So last weekend I was at the No More Homeless Pets Conference that was put on by Best Friends Animal Society. And I have to confess, that I was a little nervous going into the conference.
I know there are several people who read here that don't like Best Friends...and group them in the same group with HSUS and PETA as animal rights groups. I have always had good experiences with folks from Best Friends, but have always stayed at arms length from the group.
I'll also confess, that as a relative newby on the Animal Welfare scene, I don't have the benefit, or the baggage, that comes with being here a long time. I don't know what Best Friends was, or used to be. I can only look at what they are now.
I've known for awhile that Best Friends is a friend to us when it comes to Bully breeds. The work they've done with theVick-tory dogs as well as the work they did in helping Forest get freed from Denver are evidence of that.
However, I went to the conference completely expecting to be one of the few there that did not favor mandatory spay/neuter programs. But I was pleasantly impressed here too.
In multiple forums, from spay/neuter forums to "model program" forums, the topic of mandatory spay/neuter laws came up several times. I never heard one single speaker at the conference say they favored mandatory sterilization laws. (I promise to write a lot more about this in the coming weeks). Best Friends, as a group, has even softened their stance on MSN -- as their official stance now is that they will support MSN, but only if free and low-cost programs are in place for those who cannot afford the cost of sterilization.
But even with that said, one of Best Friends' most successful programs -- getting dogs spayed and neutered with a mobile unit throughout Utah -- is based solely on low (or no) cost voluntary spay neuter programs. Not mandating the activity.
I left the conference with a much better impression of Best Friends than I went in. While I went in liking many of the things they did, I was skeptical. However, as I left the conference, I felt like they were a solid Animal Welfare organization that was a group of caring people, doing their best to benefit the lives of companion animals. That's a cause I can really get behind.
If we are to really move forward in the animal welfare movement, we're really going to need the various animal welfare groups, breed groups, rescues, the AVMA, AKC and other breeder groups and others to really get on the same page. All of us are stronger than any one of us...and with different Animal Welfare groups bickering over the "right" solution (and there may be more than one "right" solution), cities are left confused on what to do. We must get on the same page, clear up the confusion, and move them toward good programs that improve public safety, improve the lives of animals, and don't put unnecessary restrictions on pet owners.
I think Best Friends is a friend in this fight.