pets with their families should be a primary goal of today’s field services operations. To do that, it is critical to understand the difference between cases of true cruelty and cases of neglect brought on by a lack of resources or knowledge, or both.

25,913 pets were saved thanks to:

  • 10 operations and field service assessments
  • 299 animal control officers receiving training in humane animal control and
  • 53 mentorships

The Best Friends Executive Leadership Certification program, endorsed by Southern Utah University, is transforming the future of leadership in animal services, giving new leaders what they need to revamp outdated models, make data-driven decisions and more. By providing professional development to leaders in the no-kill movement, the program is essential to bringing the country to no-kill by 2025.

Legislative Wins

Over the last year, Best Friends’ advocacy team has been carefully reviewing regulations, drafting new language and diligently shepherding it through the approval process. Here are just a few successes:

  • We worked with Governor Gavin Newsom to close a loophole in the law and put an end to the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in California.
  • We broadened legal access to trap-neuter-return, stemming the flow of community cats into shelters.
  • We helped to end breed discrimination against service animals on airlines.
  • We grew the 2025 Action Team (a nationwide grassroots movement working to help every shelter in every community achieve no-kill), to further engage communities in lifesaving.

“These legal wins are largely the result of our incredible legislative team, who work tirelessly behind the scenes, fighting to ensure that our laws protect America’s homeless pets.” Julie Castle, Best Friends CEO

Up next: The Sanctuary

The Heart and Soul of Best Friends: The Sanctuary

Since 1984, the Sanctuary, located in Kanab, Utah, has been the headquarters — as well as the heart and soul — of Best Friends Animal Society. A home-between-homes and safe haven for hundreds of animals, the Sanctuary is a cherished place for people of all ages — a place where kindness, compassion and community flourish and where the lifesaving values and practices of the no-kill movement are embodied.


In 2020, 2,114 animals were welcomed to the Sanctuary. Thanks to adoptions and transports, we said, "So long" to 2,430 Sanctuary residents.


Overcoming Stranger Danger

After she endured a traumatic accident, Trudy arrived at the Sanctuary so scared that no one could get near her. With training and a lot of treats, Trudy is learning that people are safe and good. We’ll keep the treats coming until she finds her new family.

Up next: The Road Ahead

The Road Ahead

“In a simultaneous ‘aha’ and ‘duh’ moment, it became evident that a huge factor in reducing shelter population is that animals never end up in a shelter in the first place. And this seems like a huge opportunity for us as we move forward in the post-pandemic world.” Brent Toellner, Best Friends senior director of national programs

Partners with Purpose

A special thank-you to the official partners of Best Friends, Wellness Natural Pet Food and Fresh Step. They provide food, treats and cat litter for the animals at Best Friends’ lifesaving centers across the country and at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. We are so grateful for their generosity and couldn’t do this lifesaving work without them.

Together, We Will Save Them All

On behalf of pets across the country, in communities big and small, thank you for joining us on this historic journey to achieve no-kill nationwide by 2025. We are forever grateful to the generous and dedicated people, companies and foundations that gave to the animals this past year. You are a lifesaving force to be reckoned with, and the animals are lucky to have you by their side. In a year that was full of uncertainty, we can’t tell you how much we appreciated your support.