Q&A with Zoë Agnew-Svboda of BestyBnB

pet resource center of kc and bestybnb group photo

At the end of the day, we all have one goal. And that’s to keep pets and people together. 

But that’s a task that would be impossible to accomplish if we didn’t join forces with other local organizations who want to preserve and protect the human-animal bond and better the lives of pets and people in Kansas City. 

We have a wonderful and new partnership with BestyBnB, an organization that gives its all to prevent pets from being surrendered when their humans need to seek social services. We chatted with Zoë Agnew-Svboda, director of engagement and program development at BestyBnB, to learn more about the work they’re doing to change lives, and save them.

brindle pit sticking head over fence

Q: Take me back to the very beginning and tell me about some of the issues that prompted BestyBnB’s creation.

A: BestyBnB was founded to keep pets and people safe, connected, and together. In May of 2019, the co-founders, Matt Krentz and Andy Bond, learned of the crisis regarding the co-occurrence of animal abuse and domestic violence while listening to Kansas City’s NPR affiliate, KCUR. When they learned that the vast majority of domestic violence agencies in the United States were unable to provide services to survivors with pets, Matt and Andy were compelled to act. Utilizing their collective experience building secure software platforms and dedicating themselves to become educated on the barriers facing domestic violence agencies, they created BestyBnB.

Nearly 2 and a half years after hearing that initial interview on KCUR, BestyBnB appeared on the same program describing how the BestyBnB team created a solution to this crisis: Kansas City NPR / KCUR: Domestic violence shelters now have a resource to find safe housing for victims’ pets.

Here are a few of the shocking statistics the founders learned about in that initial
NPR episode:

  • Less than 5 percent of domestic violence agencies have the means to house companion animals;
  • Over 50 percent of people who call a 24-hour abuse hotline seeking help, DO NOT leave their abuser when they find out they CANNOT bring their pet. This is the No. 1 barrier preventing survivors from seeking immediate help; and
  • 70 percent of pets left behind by a survivor are harmed or killed by the abuser in retaliation.

Q: What is your end goal(s)? 

A: BestyBnB has many long-term goals, among the most prominent are to prevent owner surrenders and to end the barrier that pets create when an owner is seeking social services. Whether that is a stay at a domestic violence agency, receiving in-patient mental health services, or simply needing a place for a pet to stay when the owner has fallen on hard times, pet ownership should never be an impediment to receiving help.

Hani hugged Layla and said, "I love you."

Q: What services do you offer, and how do they make a difference?

A: We bring the community together in a new and innovative way. BestyBnB is a first-of-its-kind solution providing every domestic violence agency, mental health organization, or animal welfare organization with a platform to find loving and vetted pet caregivers (foster homes) within the community who have signed up to provide long- or short-term pet fostering. Our non-profit agency partners have called BestyBnB an airbnb for pets.

BestyBnB provides agencies the technical tools, mobile and web apps, training, and 24-hour support to create life-saving pet programs. This enables agencies with no prior pet program experience to quickly and easily implement one. And for those agencies fortunate enough to have a pet program already established, our innovative tools and expanded services enhance what they can provide to pets and pet owners. Additionally, BestyBnB recruits and vets pet caregivers, and then trains them how to provide loving environments for pets until they can safely be reunited with their owners.

Q: Before BestyBnB existed, what options did pet owners have when they found themselves in a position where they couldn’t provide housing or care for their pet(s)?

A: Many agencies were unable to provide any assistance when a pet was involved, where some other agencies were limited to creating their own foster network or on-site pet facilities. Even for those agencies fortunate enough to have a foster network or on-site facility, many faced challenges with the capacity to manage such programs because of staffing limitations, funding, space, or liability. As we mentioned above, multiple studies state that less than 5 percent of domestic violence agencies in the U.S. have the means to house pets. The same studies indicate that 50 percent of people seeking services from such agencies would remain in life-threatening situations when they learned they could not bring pets with them. And, sadly, 70 percent of pets left behind by a survivor are abused or killed.

BestyBnB eliminates the barrier agencies face by creating an easy-to-use platform that is built specifically for their needs and ensures safety and confidentiality of pets and pet owners, thereby ensuring that survivors no longer must choose between their safety and that of their pets.

Q: For the families you help, what do their pets mean to them? And how does BestyBnB help preserve that special bond?

A: Pets are family! Maintaining the human–animal bond is vital and an area of emphasis at BestyBnB. The bond people share with pets has been well studied and documented to have a beneficial impact on both physical and mental health. Maintaining that bond helps survivors heal from trauma, aid those receiving mental health services, or guide those navigating homelessness toward a goal of housing. BestyBnB provides a proprietary, confidential platform for pet owners and pet caregivers to stay connected and share updates, including pictures or videos, until the pet and owner can be reunited.

Q: Talk to me about the different partnerships you have with organizations in town. How do they work, and why are they important to have?

A: We are proud to partner with seven of the most prominent domestic violence agencies in the metro, some of which were unable to, or had never considered, offering a pet program until they learned of BestyBnB. And we are thrilled to partner with PRCKC, who does so much tremendous work for pets and pet owners in our community. Through the BestyBnB partnership, PRCKC will expand and extend temporary pet housing to those in need beyond domestic violence survivors.

BestyBnB is also engaged with mental health organizations, as well as homeless shelters and should have announcements in those areas in the very future. It is important to have a large network of agencies who can offer temporary pet housing through BestyBnB, so that no matter what crisis a pet owner is facing, they know their pet will be safe and well cared for.

bestybnb donating dog food to prckc

Q: What have folks had to say so far about the service you’re providing?

A: Our partners in the community are amazing. The CEO of one local domestic violence agency has said, “BestyBnB is an extremely innovative solution that will help domestic violence agencies in a number of ways. This includes housing pets, increased engagement with volunteers eager to advance the agency’s mission, fundraising, and as a job creation tool for abuse survivors, among others. It’s an opportunity for people to get involved in a new way. People are always asking how they can help, and this is a way they can help pets and humans at the same time.”

Another passionate BestyBnB advocate is a retired police officer, who now serves as the community police liaison at one of our partner agencies. When asked about BestyBnB, this person stated, “Running and operating an agency for people experiencing domestic violence is expensive and requires tremendous commitment and support. From a cost, staffing, and space perspective, incorporating an on-site animal shelter is not an option for most organizations. After so many years of seeing survivors of abuse stay in dangerous situations to save their four-legged friends, I am very thankful to work with BestyBnB as one of the first agencies to deploy this solution. This resource is literally saving the lives of humans and pets and it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Q: How can others support your organization?

A: Those who are interested in caring for pets and supporting pet owners in need can SIGN UP or learn more about becoming a BestyBnB pet caregiver by visiting mybestbnb.com.

In addition to signing up at mybestbnb.com, another way to show your support is share the BestyBnB story with friends, family, and social media networks, particularly if they are already part of the local foster community.

A BestyBnB pet caregiver is a person who truly makes an exponential impact in their community. Not only will they support Pet Resource Center of Kansas City, but they can also provide support to any of our other local non-profit partners in the BestyBnB network.

A million thanks to the BestyBnB team for its amazing partnership, and for being there for pets and their families when they thought it was the end of the road. If you or someone you know needs temporary foster for your pets, do not hesitate to reach out to either of us. We’ll do everything we can to help.

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