The no-kill movement began over three decades ago, a time when an estimated 17 million animals were being killed in shelters every year. Advocates knew something had to be done about these devastating statistics, starting with the need to initiate change within the shelter system. The movement gained momentum in the early 90s, when Richard Avanzino of the San Francisco SPCA launched an initiative with San Francisco County to decrease in euthanasia rates and create adoption and spay/neuter programs to help reduce the number of homeless pets. By 1994 their efforts resulted in San Francisco became the first no-kill city in the nation. He was viewed as the “father of the no-kill movement,” with many advocates using his programs as a model for their own initiatives.
We’ve come a long way since then and recent statistics show a continuing increase in the number of people adopting from shelters and rescues, but about 9,000 animals are still being killed in shelters every day – that’s almost three million annually. With more people being made aware of puppy mills and the importance of choosing adoption, it’s hard to believe so many animals are still dying in shelters. But we can find some comfort in knowing there are people working in our communities to end the killing in shelters and ensure we see a day where no animals are dying simply because they do not have a home.
Expanding No-Kill Initiatives Throughout the United States
The ultimate goal of the no-kill movement is for shelters to only euthanize animals in cases of irremediable suffering or when they have behavioral issues that cannot be helped through training. As we work toward that goal, many consider a shelter to be no-kill once they are saving at least 90 percent of the animals who enter their facility. According to the No Kill Advocacy Center, there are currently 20 states with communities that have reached a 90 percent or higher save rate for dogs and cats in shelters. Others are slowly approaching that mark with save rates of 80 percent or more in some of their communities.
One inspiring example of communities making progress is Best Friends Animal Society’s No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA) initiative, which has helped reduce the number of pets being killed in L.A.’s shelters by 66 percent since 2012. With amazing no-kill organizations helping lead the way, we’re given hope that we will see a day where all communities are able to make no-kill a reality. Here are some of the ways shelters, rescues organizations, and communities are working toward that goal:
- Shelter networking and animal relocation programs help save lives by moving animals to areas where they have a better chance of being adopted. Examples include a shelter with an abundance of small dogs relocating some the animals to a shelter with very few small dogs, or a foster-based rescue taking in animals from high-kill shelters.
- Being able to learn from those who experienced the “trial and error” of initiating change can help make the task seem less intimidating. The ASPCA has a website dedicated to providing shelters with online training and tools for general shelter management, fundraising, creating adoption programs and more. And Best Friends Animal Society created helpful “playbooks” for advocates based on communities with successful no-kill initiatives.
- Changing the public’s perception of shelters and shelter pets is another important aspect of no-kill success. The creation of unique adoption programs that take animals out of the shelter to meet potential adopters have proven to be successful. And through grants and fundraising, shelters build can inviting adoption centers and fund essential programs that help at-risk animals.
- Spay and neuter programs – including community education, offering low-cost spay and neuter clinics, and the use of trap-neuter-return programs for feral cat communities – work by helping decrease the number of animals entering shelters.
- Sometimes pets end up in shelters because their owners feel they have no other option. Shelter intervention programs can help keep pets in their homes by working with individuals experiencing financial difficulties or having trouble finding pet-friendly housing.
- Breed-specific legislation is not only morally wrong but creates a problem when people move into a new community with their pets. It also limits the options of potential adopters when they visit a shelter. Working to change discriminatory rules and legislation can help reduce the number of Pit Bull terriers entering shelters – and increase the number of those making it out alive.
How You Can Help
- The most impactful thing you can do is adopt. There are thousands of animals in your community waiting for homes; websites like Petfinder and the Shelter Pet Project make it easier than ever to find your perfect match.
- Sign THIS PLEDGE to help end the killing of pets in shelters
- Take a stand against breed-specific legislation and puppy mills by becoming involved in legislative efforts in your community.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter or consider opening up your home to foster an animal waiting to be adopted.
- Donate money or animal care supplies to shelters and rescues in your community.
Lead image source: goldstardeputy/Flickr