THE Q&A: Best Friends Animal Society encourages pet adoption

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

Since it was founded by a group of friends in 1984, Best Friends Animal Society’s mission has been to save the lives of animals across the country, giving pets second chances and happy homes.

Before Best Friends, large numbers of dogs and cats were killed because shelters didn’t have the community support or the resources to save their lives. That has changed drastically. Today the organization provides adoption, spay/neuter, and educational programs.

The goal and the mantra of Best Friends Animal Society is to “Save Them All.”

There are various chapters of the organization across the country including the pet adoption center in West Los Angeles. The organization also operates the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, for companion animals. 

It is committed to saving the lives of homeless pets by working with shelters, rescue groups and individuals.

For a shelter to achieve what they consider no-kill, 90% of the cats and dogs coming into the shelter must be saved. Typically, no more than 10% of dogs and cats entering shelters are suffering from irreparable medical or behavioral issues that compromise their quality of life and prevent them from being rehomed.

The goal is to bring the entire country to no-kill in 2025.

Brittany Thorn, 38, has been the executive director of the West Los Angeles chapter of Best Friends Animal Society for more than two years. She has been with the organization for nine years, starting as a kennel cleaner. 

Before joining Best Friends, she worked at a vet facility and a small rescue center in Santa Clarita. She also worked at an animal behavior college to help students become dog trainers.

“I grew up with dogs,” said Thorn, who grew up in Santa Clarita, and is a married mother of two. “Any time I would find a stray, I would bring them home. They are the best companions.”

I recently caught up with Thorn to discuss the mission of the Best Friends Animal Society.

DD: Why did you want to work at Best Friends?

BT: I’ve always had an interest in working with animals. I wanted to work with rescues.

DD: If your organization didn’t exist, what do you think would happen to your animals?

BT: It would be rough. They might not be here. They might not have their lives. At our L.A. program, we do direct intake from local shelters. We take in thousands a year from overcrowded shelters.

DD: Do you have pets?

BT: Yes. I have four dogs, and a cat — all rescues. I also have six pigs, some goats, horses, turkeys, chickens, crabs and tortoises.

DD: Why should people care what happens to these animals?

BT: These animals are part of our community and culture. It’s about being empathetic to living creatures for no other reason than they are amazing companions that have feelings and get scared. As a culture, we should be caring for these animals. Angelenos love their animals.

DD: What is your philosophy about how we as a nation treat animals?

BT: There is definitely room for improvement. When it comes to dogs in particular, people still say they are man’s best friend. That depends on where you are in the country. In some rural areas, it’s not the case. They are seen as a nuisance. They are our responsibility.

DD: Your animal sanctuary is said to be the largest in the country. I understand it’s tucked in the majestic canyons of southern Utah (Kanab).

BT: It’s breathtaking. It’s in a tiny town in the middle of Red Rocks. There are 30,000 acres.

DD: Visitors can take a tour. What will the people see?

BT: They will see all of the animals in their areas. There’s Dogtown, Cat World, Piggy Paradise, Wild Friends, Horse Haven, Bunny House and Parrot Garden. Vans are used to drive the guests around. They are then able to get out in each area.

DD: The sanctuary in Utah has 1,600 dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, horses, pigs and other animals. Is there an animal you won’t take?

BT: Generally, if someone reaches out, if it’s exotic, we will help find resources.

DD: How many animals are you currently working with at the pet adoption center in West Los Angeles?

BT: We currently have 32 dogs, and 100 cats and kittens on site. There are 188 animals on site. About 300 animals are currently in foster homes.

DD: How often do people come to adopt or foster a pet?

BT: We have people come in every day. We’re open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day for adoption. We do about 75 adoptions a week. We did 84 adoptions last week. Those are great numbers.

DD: What is the cost to adopt?

BT: There is a $100 adoption fee. We always have partnerships going on. Some organizations will cover the cost. There are always promotions going on. Sometimes the cost is $25. Sometimes it’s free.

DD: Is it true that if just 6% more people chose to adopt versus purchase their pets, we would end the killing of dogs and cats in our nation’s shelters?

BT: Yes. Dog adoptions have been down year after year. The intake has remained steady.

DD: In 2023, 415,000 dogs and cats were killed in our nation’s shelters. You want to end the killing in every shelter and every community in 2025. This question may sound insensitive but if you stop the killing, where are you going to put the hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats?

BT: It’s a great question. With some shelters, we try to support people adopting. It’s easier to go to a breeder because they don’t ask questions. Rescue organizations want to know your vet’s name, and do home checks. It makes it difficult. 

Shelters sometimes have that same guideline or they close at 5 p.m., which is too early for some people who are working. We try to work on the barriers to getting the dogs out. There are opportunities for animals to leave shelters alive.

DD: What is the biggest reason that there are so many un-housed animals?

BT: The lack of spay and neutering. During the height of the pandemic, it was hard to get appointments. The result was a lot of litters. People are having a hard time right now. We have a large un-housed community. Some of them have pets, which means you now have a large amount of un-housed animals.

DD: What can the average person do to save homeless pets where they live?

BT: Foster. It makes room for another animal that needs to come into the facility. Volunteer at an adoption center in West LA. Also, they can adopt.

DD: National Action Week for Animals is June 10-15. What does your organization do during that week?

BT: We ask our volunteers and supporters to join us in spreading the word about the need to adopt and take care of the animals. We also want them to support any local legislation.

DD: What are you most proud of regarding your work?

BT: I am most proud that I can tell my sons that I’m making a difference and that I love what I’m doing. It’s emotional, it’s hard and I still love it. I know that I impact one animal’s life every day.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.

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