Best Friends has a leader in Darien’s Elizabeth Jensen
Best Friends Animal Society has rescued animals for over 30 years. Since 1984, it has stood out as a pillar of the animal welfare world and an example for nonprofit organizations of all types. When Best Friends was founded, animal shelters across the country routinely put animals down, and the push from people to save these animals was virtually nonexistent. In the time since Best Friends was founded, the number of animals killed in shelters has dropped 76% to about 2 million animals annually. Best Friends still considers this number to be way too high, and a number of people in their organization continue to fight to save those animals lives. One such person is Darien’s Elizabeth Jensen, who is the Director of Best Friends in New York.
Jensen first came into contact with Best Friends almost by chance.
While hiking in Utah, Jensen came across an injured jackrabbit. Jensen drove the jackrabbit 100 miles to the first shelter she could find, which turned out to be Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The animal was cared for and no requests for payment was made at all. “The sanctuary is home to approximately 1,700 animals, and is located in Kanab, Utah. Its an amazing place, and a beautiful experience for animal loving people and families. I highly recommend a visit,” said Jensen.
“From that sanctuary, our national work grew over time. Best Friends is now the only national animal welfare organization exclusively dedicated to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America's shelters,” said Jensen, “We have opened 4 regional centers to support our lifesaving activities - Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Atlanta and New York City - and we work collaboratively with over 2000 local rescue groups and agencies to help save animals across the country.”
After being moved by the way the jackrabbit was helped, Jensen did more and more to get involved with Best Friends.
“I knew I had found something very special. So I stayed in contact any way I could. I visited the sanctuary several times, volunteered with Best Friends during Hurricane Katrina, and attended several of their national conferences,” said Jensen.
Eventually, as Best Friends grew, they were looking for a person with experience in customer service leadership to head up the New York CIty location, and Jensen jumped at the chance. “It ended up being a match made in heaven,” said Jensen, who had 17 years of experience working in luxury retail at Bergdorf Goodman.
Going from being a volunteer and activist to an employee of an organization often comes with changes, but Jensen said that was not the case with Best Friends. “Best Friends is incredibly authentic. When I was finally hired, I was curious to see what would be 'behind the curtain' of the organization that I loved for so long. It turns out, what's behind the curtain is exactly what is in front of it - kind, compassionate, skilled people, who believe in helping people help animals,” Jensen said. Now, on most days, you can find Jensen running the newly opened pet adoption center in SoHo. Although she recently learned that she will be headed to Texas to continue her work there on the ground.
Jensen, of course, brings her work home. “My man and and I have a rescue dog and horse. Pound for pound, we have done our share of rescuing,” said Jensen.
And now, with Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of Texas still fresh, Best Friends has been working on in disaster relief.
“Best Friends has set up a Rescue and Reunite Center on the ground in Texas in partnership with the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. We also have deployed our disaster response team - the same team that was on the ground after Hurricane Katrina,” said Jensen, who added that up to date information is constantly added to the website at BestFriends.org. The Best Friends “Pet Reunion Pavilion”, set up at NRG Arena in Houston, currently holds 500 animals waiting to be reconnected with their families.
Work has already started to similarly help following Hurricane Irma in Florida. Best Friends is working with First Coast No More Homeless Pets in Florida to do work similar to the work done in Texas; trying to reconnect families with lost animals. Even as she works in New York, Jensen says everyone in the organization is doing their part, saying, “Just about everyone in the organization is kicking in support - either by working in Texas, or helping to provide logistical support for the field.” The website also has a way to donate to the cause and help in these disaster-stricken areas.
And for anyone looking to get involved in the Best Friends cause, Jensen had a simple message, “Adopt, donate, foster or volunteer! There are a myriad of ways to help support Best Friends, but please know that supporting your local municipal shelter is helping us in our work as well! Our goal is to work together to Save Them All. And you can do your part right in Fairfield County for sure.”