No-Kill is a community philosophy and commitment to saving every healthy or treatable dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved.
No-Kill is the embrace of collective responsibility for these companion animals and of intentional collaboration between shelters, rescue groups, local governments, and members of the community to save lives.
No-Kill is the rejection of the failed and inhumane ideology that simply killing lost or homeless pets is the most humane or most convenient solution for the community.
With the commitment of the broader community to No-Kill, it is possible to limit the number of pets that unnecessarily enter shelters, more successfully reunite lost pets with their owners, meet community goals on managing outdoor pet populations, and connect caring people in the community with healthy or treatable dogs and cats in need of a home.
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No-Kill is a community philosophy and commitment to finding every healthy or treatable companion animal (dogs and cats) that interacts with shelter staff, contracted animal control officers, or members of the broader community a loving home.
However, No-Kill is not and has never been “no euthanasia.” In instances where a companion animal is suffering from irreparable illness or injury or is too aggressive to be rehabilitated, euthanasia is the only humane option for the animal and the best option for the community.
There is a strong distinction in the No-Kill Movement between “killing” and “euthanizing” companion animals. The term “killing” is used when a healthy or treatable companion animal’s life is unnecessarily ended before it has found a home, while euthanasia is a merciful act of compassion for a severely sick, injured, or dangerous dog or cat.
For a shelter to be considered No-Kill, at least 90% of the companion animals that enter its facilities must leave alive.
This means on average that 9 out of 10 dogs and cats that enter a given shelter return to their home or find a new home. In many No-Kill communities, this 90% threshold is far exceeded.
Shelters refer to this number as their “live release” or “save rate,” and it is typically reflective of the overall programming the shelter employs to handle its animal populations and how well it has engaged the broader community as a partner in life-saving.
In the end: for a shelter to be considered No-Kill at least 90% of the companion animals that enter its facilities must leave alive. 90% is an industry benchmark based on the fact that the number of pets in shelters that require humane euthanasia typically do not exceed 10%.
There is absolutely no limit to where No-Kill can thrive in America.
The proof is the existence of extremely successful No-Kill shelters all across the United States that are wildly diverse and all have unique challenges in their respective communities.
While all of these shelters have achieved at least a 90% save rate, they do not share a common geography, climate, demography, or government structure (e.g. publicly vs. privately owned/operated).
These shelters, however, largely enjoy a strong commitment from their community to life-saving and apply best practices and proven programs that undeniably save the lives of countless companion animals in their area.
The truth is that No-Kill is being rapidly achieved across the United States. In fact, ~57% of all shelters in the U.S. achieved No-Kill status by 2022, which is an incredible increase from just 24% in 2016.
The success of No-Kill today began as a small grassroots movement against the indiscriminate killing of millions of dogs and cats in American shelters during the 1980s.
Surprisingly, opposition to the No-Kill movement came from institutional “animal rights” organizations, such as PETA, that believed the mass killing of companion animals was an acceptable method of population control and preferable to living with owners that did not meet highly-exclusive and idealized “standards.”
Today, PETA and others are continuing to wage a war against No-Kill that is deeply dishonest and is designed to confuse animal lovers and the general public into re-embracing the mass killing of healthy or treatable dogs and cats as the only “humane” choice.
Despite these attacks, No-Kill continues to be embraced by the public. Click here to learn more about the overwhelming demand for No-Kill across the United States.
* These numbers are derived from the best available shelter data across the United States.
There are a number of current challenges facing the No-Kill Movement today
Opponents of this life-saving movement have misrepresented what the term No-Kill means (and what it does not mean) in an attempt to sew confusion and diminish support for what the general public otherwise overwhelmingly supports. In fact, a recent national poll shows nearly 80% of Americans support their local shelter striving to achieve No-Kill status.
No Kill Facts exists to educate and inform the public on the true meaning of the term so that they may discern between fact and fiction on this critical issue for lost and homeless companion animals.
Many states and local governments lack any reporting standards or requirements on both the intake of companion animals and their ultimate fate while at the shelter. Making matters even worse, some private entities are able to completely hide the data on what happens to pets in their care. All told there is a serious lack of transparency in the animal sheltering industry, and the unfortunate result is that the broader community is unaware of what is occurring within their local shelter.
Without awareness of the life-saving opportunities at the local shelter, building coalitions and partnerships with the community to truly implement No-Kill is extremely challenging.
Many shelters and their staffs work tirelessly to save the lives of lost and homeless dogs and cats in their area; however, they will undoubtedly require the time, talent, and treasure of the local community to assist in life-saving programs
The truth is that No-Kill often begins before a companion animal ever enters the local shelter. It is as much about assisting well-intentioned and loving pet owners in need, empowering animal control officers to solve problems in the field, and providing support for Good Samaritans who find a lost animal to return it to its home.
No-Kill often relies upon the broader community to solve problems to save as many lives as possible—working together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively is what truly makes No-Kill possible.
* Nationwide poll conducted July 30 - August 4, 2023, surveying 2,012 registered voters across the United Stats. Margin of Error of plus or minus 2.19%.
Half of all dogs and cats killed in the United States are in shelters within just five states: Texas, California, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia.
While every community is unique, focused implementation of programs such as these is essential to work towards achieving No-Kill status:
ADOPTION/FOSTER programs to drastically reduce the time companion animals spend inside shelters.
COMMUNITY CAT programs to safely and humanely reduce the outdoor, or unowned, cat population over time without simply catching-and-killing these animals.
RETURN-TO-HOME programs to more successfully reunite owners and families with a lost pet as quickly as possible and without the need for the pet to enter a shelter.
SPAY/NEUTER to reduce the population of dogs and cats in the area.
Engaging the community and developing successful coalitions and partnerships is key to achieving No-Kill.
With the common life-saving goal in mind, teamwork between shelters, rescue groups, and passionate individuals saves lives. Whether it’s amplifying public messaging around adoption/foster opportunities, assistance in maintaining consistent/transparent reporting, transporting animals, volunteering, and more, these partnerships are essential to success.
The backbone of No-Kill is collecting accurate and current information on what types of animals are entering and leaving a given shelter.
With meaningful data, shelters can focus on specific life-saving programs that address their current needs. For example, data may reflect a high success rate in temporarily sheltering and placing dogs, but unowned, outdoor cats entering the facility is in need of a solution. To address this issue, the shelter could implement a community cat program to address the needs of the community without killing these animals.
All shelters, regardless of whether they have achieved No-Kill status, utilize some form of Managed Intake. There are no truly “open” intake shelters that will accept any animal at any time under any circumstance. Detractors of No-Kill have attempted to misrepresent how No-Kill-achieving-shelters utilize this important tool to confuse the public and policymakers.
“Managed Intake,” at its core, is a shelter policy that helps determines how and when a dog or cat enters the facility. Think of needing to see a doctor or to take your car to the mechanic…it is customary to call ahead and schedule an appointment that works for you and the service provider.
The same applies here. Shelters that utilize managed intake ask owners who are relinquishing pets or Good Samaritans who are attempting to drop off strays to make an appointment with the shelter beforehand to prevent producing a crush of new intakes when little to no shelter space is currently available.
Often times the best outcome for a pet is not to enter the shelter at all. In this vane, managed intake provides an opportunity to identify and solve the root causes that are leading an owner to relinquish their pet to the shelter in hopes of keeping them together.
HOW DOES MANAGED INTAKE AFFECT PET OWNERS?
Unmanaged intake can be stressful for pet owners. In many cases, owners may arrive at the shelter to surrender their pet and have to wait in long lines or in crowded lobbies in order to surrender. Then, when conversations take place, owners have to talk about their life challenges (lost jobs, lost housing, etc) in a crowded lobby with others around and others waiting. It can be a time-consuming and humiliating experience.
By managing intake, distressed pet owners can set an appointment and have private conversations about the underlying issues that have led them to relinquish their pet, often revealing a material need for food, supplies, or medicine that when addressed would keep the animal in its current home.Sometimes an owner still cannot keep their pet and shelter staff can provide support or assistance in rehoming the animal within the owner’s current social networks or pet rehoming apps so the pet never has to unnecessarily enter a shelter. Even the best shelters are stressful places for animals and have the potential for spreading disease, so often the best-case scenario is that the animal never enters the shelter at all.The results are fewer animals entering the shelter and instead staying with well-intentioned and loving owners.
HOW DOES MANAGED INTAKE AFFECT GOOD SAMARITANS WITH STRAYS?
Recent research has indicated that keeping a lost pet within the area in which it was found, rather than transporting it to an area shelter, led to reunification with its owner 51% of the time.
Working with these Good Samaritans, shelter staff can help provide best practices to reunite the found animal with its owner, alleviating pressure on shelter space and keeping pets and people together.
Additionally, when a Good Samaritan finds a pet, research indicates that 70% of found pets are found within a mile of their home (42% are found within a block!).Providing Good Samaritans with the tools and resources to reunite pets with their owners in their own neighborhoods is often more effective than taking them across town to the animal shelter. And getting the pets reunited with their owners is undoubtedly the best outcome for them.
HOW DO OPPONENTS MISUSE STATISTICS?
Often, managed intake results in lower shelter intake numbers—by design. Opponents point to lower intake numbers and say that the shelter is reducing services. The truth is that managed intake provides enhanced service to the community, is designed to support distressed owners before relinquishing their pets, reunites lost companion animals with their owners, and ensures shelter space to maximize life-saving.
Community Cat programs are an essential part of No-Kill. In addition to saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year, community cat programs are the most humane approach to minimizing community cat populations and creating safer and healthier cat populations.
Community Cat programs are humane alternatives to the mass catch-and-kill approach to addressing the unowned, outdoor stray cat population. If catch-and-kill worked, we would not have any issues with outdoor cats in the United States, as this cruel approach has been utilized for decades with nothing to show for it.
Most Community Cat programs utilize a Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) model whereby unowned, outdoor cats are safely trapped, then neutered and vaccinated by a veterinary professional, and ultimately returned to where they were found to continue living their lives.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TNVR AND OTHER COMMUNITY CAT PROGRAMS?
When done appropriately, TNVR reduces the number of unowned, outdoor cats in an area while also eliminating many of the nuisance behaviors that are disruptive to the local community, such as aggression, yowling, and spraying.
Additionally, with vaccination, cats are able to be free from deadly viruses, keeping them healthy and safe members of the community.
Vaccinated cats also enjoy a higher quality of life as they are far less susceptible to catching and carrying diseases that are harmful to their health and the health of other cats.
IS TNVR CRUEL?
Every aspect of a TNVR program is done with the animal’s safety and well-being in mind.
TRAPPING: Cats are safely and humanely trapped by trained animal control officers or well-meaning members of the community.
NEUTERING/VACCINATING: A trained veterinary professional performs all medical care for the animals.
RETURNING: The cats are then returned to the area in which they were trapped to recommence their daily lives and routines. These areas already have a recognized food source and often have caregivers that care about the well-being of the cats, and as social beings, cats often have a social network in the area in which they live.
ARE ALL OUTDOOR CATS RETURNED TO WHERE THEY WERE FOUND?
If a trapped cat is irreparably sick or injured or cannot be safely returned to the place where it was trapped, shelter and veterinarian staff determine the best option for the cat, including relocation, treatment, or humane euthanasia.
AREN’T THESE CATS THREATS TO OTHER WILDLIFE LIKE BIRDS?
TNVR is a humane and proven effective way of minimizing outdoor cat populations and is more effective at minimizing populations than catch-and-kill practices. With fewer cats comes a lessened impact on wildlife populations. After neutering, aggression in cats is greatly diminished, reducing the threat to other wildlife and the likelihood of conflict with other cats.
No-Kill is a comprehensive approach to sheltering that aims to reduce the number of companion animals entering shelters and save the lives of every healthy, treatable companion animal possible that does.
With limited space and resources in any given shelter, No-Kill relies on the broader community for support through temporary fosters, transporting of dogs and cats to facilities with more space, and other life-saving programs to buy a healthy, treatable companion animal more time to find its new home.
Opponents of No-Kill that would prefer that countless healthy, treatable dogs and cats are instead quickly killed disagree with these extraordinary measures and falsely malign them as “warehousing” to paint the picture of overcrowded, noisy shelters full of uncomfortable and distressed animals.
The reality could not be more different: a network of shelters, rescue groups, foster homes, and more all working to provide attention, love, and resources to lost and homeless pets before they find their new permanent home.
The reality is that most people, in every community, love their pets. 70% of U.S. households own a pet and 87% consider them to be part of the family. No Kill first and foremost respects and collaborates with the community.
One of the most powerful tenets of No-Kill is an “open adoption” policy, which removes unnecessary and outdated barriers to the adoption process that has long prevented well-intentioned and loving individuals from participating. Such barriers have often precluded many people from pet adoption for arbitrary reasons simply because they rent a home, do not have a fenced-in yard, or do not make above a certain income threshold.
Opponents to No-Kill support onerous and dubious hurdles for potential pet owners to clear before taking a dog or cat home, such as high adoption fees, unreasonably long forms, personal and professional references, and even invasive checks of their homes.
These hurdles tell shelter staff nothing about the potential owner’s ability to love and care for an animal and instead amount to socio-economic screening. Further, there is absolutely no data that shows that these burdensome barriers to adoption actually better protect pets, but rather prevent them from entering loving homes.Opponents of No-Kill sheltering would rather a healthy, safe companion animal die than join the family of a person who does meet highly-exclusive and idealized “standards” of living.
WHY DO NO-KILL SHELTERS NOT REQUIRE A BACKGROUND CHECK FOR ADOPTION?
Blanket barriers and restrictions to adoption, such as background checks, do not indicate whether a potential pet
owner is fit to care and love for an animal. Instead, No-Kill shelters rely on a conversation-based approach to identifying potential to help create better homes for adopters and assess risks when engaging with potential owners. Well-trained staff asking the right questions and understanding legitimate red flags is a much more effective way of determining if a pet will be safe in a home.
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