Best Friends Animal Society’s Annual Report on U.S. Pet Sheltering Reveals No-Kill Shelters at All-Time High, Despite 378,000 Pets Killed Nationally

Adoptions Lag Behind Purchases from Breeders/Stores Resulting in More Killings Progress of No-Kill 2025 Lauded Despite Dip in Lifesaving
Media Contact
Hannah Stember : 412-537-0632 or
Photos / B-roll
KANAB, Utah (May 31, 2023)Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of cats and dogs in shelters by 2025, released its annual data report today which gives the most accurate and comprehensive national overview of the number of dogs and cats that enter and exit shelters in a given year. The most noteworthy takeaway is the number of no-kill* shelters in the U.S. was at an all-time high at 57% in 2022. This is up from 24% in 2016 when Best Friends announced its goal to make America no-kill by 2025. 
“We are at the tipping point of taking the country no-kill,” said Julie Castle, CEO, Best Friends Animal Society. “This critical mass of no-kill shelters shows that it’s possible to save every healthy and treatable pet in a shelter, and it’s sustainable. 93% of shelters that were no-kill in 2021 were able to maintain it the following year.”   

The data also showed that the number of dogs and cats killed in U.S. shelters had a setback, with an increase to around 378,000. This was largely due to shelters experiencing higher intakes and lower adoptions. However, it also showed that nearly 60% of the increase came from just 1% of shelters, which were primarily large, municipal agencies. This means targeted programming proven to save more lives, including partnerships between no-kill and not yet no-kill shelters, as well as shelters and rescue groups, Best Friends staff embeds, cat and big-dog-focused initiatives, and advocacy work can help fix the problem.  

Recent industry data revealed that dogs acquired from breeders and pet stores have been steadily increasing over the past few years. Dog adoptions stalled at just under 1 million last year, while intake was up by approximately 100,000 (the majority of which were strays, not returns). Compared to 2021 when cats were killed at twice the rate of dogs in shelters, there was a significant drop in the dog save rate in 2022 (83%, down from 87% in 2021). Fostering and adoption of dogs and cats is vital to get back on track to make shelters no-kill by 2025.

More statistics from the 2022 dataset: 

  • The number of pets that entered shelters nationally was 4.4 million, which is an increase of 1.6% over 2021. 
  • While dogs and cats entered shelters at about an equal rate, cats made up 55% of the killing, while dogs were 45%. Cats remain the most vulnerable in shelters, especially during “kitten season,” the summer months when cats reproduce and kittens flood shelters. 
  • The national save rate dropped slightly from 83.5% in 2021 to 81.4% in 2022. But shelter lifesaving is still trending in the right direction as the total number pets killed per year dropped by about 653K (-63.3%) since 2016. 
  • Five states make up 54% of the overall number of dogs and cats killed in 2022 (Texas, California, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia). 
  • Vermont joined Delaware and New Hampshire as no-kill states, meaning that every shelter in each of those states was no-kill. Rhode Island, North Dakota, Maine and Montana were each on the cusp with a combined total of just over 300 dogs and cats to save to earn no-kill.

“We've made great progress and there is still momentum for our achievable goal, despite the small dip in lifesaving in 2022. 2025 is only two years away, so now is the time to support your local shelters. Together, let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025,” added Castle.  

Individuals can help save lives by choosing to adopt from a shelter or rescue group instead of purchasing from a breeder or store, spay or neuter their pets, foster kittens or an adult dog, volunteer, donate, and advocate for proven lifesaving programming for pets. 

About the data 

For the past seven years, Best Friends has spearheaded a one-of-a-kind extensive data collection process that involves coordinated outreach to every shelter in America followed by additional research, data analysis, and technology development. The dataset is the most comprehensive on U.S. sheltered animals, and is based on data collected directly from shelters, state and local coalitions, government websites, and FOIA requests. From this, 95% of the animal intake in U.S. shelters is known, 5% is estimated. Best Friends has the most recently available annual data for 85% of shelters nationwide.

*A 90 percent save rate is the nationally recognized benchmark to be considered “no-kill,” factoring that approximately 10 percent of pets who enter shelters have medical or behavioral circumstances that warrant humane euthanasia rather than killing for lack of space.  

About Best Friends Animal Society

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to around 400,000 last year. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary. Working collaboratively with a network of more than 4,700 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All®. For more information, visit