This year’s Best Friends National Conference held recently in Las Vegas was bigger and better than ever. With a record breaking attendance of approximately 1,700 participants, and the most diverse speaker program to date, the conference had something for everyone. Many No-Kill Utah (NKUT) Coalition member organizations sent representatives to the event, and what they learned will contribute toward realizing the NKUT goal of creating a no-kill state by 2019.
One of the state’s largest shelters, Salt Lake County Animal Services, sent three employees to the conference: Sandy Nelson, marketing and communications manager; Mike Reberg, executive director; and Michelle Roach, fiscal and administration manager. Sandy found the conference to have some unexpected perks. “The most important takeaway for me this year was all about partnering,” says Sandy. “I got to meet so many of our local Utah rescue and shelter individuals, plus those from all over the country. It was great to brainstorm and share ideas of what is working for each of us.”
Perhaps the most immediate result from the lessons learned was helping a dog named Dude. “I took the creative writing session from Elizabeth Doyle. She talked about how to write a powerful adoption plea,” says Sandy. “The next morning I wrote the best adoption plea I had ever written and submitted it to our local pet magazine. Dude was our longest term resident at 200 days. He was adopted four days after the magazine came out.”
Kathleen Toth, board member at Friends of Animals Utah, was joined by fellow board members Sharon Cantwell and Andrea Borg, as well as Lindsay Ortega, director of operations. “I was very happy to see there were topics and speakers geared specifically toward board members,” says Kathleen. “Sandy Rees presented “Building and Engaging Strong, United Boards” and I think she got a few ‘amens’ from the audience.”
Kathleen was also inspired by keynote speaker Adam Braun (author and founder of Pencils of Promise), whose speech directly related to her group’s coalition work. She wrote down a quote: “True self-discovery begins where your comfort zone ends.”
“I think that is true for individuals and for organizations like Friends of Animals Utah,” says Kathleen. “For several years, we have successfully rescued about 1,000 animals each year. But, we know that, as a coalition member committed to making Utah no kill by 2019, we are going to need to dig deeper and go farther than ever before.”
“My favorite class was the one on correctly answering questions about the trap/neuter/return (TNR) program, what it is and how it will work if given time,” says Sheldon Stack, Davis County Animal Care and Control specialist, who works primarily with cats. “With our shelter working toward no-kill status, it was essential that we start a TNR program, and we are getting many questions and comments (both positive and negative) about it. It helps to correctly answer these peoples’ concerns.”
Co-founders of Kitty Cause Cat Rescue, Jamie Black and Klaryne Quirarte, who are considering launching a community cat program, picked up important information about helping free-roaming cats. “The conference provided me with a great deal of information about how to start a community cat program and what it entails — from teaming up with animal control to educating the public on the subject,” says Jamie.
“We are thrilled that so many of our NKUT Coalition members joined us at this year’s Best Friends National Conference,” says Arlyn Bradshaw, Best Friends–Utah executive director. “We hope they are inspired to try new ideas and have made new lifesaving connections.”
Save the date: the Best Friends National Conference will be in Atlanta, Georgia in 2015.