Animal Care Expo 2019 in New Orleans has been a booming success, with record attendance, an increased pool of scholarship participants and an expanded menu of presentations for both domestic and international attendees, including nine daylong learning labs. The energy, the spirit and the power of Expo come through at every session and every pass through the exhibition hall. For these and other reasons, it is one of my favorite events, and I’ve had an incredible time meeting and speaking with people from all over about their work and their concerns and aspirations for the field. Such contact is of immeasurable value to me and my colleagues in attendance this year, and I can tell from my interactions with registrants from all over just how valuable it is for them.

This year’s Expo, like others in the past, has featured some of the best and the brightest speakers in the field of animal care and services, all sharing their innovative thought and their knowledge of good practices with participants from around the world. Celebrity behaviorists like Jackson Galaxy and Victoria Stillwell, and other experts of prominence are important draws at Animal Care Expo, but the event provides additional benefits in the form of networking opportunities for animal care and rescue workers, in the hallways, in the sessions and in the large exhibition hall full of vendors’ and sponsors’ booths.

Our Wednesday morning Round Table Discussions, for example, featured small-group breakfast sessions in which individuals could select from dozens of topics of interest, and converse with people facing many of the same challenges, and share their own understanding and experience in finding solutions and pathways to progress in humane work. Hundreds of registrants attended. Adoption strategies, behavior and enrichment approaches, community outreach, fundraising, field work, global work, management and leadership, marketing, humane education, shelter design and operations, trends in veterinary care and volunteer and staff management were among the main subjects of focus in the Round Tables, and the results were amazing. Animal welfare professionals are part of a community of practice, and the opportunity to get together with others of like mind and spirit at Expo is never squandered.

Since its founding nearly 65 years ago, the Humane Society of the United States has tried to provide the highest possible levels of support to local humane societies, animal care agencies and rescue groups, and our own programs in the field of companion animal welfare are a source of great pride. At the same time, we recognize the importance of sharing the very best of what is happening in animal welfare work at the community level, and that’s what we try to do with Expo. It’s a showcase for best practices, a venue for productive exchange and a place for learning from one another.

Putting together a conference of such size and scope is never easy, and Animal Care Expo requires an extraordinary amount of time and focus on the part of staff members, and the many stakeholders, partners and volunteers that help to make it possible. But for us, it’s so worth it.