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We love our companion animals, and so many of us are now finding our new best friends through adoption at a shelter, rather than buying from a pet store.

It’s no secret that pets are being euthanized due to lack of space, and it’s happening at an alarming rate. There are 5,500 dogs euthanized each day in the United States, and thankfully, so many great shelters are working to fight that statistic. The no-kill movement in particular is dedicated to reducing the euthanasia of healthy pets, and creating more effective shelter systems.

These chosen ten no-kill shelters are just a handful of so many successful groups that have increased adoptions, foster networks, facilities, and services to decrease euthanasia of healthy pets. What we need now is cooperation among communities and animal facilities to see the common goal of reducing population-control euthanasia, so that we can have the most effective shelters for animals!

1. Austin Pets Alive! – Texas

Under the direction of Dr. Ellen Jefferson, APA has become a nationwide leader in the no-kill revolution. She used years of data to find a solution to Austin’s shelter euthanasia rate. They began by targeting their help to animals on the Austin Animal Center’s (AAC) euthanasia list, and using the data from animals they saved to create a more efficient system. The entire report can be found here, some of the solutions included: more off site adoption events, larger foster program, and Parvo ICU and isolation unit for sick animals. The APA continues to operate off of data and best practices – in 2011 their live outcome rate reached 90 percent, meaning 90 percent of animals were saved! They have a great guide to getting no-kill started in any shelter.

2. City of San Jose Animal Care & Services – California

Utilizing a program known as “Feral Freedom”, a trap neuter return program modeled after the pioneering effort launched in Jacksonville, the city of San Jose Animal Care and Services was able to reduce their euthanasia rate for cats by an impressive forty percent. Deputy Director Jon Cicirelli and Beth Ward, chief operating officer of the Humane Society of Silicon Valley formed We Care, a coalition of six shelters in the San Jose area dedicated to reducing euthanasia rates.

3. Multnomah County Animal Services – Oregon

As a member of the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP), a coalition of the largest animal welfare organizations serving the four-county Portland metropolitan area, Multnomah has become a model of what it takes to reduce euthanasia rates.

According to their website, “Our save rate for dogs is now up to over 90% and we’ve recently implemented several new programs to increase the save rate for cats. In 2012, ASAP member shelters collectively achieved an 85% live release rate. This is amongst the top in the nation for populations over two million people. Detailed, annual agency statistics for our shelter are available.”

What’s been most helpful in reducing euthanasia rates? Multnomah says that “transfers of dogs and cats to community partners such as private shelters, rescue groups and private foster homes for high-needs animals” have been incredibly important.

4. Members of the Metro Denver Shelter Alliance – Colorado

These members include over 25 different shelters and organizations who are dedicated to reducing euthanasia rates and increasing live outcomes. The collective live outcome rate in 2012 for the Metro Denver Shelter Alliance was 85 percent (up from 72 percent in 2005).

According to an article published in Animal Sheltering, “MDSA is able to track its collective live-release rate thanks to two central principles that its members have agreed on: a common, nonjudgmental language that’s clearly defined and consistently used, and statistical transparency.”

It’s great to see communities coming together for the animals, and the Metro Denver Shelter Alliance is paving the way for a successful model.

5. Richmond SPCA – Virginia

The Richmond SPCA began their journey of being a successful no-kill shelter in 2002, and since then has saved 34,457 lives! How did they do it? According to NBC News they partnered with Richmond Animal Care and Control, the city’s shelter, with the joint goal of ending the killing of healthy, homeless animals in the community. Then, they began limiting the animals they accepted, opened a spay/neuter clinic, created a foster program, and talked more about what it means to be a great pet caretaker.

Then what happened? NBC reported that “By 2006, two years ahead of schedule, the partners had achieved their goal: an adoption rate of 75 percent or more, with no more healthy but homeless animal dying in the city.”

6. Tompkins Country SPCA – New York

According to the Tompkins County SPCA website their journey to no-kill began in 1999, “a vision fully realized by the end of 2001.”

In the spring of 2004, the SPCA opened the Dorothy and Roy Park Pet Adoption Center, a sheltering facility that provides dogs, cats and other companion animals with comfortable, healthy, home-like settings.  Registered as the nation’s first “green” animal shelter (U.S. Green Building Council) for its environmentally minded, sustainable design, the facility is “good for people, good for animals, and good for the planet.”

Earlier in 2013, the shelter received a grant from the ASPCA for a vehicle needed to transport animals to and from the spay/neuter clinic and funds to hire an additional staff person to target cat overpopulation. These additions have helped them become even more effective in their mission.

7. Nevada Humane Society – Nevada

The NHS shares their success story in their detailed guide, “How We Did It.” They attribute their success to a ten step process which includes goals like, establishing priorities and aligning actions to save lives, and more simple goals like staying flexible. One great program the implemented was establishing a help desk to give people encouragement and tips related to keeping their animals at home, rather than relinquishing them to the shelter.

The NHS says, “Rather than trying to be all-things-to-all-people and doing a mediocre job, we decided to focus on first doing a good job for our local community and the animals in it. Once this is accomplished, we plan to expand our reach from a position of success to make a real difference for other communities.”

Their save rate in 2012 was an impressive 94 percent!

8. Dane County Humane Society – Wisconsin

Dane County is an open admission shelter, meaning they accept any animal, and most impressively they guarantee that all healthy cats and dogs and those with treatable medical/behavioral conditions will find new homes. DCHS is part of a coalition with Dane County Friends of Ferals that received a grant from Maddie’s Fund over a five year period to become an adoption guarantee community. This was accomplished by hosting joint adoption events, transferring animals among partner members for the best care and placement, and providing mutual support for each organization.

9. Arizona Animal Welfare League – Arizona

The oldest and largest no-kill shelter in Arizona, the AAWL was formed in 1971 and has been doing good for companion animals ever since. Beginning in the 1990s, they began saving animals that would have been euthanized by the county, and rehabilitated them until they could be adopted. Now they have become, “a full service animal welfare organization and leader in innovative behavior training, medical care, adoption, education and community outreach programs. Today [the] shelter has an onsite veterinary clinic, kennels with a separate cattery, a training center and a freestanding infirmary.”

10. Best Friends Animal Society – Utah

Probably the most well-known shelter in the no-kill movement, BFAS is making waves not only in their main Utah shelter, but also in Los Angeles, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Albuquerque, and countless others through their No More Homeless Pets Network Partner program. Their national initiatives are focused on keeping community cats safe and out of shelters with trap/neuter/return, battling commercial breeding operations, and fighting discrimination against pit bull terriers. (You might have seen their totally awesome PSA in 2013 featuring some of social media’s most beloved adopted pets.)

For more information on other no-kill shelters throughout the U.S., be sure to check out Fluffy Net’s list and NoKillNetwork.org’s online directory.

Image Source: Ian Phillips/Flickr

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23 comments on “10 Amazing No-Kill Animal Shelters in the U.S.”

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Joyce A King
1 Years Ago

Richmond SPCA can\'t be a no kill facility if they turn animals away. By turning them away, those animals must go elsewhere, and might end up in a kill facility, and that is Richmond SPCA\'s fault for not accepting them. It\'s a dirty way to keep a "no kill" status. To be a truly successful no kill facility, you have to be open admissions, otherwise anyone can claim to be no kill. If they refuse to take in dogs or cats, they are signing those animal\'s death certificates.

25 Aug 2017

I work for a no kill cat rescue and until you have been part of this process you have no idea what it takes to keep it a no kill. Most no kills are volunteer only organizations. We have to raise funds in order to treat sick animals, get them spayed or neutered, tested for rabies, HIV and Leukemia, and inoculate them against those diseases, feed them, and find shelter for them. We also need to find volunteers to foster, to work at the adoption center and to help raise funds to take as many animals as we can. If we do not have all of these things, there is no possible way to take every animal that is brought to us almost daily. It tears each of us apart each time we have to turn any cat away. We try to educate the public on TNR and make people understand that this animal over population is the fault of human beings and that we all need to work as a whole to combat the problem. What have you done to help make the situation better? If everyone who bitched about the situation of stray cats/animals would help take care of the problem by volunteering some way, perhaps we wouldn\'t have a problem. I am really sick and tired of listening to people who spout off, but do nothing to help.

1 Years Ago


Is there any animal rescue group that will come and pickup animals from there location that are in bad living conditions? Our sheriff and human society will do nothing in our county. Any suggestions?

Jon Gramstad
3 Years Ago

I am updating my previous comment regarding Multnomah County Animal "Service":

I was wrong. Their budget is not $6 million dollars, it is almost $10 million dollars !!!!! On top of that they do social media pleas for more money. They take in 6000 animals and transfer most......to non-profits that depend on, wait for it........social media pleas for funding. MCAS is a shameful as well as dysfunctional agency. You give them credit THEY DON\'T WANT. Maybe that\'s why they appeared (at taxpayer expense) at the Best Friends Conference to deny, reject, and attempt to discredit No-Kill. That you celebrate them, even when their numbers (manipulated) are still not No-Kill is ......ASTOUNDING.

Do us and the animals a favor and print a retraction. MCAS is BAD.

Bett S
3 Years Ago

It appears that the author is not entirely clear on what a No Kill shelter is. When No Kill advocates talk about a No Kill shelter, we are generaly referring to 1) an Open Admission shelter (one that does not or cannot say no to intakes). Yes, there are a lot of Limited Admissions shelters that are No Kill (and they should be No Kill since they can say no to intakes when they get full.) But, generally No Kill advocates are talking about Open Admission facilites. (You have listed several Limited Admission facilities here).

2) A shelter that is "No Kill" is saving at least 90% of ALL animals (not just dogs and cats). Some No Kill shelters are saving up to 100% of all animals. The shelters you have listed with only 85% Save Rates are certainly not considered No Kill.

It would be helpful to perhaps research the topic of No Kill sheltering before writing such a list. A good place to start would be at the No Kill Advocacy Center\'s website: www.NoKillAdvocacyCenter.org and at the Saving 90 website, which lists shelters who are saving at least 90% of ALL animals: www.Saving90.org

Jon Gramstad
4 Years Ago

Concerning #3, Multnomah County Animal Service, you are simply wrong. This is a public agency funded with over $6 million dollars annually yet takes in less than 6000 dogs and cats. They also are NOT an open intake facility. You say, "according to their website".........
Next time do a little research, or call me. I\'ll include photos.

4 Years Ago

HALO Animal Rescue in Phoenix, AZ- over 7,000 lives saved in 2013 and growing!

4 Years Ago

I'm glad to see the Nevada Humane society on this lit, but i'm suprized that the SPCA of Northern Nevada isn't. Both are amazingly maintained no kill shelters that offer rehabilitation programs, low cost vaccine clinics, training courses ,and pet help lines. Both shelters work with the community and with local business to make it easier on pet owners to get what their pets need, weather it is training or medical attention. Living in Reno I get to be near both of these shelters, i feel that they have helped create a lovely pet friendly community!

Barbara Turner, Chesterfield, VA
4 Years Ago

I adopted my Josey (Beagle-Walker hound) from there back in Dec. 1999 and my son adopted his kitten Windy during the same weekend. They ended up thinking they were sisters because they smelled the shelter on each other. "Cool! We must be sisters!" Bonded from the moment they met even though they were in their separate sections at the shelter! THANK YOU ROBIN STARR FOR EVERYTHING YOU'VE DONE THERE! They told me they were going to put Josey down the following day, I told 'em "Oh no you're not! You're going to stick a sold sign on her and I'll be back in the morning at 9am to pick her up. I better not come up here and find her gone!" She was there, best friend I ever had with fur! Went everwhere I could take her. She lived a wonderfully goofy sweet 14 years til last April 26, 2013 when after a full year of Kidney failure and recouperations and finally total failure, I was forced to put her down. Just about has killed me! She was my buddy! I have a little memorial in our living room for her with pictures and her collar, etc.

Jana Leland
4 Years Ago

it doesn't surprise me that multnomah county is on the list. what surprises me is that austin IS! esp'ly since it is only three hours' north of san antonio-bexar county, where more animals are euthanized (bexar county) per year than ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE CONTIGUOUS good ole us of a!

Diane Stapley
08 Jan 2014

Jana, your statement is sad but true! The good news is that the organizations such as Austin Pets Alive! in Austin are collaborating with their neighbors in higher-kill rate cities such as San Antonio to share the no-kill practices and establish the movement. On the last weekend in February, American Pets Alive will host an annual No-Kill weekend here in Austin. We'd love to share our theories and tactics which have worked with other interested cities!

Dianne St Andre
4 Years Ago

Not enough!


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