Best Friends: A Mission to “Save Them All”

            With Julie Castle as the current CEO, Best Friends Animal Society was born 35 years ago by a group of people whose sole mission was to create a sanctuary for abandoned and needy, abused animals. Having worked collaboratively for years prior to the formal establishment of Best Friends, the team wished to take their goal to the next level. With a common dream and generous hearts, this very special band of animal lovers likely had little idea that their goal would grow into the impressive and largest no-kill shelter animal sanctuary in the world. Coupled with the message to “End the Killing Nationwide by 2025,” Best Friends is at the forefront of animal advocacy.

When Best Friends first began, over 17 million dogs and cats were killed annually in shelters. Currently, that number is down to about 800,000. Although this is a reduction of over 91%, that is still nearly a million animals annually being put to death, which is still unacceptable. With 2,200 animals killed daily in shelters across our country, the job is clearly not done. It is for this reason that organizations like Best Friends advocate mandatory low-cost neutering as well as programs like “trap-neuter-return” for stray animals to reduce the horrifying numbers that still exist.

The No-Kill Movement is clearly a work-in-progress. Much of the difficulty encountered early on was rooted in the fact that those that ran kill shelters felt naturally at odds with each other. For many years, the established concept was that killing unwanted animals was a sad reality. Challenging that concept, Best Friends sought to train its workers to think otherwise, with the belief that if volunteers and paid staff could be sent into the old, traditional shelter settings, zero judgement in place, 100% support of the neutering/trapping and releasing model, as well as mandatory neutering for all adoptable animals, the message would be clear: “We at Best Friends need to band together with all shelter workers with the single goal of “Saving them All” by 2025.” This mission has been the leading force for all that Best Friends does every day.

With extremely meager beginnings, the original founders began out West. With a hearty vision and passion to spare, there was little money to start. Somehow the founders persevered, and their first dream came true when they opened their first animal sanctuary in a southern Utah town named Kanab. Building the original housing for the animals by hand, sleeping in makeshift shelters by night, and using their own labor in every spare moment they had to not only build, but to simultaneously care for the strays they had (and take in more, turning none away!), these original visionaries began the outstanding sanctuary that today exists in Kanab. Fundraisers held in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City creating awareness and public financial support, helped fuel those earliest days.

Today, impressively, the Kanab shelter is a home to dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, pigs, horses as well as other animals. It is an amazing oasis for all animals who inhabit the land, which is built within the breathtaking red canyons in the southern part of the state. With over 1,600 animals living at Best Friends Sanctuary daily, it is a true haven for our nation’s innocent and dependent, homeless creatures. Kanab’s Sanctuary welcomes volunteers, and individuals who want to learn about the No-Kill mission that is at the heart of the organization. Special tours are available for those interested and educational workshops are offered, including instruction on animal care and rescue. Overnight visitors are welcome as well. Adoption from Best Friends Sanctuary is encouraged, and animals who are eligible for travel can be adopted out to all 50 states as well as Canada.

In addition to the original Sanctuary, Best Friends also has impressive, state-of-the-art shelters in several locations around the country. Best Friends Utah, is a sister-venue of the main one. There is also Best Friends Los  Angeles, Best Friends Atlanta, and Best Friends New York, right here in Soho. At each of the shelters, dedicated employees and volunteers work side-by-side to make the mission a reality. Newborn kitten nurseries help nurture the tiniest babies, with workers specially trained in the delicate hands-on care of such vulnerable animals. Dogs and cats of all sizes, ages, and breeds have a home at Best Friends New York. There is as well  adult Spay/Neuter clinics in all locales, and each has a “boutique-style” adoption counter, with supplies available for purchase, and full pet-owner education for those who want to adopt, but may not have been pet owners previously. For those who can only temporarily open their homes to needy animals, there is a fostering program, where animals can be welcomed into homes on a temporary (and hopefully permanent!) basis.

Here in New York, Best Friends is located at 307 West Broadway. It is more than worth a visit to see this amazingly beautiful, pristine, and impressive center for animals. For those who are interested in adopting, volunteering, or just visiting, Best Friends can be reached in New York at 347-762-3678.

For more information on being part of this very important and worthwhile movement to help the country’s homeless animals, visit As their slogan states: “Together, we can Save Them All.”

The Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School is a prestigious NYC Jewish Day School in the heart of New York City.  Located in the Upper East Side, this Jewish Day School promotes academic growth through community and collaboration.