We talk with Angie Embree, the Chief Information Officer with Best Friends Animal Society. Angie is responsible for aligning the strategic plan for information technology with the strategic plan of the organization and in support of their Save Them All call-to-action. This involves working with all of the Best Friends staff members to help them understand how to use technology and to educate them on where technology can improve processes that contribute to saving more lives. Before starting with Best Friends, Angie spent 25 years in technology leadership, 12 of which were in higher education at Drake University, and 13 years in the telecommunications industry. She is a long-time supporter and foster for local shelters and rescue organizations in the communities where she has lived. Listen as she tells us her experience, what Best Friends does, what their 2025 goal is and so much more! To learn more about Best Friends you can find them here, https://bestfriends.org/
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is proudly sponsored by Joubert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relate Transport. Now on with our show today, we’re talking with Angie Embree, the chief information officer or CEO, off Best Friends Animal Society. Angie’s responsible for lining the strategic plan for information technology with the strategic plan of the organization and in support of the save them all call to action. This involves working with all of the best friends. Staff members help them understand how to use technology and to educate them on where technology can improve processes that contribute to saving more lives before starting with best friends. And she spent 25 years and technology leadership, 12 of which were with higher education of Drake University and 13 years in the telecommunications industry. Angie Listen, Kanab, with her rescues standard poodles, topper and Sebastian and a great para news mix named Sophie. She is a longtime supporter and foster for local shelters and rescue organizations and the communities that she’s lived in. Angie enjoys reading, learning new things and getting things done. Hey, Angie, welcome to the program. Thank you. So I’m happy to be here. Yeah, tell us a little bit about you. Well, you know, I was one of those kids who always brought home strays, and there were many, many, many of them. It didn’t matter What kind of animal? Itwas dogs, cats, birds, rabbits. You know, I was bound and determined that every animal I found out there, um shouldn’t should belong to me and should stay with me for so I could take care of it, much to my mother’s dismay, even in in one of my rescues attempted to rescue Akali who bit me, but that that really didn’t stop me from Fromkin continuing on with other animals. So later in my life, we had, you know, dogs on my life for But later on, when I was independent and I was living in Texas working in the telecommunications industry, I was sitting watching television with my puppy cookie one morning and this new program segment came on and it was a rescue, and they were talking about being a no kill shelter on. I immediately thought to myself, Oh, my God, If there are killed, no kill shelters, then there have to be killed shelters. Right? So that’s when I really I really realized that the, you know, animals were being killed in shelters. And so my action there was to immediately go to the no kill shelter. And I adopted another dog from that had two dogs. Yeah, so I was really happy about it. And she was awesome from there, you know, later on I was living in Iowa and it is working in higher education. And I met a woman who worked in a who ran a local rescue. And I was just amazed. And, you know, I saw she was, like, always desperately pleading for fosters. And I thought, you know, I can do that. And so I began fostering animals, some of them special needs at some real characters, um, and loved them all. I was never a failed foster, which just wasn’t the right time in my life. But, you know, every time one of them got adopted, I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed So, you know, it was It was very emotional, but I knew I was doing the right and wonderful thing. You know, Um I never really thought about having a career in animal wealth. Are you know, I just didn’t realize my skill sense were needed. I even visited best friends several years before I started working here, and I thought, Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if they needed a C i o. But really doubted that That they did? Yeah. Um, Then the job at best friends opened up the CEO position, and I talked to myself. Oh, my God. Here is my opportunity to combine my personal passion with my career. And so I went for it, and and here I said, with your Did you join best friends? I joined in 2014. So I’ve been here in January of 2014. I’ve been here a little over four years. Okay. For our listeners that may not be aware of best friends. Can you tell us a little bit about best friends? How it got started? Kind of things that you guys do? Yeah, roughly 34 years ago, a group of basically just friends. I think I can’t recall the, you know, the exact number of them. But they had a dream to have a no kill animal sanctuary. And they made that dream a reality. They created the largest no kill companion animal sanctuary here in Kanab, Utah. So, um, but they don’t have a vision for, um, you know, taking the state no kill. And they extended programming is to Salt Lake City, where there was a, you know, a bigger area of need, a swell. It’s working in the local community to create, you know, to make the Kane County and the surrounding counties. I’m no cure. They then had a vision to take the count. The country no kill Mom. We know how programs in New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta in addition to Salt Lake City and the sanctuary. And then we have our moon shot to take the country. No killed by the end of 2025. And I have to say that many of the founders are still actively involved today, and it’s an honor and a privilege to be here to help them achieve their vision. Yeah, for sure. It sounds like it’s so now you’re are you out in Kanab, Utah? I am. I’m located in Canal. Okay. And I have to tell you, it is This is the first time I’ve worked in a small a small town or lived in a small town. Sure. Uh, and it is. It’s really an incredible place. Lots of beauty. Um, and interesting people to me. Yeah. No, it’s definitely I might list personally to come out and visit the sanctuary, have heard others an animal rescue. Say it’s equivalent to going to Mecca. So yeah, you know, can tell. Tell people a little bit about the sanctuary. I mean, it really sounds like amazing place. If it worked privately owned, I think it would be a national park. It is that beautiful. We have thousands and thousands of acres in what was previously called Kanab Canyon. But, you know, when best friends bought it, it was renamed Angel Canyon. It’s just amazing. We have separate areas for all the different types of animals we have here. And, you know, I just can’t describe it. There are a lot of videos out there that you can find so you can see it for yourself. But the best thing to do is to come here and visit in person. Yeah. No. Like I said, it’s definitely on my list to come out and, uh, and visit you guys. So So tell us a little bit about your job. So as the CEO, you know, people may not be familiar with what a CEO does Kind of give us a little bit of background in a view into your day to day. Well, I as the chief information officer, I’m really responsible for all the technology that we use in our work across the country. So that includes our technology infrastructure, like networks, servers, phone systems are websites, the business applications we use, um, like constituent relationship management, finance, accounting, shelter management, volunteer management, all of the data and all of the end user technology, for example, your laptop computer Or, um, you know, some of the gaps that we may use, and it also involves innovative technology. I spend a lot of my time planning building plans that align us with the strategies of the business. A lot of days, I’m tied up in meetings focusing on organizational goals or and as always, there are those administrative meetings which are the most fun but always necessary. On my most fun days, I get I get to research really cool stuff like applications for artificial intelligence and animals or virtual reality or augmented reality some of the cool and emerging technologies out there. You know, I, um recently during the Hurricanes, I spent a lot of time researching facial recognition and how it could improve returning, getting animals return to owners. So I think there’s a There’s a lot of things that weaken due to really, you know, step up what we’re doing An animal welfare in the use of technology Teoh to save more lives. Yeah, I know that sounds really cool in in to your point. I’m I’m a big believer in technology myself, and I think there is a lot more that we could do. So tell us about some of the ways I mean, I know you guys sponsor a lot of even like hack events and trying to bring more technology. How is best friends trying to bring more technology to the animal rescue world? What we do do hackathons. We have been to both Stanford and Harvard universities where I think we generated about 55 different life, saving that if the way they’ve applied the technology to our problems. And, um, we’re actually working with the students to build out one of those APS Right now, it’s called Dog. Oh, and while the team was called DA Go the Apple because that but it’s an app that forces, um, a good picture of the animal, and it uses facial recognition, technology and emotional intelligence. So it says, Does the animal look happy? And, you know, and did you get the best picture of the animal? So that’s that’s really cool. That’s one example of what we’re doing. We’re also working as a result of the hurricanes were leading, um, when I would call a technology stand up group with other organizations involved in, um, technology and animal welfare. So these could be shelter management systems or, um, or, you know, other emerging technologies like do bert dot com, which provides transport, Um, the lost and found organizations, you know, doing what we think is right to improve return to owner, not just during a disaster, but all of the time. So part of that is saying, you know, why do we have isolated data. Um, why can’t we, um, share that data so that all the lost and found APS have the data they need to match that animal with, You know, the other side of the coin, which is the animal getting reported is lost. People don’t. You know, when you lose an animal, you don’t you don’t post that animal and every single lost and found site out there. I mean, that’s probably, you know, impossible. What you’re looking is what is being used most likely in your region. So if we could get shelters and rescues to share their data with all these lost and found sites, we have a much better chance of having that animal reunited with its person. Yeah, I know. And that’s that. I love programs like that because I’m a big believer. And how do we How do we focus on the animal first? Right. And how do we get the animals? Say often work together. And so I love, love, love, love those types of programs that you guys were doing. Thank you. You know, one of the things I have always liked about best friends is save them all. It’s such a nice tight tagline. So so describe for us or kind of help us understand. What does that mean? You know, what are some of the things behind? Save them all. We’ll save them all. Really is about, You know, You know, I talked earlier about no kill and kill shelters. Gnocchi Oh, really means that animals are not destroyed except in cases of terminal and painful illnesses. You know, it’s when compassion demands euthanasia because there’s no reasonable alternative. And so we don’t want animals being killed in shelters in shelters simply because there isn’t space. We think that, you know, at least 90% of animals out there are adoptable, and we want to make sure that that they are finding their forever homes. Yeah, Now that’s really cool. And I know you guys do events across the country. I mean, you work with a lot of different network partners in doing things to achieve that mission. So that’s really cool. Yeah, we do. We have a national conference, um, which is in July and this year it’s going to be in Los Angeles, and we also do an event called Strike Your Mind and Strike Your money is basically a dog walk and a huge party, Um, to Teoh. You know, afterwards it’s just a super super fun event, and we do it in a ton of cities across the country. On what Start your mud Does the intent of strike your mind is to really to raise money for our network partners? Um, you know, so that they have the resources they need. Teoh just save more lives. Yeah. No, that’s really cool. And I know you know, one of the interesting things about best friends is that you guys have, you know, um, animal shelters that you own, and then you’ve got the network partners that you work with. So I know people can go on your website as well and see adoptable animals, right? Yep. We have tons of adoptable animals on our website, not only here at the sanctuary, but in all of our other locations. I mentioned earlier earlier New York, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, in Los Angeles. So we have we each of those those scientists, their own websites. So if you live in one of those areas and you want to see you, the animals, the adoptable animals in that area you can do so you can also come out to the to the sanctuary or visit our website and see the adoptable animals there. Yeah, really cool. So, for somebody that’s listening, how can they get involved? Or how can they help out with best friends? Well, I think the best place to go is our website. Because, you know, we cover visiting, volunteering, donating, adopting. Um, we cover workshops that help you start a, um your own No kill sanctuary. Your rescue. Um, you know, there’s just tons of resource is on our website, and if you don’t know it, it’s it’s best friends. Stop Orc it will. You know, you can actually plan your visit here through our website. We offer free tours. It’s really an incredible resource is for getting involved with the organization. OK, Yeah. No, I know I’ve personally used it. There’s a lot of great information out there, everything from feral cats and fostering animals and transport. I mean, there’s Askew said there’s a ton of information out there, so yeah, we also we do provide a lot of, you know, information on starting a TNR program or, you know, some of the other programs we have. How you could do that, You know, in your community? No, definitely. I think it’s a great research and would highly encourage people take a look at it. So So, Andrew, this is all great. And we appreciate you coming on. Is there anything else you want to share with us before we wrap things up? You know, I think I wanna talk about some of the things that are helping us to save them all. You know, we way. We do have a lot of innovative programs. We do tnr. Which was a huge innovation when it started. Um, you know, the low cost spay, spay and neuter, Um, you know, our national programs, um, working with our network partners. But I really I don’t think I’m emphasized technology enough. And And that’s really surprising, because I am the chief chief information on Earth. Um, you know, I’ve mentioned that we are focusing on technology solutions for transport re homing, keeping pets in the home, which is huge fostering and adoption. Um, we are actively researching all of those areas as well as any others on that we think can have an impact on no kill and those solutions don’t have to be invented by us. You know, we’re looking at what people out there are creating and how it impacts our cause and then helping to accelerate its use not only by our organization, but in the region, the regions that we support, which is basically the entire country and our network partners. I really think that, um we’re looking for a lot of Czech volunteers as well to help us with our work. So even if you’re not in a position to get a job in animal welfare at this time, um, you know there is an opportunity to volunteer, and I’d really like to point that out. I think another focus that people need to be aware of is data. Best Friends is involved with the organization shelter animals count on. And we also So we are, you know, helping Shamel shelter animals can’t become successful. But there are also a lot of organizations not reporting data to shelter on animals count. So we’re working with volunteers to collect data from organizations that don’t provide animals. Toe s A. That’s a shelter, animals count. And we have found the data that we’ve gathered on and, you know, put together from that we’ve created the first of its kind maps which visualized the areas of the country that, um, that basically have the biggest problem. Onda most killing transparency in data is critical. So every shelter and rescue who can share their data with shelter animals come. You’re really helping Teoh define where the problems are and the areas of need and where the areas that we need to provide resource is to help out. And I also think the biggest thing for shelters and rescues out there is being progressive in adopting processes by lowering their requirements to adopt and really being more open to people who want animals but but can’t meet to 10 100% of the shelters requirements, Sure, also engaging with your communities. It is so critical. What we found and our partner organizations are reporting to us is that if the community knows that that you need help, they’ll step up. So I think that’s something I’d like to end with their There are a lot of things out there that shelters and rescues could do, and I think those are probably the most important. Yeah, no and I think that’s very well, stated Angie. So we’ve covered a lot today, so thank you so much for coming on the program. Thank you. 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