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Two dogs staring through a fence photographed by Lori Fusaro, Best Friends Animal Society

Interview with Lori Fusaro, Best Friends Animal Society

Each day over 9,000 dogs and cats are euthanized at shelters throughout the US. One organization committed to reducing that number to zero is the Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS). Since being formed by a group of concerned friends in the 1980s, BFAS has grown immensely, and has undertaken initiatives in animal rescue, animal placement and adoption, community and owner education, spay and neuter programs, and the establishment of no-kill communities nationwide. The society operates a sprawling animal sanctuary outside Salt Lake City, home to hundreds of cats, dogs, horses, and even birds, many with special needs. The Society also operates offices in New York City and Los Angeles. 

Lori Fusaro is a professional photographer whose passion for helping animals led her to the Los Angeles office of BFAS. Lori has been with the organization since fall 2013 and is the BFAS’s photographer. 
 
Q: What are your principle duties and responsibilities at BFAS?

A: As the LA photographer for BFAS, my main duties are taking dog and cat adoption photos, marketing photos, photos for stories that run in Best Friend Magazine, events like Strut Your Mutt and NKLA Super Adoptions. Basically, if someone needs a photo I shoot it. 
 
Q: How has BFAS made a difference in the lives of lost or abandoned animals in Los Angeles?

A: BFAS has made such a difference in so many animals’ lives. We have an extensive group of fantastic volunteers that work with the animals on a daily basis. Our staff organizes hikes for the dogs, agility courses, kennel snuggle time and playgroups. We have five play yards, and at any time of day, you can see the volunteers playing fetch with them or just letting them run around and have fun. The dogs are loved and exercised and socialized while they are here, so when they meet their family they are ready to go. 

The cat team has enrichment programs as well. Cat playgroups happen weekly and volunteers spend one-on-one time with the kitties. We have several freeroam rooms filled with cats that like to hang out with each other. They are full of toys and cat trees, and volunteers visit them for daily play sessions. We also have a kitten nursery where the kittens get bottle fed around the clock. It's pretty amazing to see.

Q: Have you ever visited the BFAS Sanctuary in Utah?

A: I have, and it's the most amazing place ever! I am fortunate to be able to visit several times a year. When I'm there I also get to take photographs of the animals there...which includes pigs, horses, bunnies, birds...you name it...I think the sanctuary has it. It's huge!
 
Q: How do you use your skills as a professional photographer to help BFAS achieve its goals?

A: My goal when taking adoption photos is to capture that animal's personality. I want people who see the photo to think, "Wow, that's a cool dog (or cat) I want to go meet them." Some dogs are shy, some are toy crazy, and some like to lounge on the couch. I try and let them each be themselves and capture their spirit. Same with the cats--It's important to showcase them in a way that drives people to come meet the pets. The best thing in the world is when someone says, “I saw this photo online and I just had to come adopt him.” 
 
Q: How many animals have you personally adopted through BFAS?

A: I have adopted one—so far--Mr. French. He's a 10 year old Chihuahua mix. When my dog, Sunny, passed away, I wanted to get a friend for my other dog, Gabby. Mr. French looks like a mini Gabby. I brought him home to foster at first. They got along so well, we ended up keeping him. 

I've also fostered two hospice cats. Hospice is giving a home to an old or sick animal that may not have much time left. I have a soft spot for these guys and when I can, I bring them home. It's an amazing experience and so wonderful for the animal to live in a home at this time of life. My first was Basil. She was an ancient cat with kidney problems. She lived with us for about a month before she passed away. Rockefeller was the other. He was such a sweet old man. He made himself right at home and lived with us for a few months. 

I also bring dogs and cats home for sleepovers and weekend getaways when I can. It’s a great way for them to get a break from the shelter, and I like to take them to coffee shops and walks around town to help get them adopted.
 
Q: What’s the hardest part of your job with BFAS?
 
A: Not being able to take them all home—ha, ha! I am so blessed to be able to combine my two passions in life: photography and animals. Every day is different, and I get to work on all kinds of projects so I'm never bored. And the fact that I'm helping these animals find homes, makes it that much better. 

Q: What would you most like to convey to people who may be unfamiliar with BFAS?

A: Take a trip to the sanctuary! It will make you so happy to see rescued animals living an amazing life while they wait for their forever home. People can volunteer with any of the animal locations and spend time with them. Seriously, it's the most beautiful place I've ever seen. I love that BFAS works with other rescues all over the country to help make homeless animals lives better. 

We've even helped when natural disasters strike. We had an amazing team help when Hurricane Katrina hit and recently we were there in Louisiana for the floods. So much can happen when we work together, and that is what BFAS tries to do--work together to save them all. 

To learn more about the Best Friends Animal Society, the Sanctuary, and their many programs, visit them online at bestfriends.org.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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