Very few people are in favor of killing dogs and cats. Our pets are our “best friends.” We feel their personalities, minds and souls. But, until the mid-80s, animal “shelters” weren’t the safe havens for animals the name connotes. They were killing machines that euthanized 17 million animals a year as a way of population control. The “humane” aspect to their mission was finding a kinder way to kill them than drowning them in the East River, the practice in the late 19th Century. That ethos guided animal control groups for the next hundred years. But, when a group of idealists decided to start their own sanctuary in the middle of the Utah dessert to save the lives of animals, a sea change began.
“Fast forward to today and Best Friends is a major national organization leading the no kill movement,” John Bradham told the group that had assembled in his modern, ocean front Amagansett home for a party co-hosted with Jean Shafiroff to raise awareness for that charity. Thanks to the movement they helped start, the number of animals killed yearly has gone from 17 to two million. Best Friends seeks to get that number down to zero by 2025.
“And they’re doing it as a true leader does it,” Bradham said, “by inclusion not exclusion.”
No surprise then, that other animal organization principals were on hand. Georgina Bloomberg, who like Jean, supports many animal charities; Jean’s daughter Elizabeth Shafiroff, who, with Lindsay Spielfogal, founded Global Strays; Southampton Animal Shelter new Executive Director Jerry Rosenthal, wife Cionna and Adoptions Director Kate McEntee; and Dr. Scarlett Magda of Veterinarians International were among the group. Other guests included: James Marcigliano, Rebecca A. Seawright, Nathalie Ross, Elizabeth Jensen, Jill Carnegie, Dorothy Frankel, Ruth Miller, John Lutri and Peter Strugatz, who advises people on investing in mission-driven companies.
They listened to Francis Battista, Best Friends Co-founder and Chairman of the Board and, in Bradham’s words, “the guy who talked them into moving to the dessert in the middle of Utah.”
“There’s no argument any longer that the no kill ethos has carried the day,” Battista told them. “Who wants to have killing animals in their job description?”
Yes, it’s possible to find homes for all these animals, Elizabeth Jensen, Best Friends New York Regional Director, assured me. Best Friends works with a coalition of 190 partners to make that happen. They now have an adoption center in Manhattan, that opened April 4 in Soho, to help support other city shelters and rescue groups.
“We have a systematized strategy in place,” Battista said. “We have commitment. What we need is to change the casual taking of lives of animals. And that’s a significant cultural change. It’s now time. We can do it. There are not many missions that can say we can realize this in our lifetime.”
For more information, visit bestfriends.org.