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Kanab, Utah's Weekly Newspaper, Serving Kane County, Utah & the Arizona Strip

Southern Utah News Front Page: August 16, 2018

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Castle honored with prestigious recognition

Best Friends CEO Julie Castle was named one the top 50 Bad Ass Women in America.

By Dixie Brunner

While Best Friends Chairman and CEO Julie Castle has thousands of human and animal friends who admire and appreciate her talents, she is rapidly gaining national and international recognition for being an outstanding Bad Ass!

Wait, what? While the title might seem a hair (or hare, in this case) questionable, the import of the recognition for Castle, as well as Best Friends and Kanab, is astounding.

Julie Castle was named one of the top 50 women leaders in the country by the prestigious InStyle magazine. The cover said of the women recognized in the August 2018 Badass Women issue, “Tough, outspoken and consistent, these women are our future.”

The amazing group of super-achieving, trail-blazing, role model women has its share of famous, more name-recognizable women such as tennis player Serena Williams, news anchor Katie Couric, anthropologist Jane Goodall, female activist Gloria Steinem, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Many lesser known, but equally important and unique women, such as Emma Gonzalez, Saru Jayaraman, and Jessanyn Waldman Rodriguez were also recognized. Gonzalez for activism and her passionate speech after a gunman opened fire at her high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and faculty; Jayaraman for activism after 9/11, banding together displaced restaurant workers to co-found the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United; baker Rodriguez founded Hot Bread Kitchen in East Harlem to teach low-income and immigrant women how to make bread.

“A bad ass woman stands up for herself, is confident, and is not afraid to challenge the hierarchy, the patriarchy, or conventional thinking,” said newswoman Katie Couric, of the InStyle recognition.

“I never thought anyone who looked like me could learn (opera) and inspire other girls to do the same, but the color of my skin doesn’t matter,” said South African soprano Pretty Yende, of her honor. “The pure joy of singing and breaking boundaries while sharing it makes me the most proud.”


But the woman on the InStyle magazine’s top 50 list many of us are most proud of is Best Friends’ Julie Castle!

Castle was born and raised in Bountiful, Utah, a descendent of pioneers and entrepreneurs.

Following magna cum laude graduation from Southern Utah University, she was headed for the University of Virginia School of Law when she happened to stop by Best Friends Animal Society while on vacation. The sanctuary, the no-kill ethic and the vision of the founders had a profound effect and inspired her to trade away her lawyer-leanings for a low-paying, six-day a week job as employee number 17 at Best Friends!

Doing whatever job or chore needed to keep the organization running, Castle worked in animal care, landscaping, off-site adoptions, answering phones, taking visitors on sanctuary tours in one of several beat-up old cars and “tabling” in front of grocery stores for donations.

Castle eventually took on leadership of the organization’s fundraising efforts. Under one combined division, the communications, marketing and development teams were able to flourish, with the result that in four years, fundraising grew from

$60 million to $132 million, and membership grew by 30 percent.

Over the years, Castle championed the unique concept of multiple organizations and municipalities joining forces publicly to tackle a shared social problem – to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters! She organized the design, groundwork and coalition building for NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles), a community-focused initiative that brought together the city of Los Angeles and more than 130 organizations to make L.A. a no-kill city. NKLA formally launched in 2012 and has led the city of Los Angeles from a save rate of 58 percent to 86 percent by the end of 2017. As part of that work, Julie initiated a successful bid to operate the city of Los Angeles’ Mission Hills shelter as the Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center.

In 2016, Julie put a stake in the ground on behalf of Best Friends to take the entire country to no-kill by 2025. The NKLA initiative and the Utah coalition are serving as groundbreaking and sustainable models for Best Friends’ bold, coalition-driven campaign to make the entire country no-kill by the year 2025.

Recognized as a leader and voice of the national no-kill movement, Castle speaks up, shows up and get things done. Julie lives with her husband, Gregory, in Kanab, where they run marathons and hike in southern Utah’s red rock wilderness. Julie also enjoys restoring historic homes, is an avid gardener, and even co-owns a restaurant, Peekaboo Kitchen.

“I was honored and just kind of blown away by it,” said Castle of the award. “I was informed of the actual honor in May, and it meant a lot. I was honored to be in the same company as the other women, and I thought they did a good job on also focusing on women outside of the public eye.”

Julie’s brief bio in the InStyle article said she has swiftly risen through the ranks of the Best Friends Animal Society from employee No. 17 to CEO! She hopes to make America a no-kill animal shelter nation by 2025. “Do something everyday that scares the shit out of you. That gives me courage to stand up for stuff when it’s not very popular.”

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