New buildings at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the leader of the no-kill movement

No-kill movement timeline: History of Best Friends Animal Society

In 1984, an estimated 17 million animals were being killed every year in America's shelter system. It was this year that the founders of Best Friends Animal Society broke ground on their no-kill animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Many years later it will become the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary, as it remains today. Below is a timeline of important dates in the history of Best Friends.


Best Friends becomes the flagship for the no-kill movement.

Rich Avanzino, largely regarded as the Father of the no-kill movement is president of San Francisco SPCA. Avanzino gives notice to the city of San Francisco that the society will end animal control services for the city in 1989.


The San Francisco SPCA hands animal control back to the city and the newly formed Department of Animal Care and Control and focuses on making San Francisco a no-kill city.

Ed Duvin writes his revolutionary article "In the Name of Mercy." Duvin makes a rational appeal for a new ethic in animal sheltering, questioning conventional wisdom about the kindest way to relate to homeless animals. It sets the philosophical stage for the no-kill movement.


Alley Cat Allies is founded by Becky Robinson and Louise Holton. ACA gives voice to feral cats on a national stage and introduces trap-neuter-return as the most humane and practical method for relating to community cats.


Best Friends Animal Sanctuary begins publishing Best Friends magazine and it quickly becomes the national voice of the no-kill movement and the largest general interest animal publication in the United States.


San Francisco becomes the nation's first no-kill city when the San Francisco SPCA, under Rich Avanzino, establishes an adoption pact with the Department of Animal Care and Control.

New Hampshire, led by Peter Marsh founder and president of STOP (Solutions To Overpopulation Problems), launches the nation's first publicly funded state-wide spay/neuter campaign and first large-scale targeting of low-income pet owners. New Hampshire's intake drops by a third in six years.


Doing Things For Animals hosts the first no-kill conference in Phoenix, Arizona, with 75 people in attendance and puts together the first national directory of no-kill organizations.

Craig Brestrup, then director of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, writes the book, Disposable Animals, challenging the commonly held premise that if animals are not euthanized in shelters they likely face fates worse than death.


Dave Duffield, the CEO of People Soft, establishes Maddie's Fund with $300 million to promote no-kill communities and appoints Rich Avanzino as president.

Mike Arms launches Home 4 the Holidays, making the adoption of shelter animals a national mainstream marketing event that leads to several million shelter pets finding homes.


No More Homeless Pets in Utah, a program of Best Friends Animal Society launches the first statewide no-kill campaign. It's funded by Maddie's Fund. No More Homeless Pets in Utah goes on to adopt over 100,000 animals, spay and neuter 237,000, achieve 12 no-kill communities (and counting), and currently has over an 85 percent save rate for dogs statewide.


Best Friends holds its first No More Homeless Pets Conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with more than 300 attendees.

Tompkins County, New York, becomes the next no-kill community under the leadership of Nathan Winograd, who implements the principles established by Rich Avanzino at the San Francisco SPCA.


The community of Charlottesville-Albemarle, under the leadership of Susanne Kogut of the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, becomes the most substantial community to go no-kill since the San Francisco SPCA.


Nathan Winograd writes the book Redemption to educate the public about the myth of pet overpopulation and the story of animal sheltering in America, inspiring many to follow the codification and refinement of Rich Avanzino's San Francisco model.


The Nevada Humane Society, under the leadership of Bonney Brown, creates the largest no-kill metropolitan area in America, making Washoe County, Nevada, one of the safest communities in the country for homeless animals.


Calgary, Alberta, a city of over 1 million residents, becomes the largest no-kill city in the world under the leadership of Bill Bruce at Calgary Animal Services. Bruce achieved no-kill through an enforcement/community relations model. For several years before 2010, Calgary achieved no-kill for dogs under Bruce's leadership.

The city council in Austin, Texas, votes in a plan to make Austin a no-kill city.


Led by Ellen Jefferson and Austin Pets Alive!, Austin records its first no-kill month in February 2011, and has maintained a no-kill status since then.

Dozens of communities throughout the country make a declaration of intent to go no-kill and several achieve the 90 percent no-kill save rate.


Best Friends Animal Society launches No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA), an initiative to achieve no-kill in America's second-largest city.

Over 60 communities in the United States achieve a 90 percent no-kill save rate.


Los Angeles reduces the amount of animals being killed in shelters by 50 percent.


Best Friends Animal Society launches No-Kill Utah (NKUT), an initiative to achieve no-kill in Utah by 2019.


Los Angeles has reduced the number of animals being killed in shelters by 50 percent.


APRA (Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption) joins Best Friends Animal Society, leading the way for no-kill to spread throughout the southeast.


Best Friends is able to determine that the number of dogs and cats killed in shelters nationwide has gradually been reduced to approximately 2 million annually, from 17 million in 1984.

The Best Friends Lifesaving Center opens in the SoHo neighborhood in New York City. The facility showcases adoptable animals and features interactive displays and maps to inspire and engage people from all around the country to work for no-kill in their own communities.


The number of animals being killed in America's shelters each day is now more accurately marked at slightly over 4,100 - down from the 5,500 per day Best Friends announced in 2017 - or 1.5 million annually.

Many Sanctuary staff deployed to frontline shelters to help with their lifesaving efforts, regularly participating in the mentorship programs, deployments for Hurricane Harvey and a transport project out of Texas. 


For the first time on record, declaration that the total number of dogs and cats killed in America's shelters for a given year dropped below the one million mark in 2018 - to around 733,000.


Announcement that the number of dogs and cats killed each year in America's shelters has dropped from around 733,000 in 2018 to 625,000 in 2019 and that there are now over 5,500 no-kill communities around the nation.


In 2020, killing in U.S. shelters saw its most dramatic reduction in history, decreasing from about 625,000 in 2019 to about 347,000 in 2020. The national save rate is now 83%, and nearly half of the nation's shelters are no-kill.