Patty Hegwood was recruited in January 2011 to be the inaugural director for the new Volunteer and Visitor Engagement division for Best Friends Animal Society. This division houses all of the areas that work with supporters to ensure that their experience at the Sanctuary is positive and inspirational, and to offer educational and resource opportunities for people to get active on behalf of the animals in their communities when they return home. Patty first started working at Best Friends in 2006 as the manager of the Best Friends clinic. She was recruited to join Best Friends' staff following the society's efforts in Hurricane Katrina pet rescue. At that time, Patty was the lay business partner in a veterinary hospital; in fact, she was the first non-medical business partner in a veterinary hospital in the state of Louisiana.
Best Friends Animal Society is the only national animal welfare organization dedicated exclusively to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America's shelters. A leader in the no-kill movement, Best Friends runs the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals, as well as lifesaving programs in partnership with rescue groups and shelters across the country. Since its founding in 1984, Best Friends has helped reduce the number of animals killed in American shelters from 17 million per year to about 4 million.