When Julie Castle and her friends decided to gather their money and take a road trip to Mexico in her 1979 Dodge Colt after college graduation, they ended up in Kanab, Utah, at Best Friends Animal Society’s Sanctuary. She had just been accepted into law school when that road trip forever changed Castle’s life and career path, and she could not be happier.
“I had this life-changing moment and decided I didn’t want to go to law school [and] live that litigious life; I’d much rather do something that really makes a difference,” Ms. Castle recalls. She changed her path and became the organization’s 17th employee, taking on a variety of tasks from animal care giver, to landscaper, to tour guide.
Fast forward to present day and she is now CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, devoting her heart and soul to helping thousands of animals find forever homes. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the nation’s largest refuge for abandoned and special needs animals sits on 3,700 acres in the beautiful red rock canyon country of Southern Utah.
Taking A Nonprofit National
Best Friends is a national animal welfare organization focused on ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters, and it has evolved dramatically over the past 34 years. “When I first started with Best Friends our annual revenue was $800,000. This year it just hit $130 million and we have 801 employees,” Ms. Castle says.
Over the years, Best Friends has expanded its outreach efforts. In addition to their adoption center in Sugar House, it now has two lifesaving centers in Los Angeles and one each in New York City and Atlanta, and will soon be opening one in Houston. The organization teams up with approximately 2,300 network partners across the nation to help save pets in shelters.
Changing The Way We Handle Animal Shelters
Over the last couple of years Best Friends volunteers mobilized throughout the country to collect data on how many animals die in shelters. “Shelters don’t really communicate with each other in a coordinated way across the country, so we went county by county to get that data,” Ms. Castle notes.
That data proved to be invaluable for the organization, and they developed a plan to hyper focus on states where the most animals die, seven of which make up 50 percent of animal deaths throughout the United States. They now collect this data annually, and know their hard work is paying off.
“The big takeaway for me is that there are a lot of good causes out there, but most don’t have a solution or cure, but this one does. We know how to solve this and it’s in our line of sight,” Ms. Castle says.