July in animal news: Five questions with Best Friends Animal Society co-founder Francis Battista
We're asking experts in the animal-protection community to offer their insights on the latest animal news and fill us in on what their organizations are working on. Here, Best Friends Animal Society co-founder Francis Battista shares his take on a large-scale rescue of beagles from a medical-testing facility, the effort to increase adoptions of pit bulls and pit mixes, Best Friends' upcoming Strut Your Mutt fundraising walks in L.A. and New York and the rescue dog that inspired him to help homeless pets everywhere. Battista's responses represent his own views and not necessarily ours.
Francis Battista: The appointment of Brenda Barnette as the new general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services.
Unleashed: What were Best Friends' biggest projects in July?
Battista: The Great Beagle Escape: Best Friends teamed up with Pets Alive of Middletown, N.Y., to save 120 beagles from a medical laboratory after the facility went bankrupt.
Unleashed: What will Best Friends be working on in August?
Battista: Developing a shelter partnership to increase the number of pit bulls and pit bull mixes that are adopted through a program involving training and special promotions. This August we will also have rescued our 1,000th puppy mill survivor from Midwest puppy mills....[Survivors are] transported to new homes in the Northeast.
Unleashed: How can interested animal lovers help in August?
Battista: Several things come to mind: Interested animal lovers can adopt a second (or third) pet from a shelter or rescue organization; they can get involved with an organization that works in the area of Trap, Neuter and Return of community cats; and they can register to participate in Strut Your Mutt. Go to BestFriends.org and click on Strut Your Mutt on the left side of the page.
Unleashed: What animal has had the biggest impact on your own life? Why?
Battista: Jasper, a black-and-tan Afghan hound. He was the first shelter dog that I rescued. I got him at the Miami Animal Control Shelter in 1974. He had been abandoned by his previous owner, who went off to the islands and left him with a friend and didn't return. The friend turned him in to the shelter. Jasper was a great dog, but he got me involved in animal rescue in a serious way.
Francis Battista is one of the founders of the Best Friends Animal Society and, with his wife, Silva, created Best Friends' Los Angeles Programs. He has helped launch numerous programs to benefit animals, including the Catnippers spay/neuter program for feral cats and the Best Friends Brigade. He is a member of the Best Friends board of directors and spent months on the ground helping to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home companion animals in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Photo: Battista and his dog Teddy. Credit: Best Friends
Video: Judah Battista, Francis' son and the Interim Director of Best Friends Animal Society's Community Programs & Services Division, with some of the beagles rescued during the Great Beagle Escape. Credit: Best Friends via YouTube