Part 2 of 5: 2014 Best Friends Conference: Our Take

The recent Best Friends National Conference in Las Vegas focused on pointing us all in the same forward-moving direction. Elizabeth Oreck, the national manager of Best Friends’ puppy mill initiatives, stressed the need for collaboration. Nearly three million pets die in our animal shelters each year, and collaboration – if some parties are open to it – may be a helpful tool in putting a permanent end to shelter killing.

Bonnie, a former puppy mill mother, is now in a loving home after she was rescued.

Bonnie, a former puppy mill mother, is now in a loving home after she was rescued.

During her presentation, Elizabeth pointed out that groups as disparate as the National Rifle Association and the American Kennel Club habitually work together to stop legislation aimed at regulating puppy mills.

(The NRA is afraid of the “slippery slope,” i.e. “They’ll ban puppy mills on Monday, take away our guns on Tuesday and by Thursday, we’ll all be vegan.” The AKC makes a lot of money from registering puppy mill dogs.)

“If groups like that can band together to accomplish their goal, why can’t we?” Elizabeth asked.

If you’ve hit a roadblock and can’t find your way over, under, around or through it, collaboration may help. And don’t think you’re limited to animal welfare groups. Most of us will admit that our industry is rife with drama and back-stabbing, and it often interferes with reaching our goal. If you sense too much tension and drama, simply look for another collaborative partner.

“Go further than thinking outside the box,” Elizabeth told all of us during a panel discussion. “Step outside of the animal welfare bubble.”

In other words, collaborate with groups and businesses in your area that may not realize your lifesaving campaign benefits their constituents. Your local chamber of commerce would much rather see the positive impact from a compassionate, well-maintained shelter than suffer through the negative fallout from an uncaring catch and kill facility.

Your local businesses, as well as your city and county officials, would be interested in the economic impact of your mission. Bonney Brown, the president of the Humane Network, showed a pair of interesting slides during her presentation at the conference. She estimated that every 100 dogs or cats could have an economic impact of over three million dollars during their lifetime (accounting for food, medication, vet visits, supplies, toys, etc.). What community wouldn’t be interested in an additional $3,000,000 over 12 or 15 years from every 100 pets? Increasing the number of pets adopted in your community can obviously have a tremendous economic benefit.

And, as Elizabeth points out, there’s a lot to learn from for-profit businesses and for-purpose organizations that will help us reach our goal.

The bottom line? Let’s find more ways to work together to end the killing of healthy and treatable pets in our animal shelters. And, to return to Elizabeth’s focus, if we increase our market share in shelter adoptions, that takes away market share from puppy mills. If they’re not making money, puppy mills and backyard breeders have no reason to exist.

(UPDATED: The economic impact numbers have been revised to show the correct values.)