How the progress maps are developed

Sources for shelter data include the Shelter Pet Data Alliance and other voluntary data submissions, public websites, government-provided data, and data platforms where organizations have opted-in to providing Best Friends with their data. Shelters which operate multiple locations may show data in aggregate or broken down by location. Their information will be presented on the map as it is reported to us. While Best Friends attempts to validate data sources, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of these sources.

How save rates are calculated

For shelters, a gross save rate calculation is used:

[(Live Intakes) - (Non-Live Outcomes*)] divided by [(Live Intakes)]
*Non-Live Outcomes = animals euthanized, euthanized by owner request, died in care, or lost in care

At the state and national levels, a net save rate calculation is used to avoid counting the same pet multiple times:  

[(Live Intakes) - (Transfers In) - (Non-Live Outcomes*)] divided by [(Live Intakes - Transfers In)]
*Non-Live Outcomes = animals euthanized, euthanized by owner request, died in care, or lost in care 


How the no-kill gap, or number of animals killed, is calculated

The no-kill gap is the number of cats and dogs who would have had to be saved to achieve the 90% save rate threshold for the year. Best Friends applies the following calculation to determine that gap:

(Non-Live Outcomes*) minus (Live Intake * 10%)
*Non-Live Outcomes = animals euthanized, euthanized by owner request, died in care, or lost in care

The resulting number of dogs and cats killed is the focus of Best Friends efforts to achieve the no-kill benchmark nationwide in 2025 and does not include the estimated 10% who are euthanized based on presumed humane decisions related to irremediable suffering from medical or behavioral conditions.

Methodology for community and shelter views

A “community” is represented as a U.S. county, which is an administrative or political subdivision of a state that consists of a geographic region with specific boundaries.

A “shelter” is defined as a brick-and-mortar facility with open adoption hours for the public. In addition:

  • For organizations without a government contract, they must take in more than 200 animals annually, be open to the public at least two days a week, and have a non-residential sheltering facility.
  • For government animal services and organizations with a government contract, they must take in more than 20 animals annually and cannot transfer all their animals to another shelter.


The map represents the total number of inhabited U.S. counties that have their own shelter. Population data is obtained from the Claritas annual estimates based on Census and American Community Survey data (2023 projections).

A community is recognized as no-kill when Best Friends has access to data for all brick-and-mortar shelters located within the community showing each shelter with a save rate of 90% or higher.

While the 90% benchmark offers a meaningful measurement by which to gauge the progress of shelters and communities, we recognize that there may be special circumstances in which a community could be successfully implementing no-kill principles and practices but not reach a 90% save rate.

In these rare cases, the shelters in a community that do not meet the statistical benchmark can obtain a no-kill designation in the pet lifesaving dashboard by displaying the following statement on their website and/or giving Best Friends permission to display the information on the shelter’s page of the pet lifesaving dashboard:

"Our shelter has committed to saving all savable pets entering our care. We do not euthanize healthy or treatable pets even at an owner’s request. We only euthanize a pet if:

  • A veterinarian or trained medical staff under guidelines set by a veterinarian has deemed the prognosis to be poor or grave, there is no chance of recovering an acceptable quality of life, or
  • It would be clearly inhumane or unsafe not to do so immediately, or
  • In cases of irremediable canine aggression, (1) a veterinarian has eliminated medical treatment as a solution; (2) rehabilitation by a specialist in canine behavior has failed; and (3) staff and public safety cannot be reasonably assured, or other management protocols seriously compromise quality of life."

The goal is for every shelter to make a clear commitment to lifesaving and transparency (being honest and open about their data and operations) while striving for no-kill rather than simply working to obtain a no-kill designation.

Any shelter seeking an exception should contact the local regional Best Friends team:

Data Methodology

National and state data are based on stratified regression modeling of collected data of more than 93% of all shelters and partial data for another 6%. Community data is used to adjust year-over-year trends, specifically the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, county population, and county rurality for intake and both Social Vulnerability Index and organization type for non-live outcomes.

The list of brick-and-mortar shelters nationwide is maintained year-round by Best Friends to track closures, new organizations, and government contract changes.

Shelter data on the Pet Lifesaving Dashboard is the most recent full calendar year of data obtained by Best Friends from the years 2023, 2022, and 2021. Any shelter for which we have older data or have never had data is displayed as “incomplete data.”

Data at the dog or cat level is visible when designated within each shelter’s data. This species-level data is blank if a shelter’s data is reported with dogs and cats combined or if the shelter included at least some of their data without specifying species. Some shelters may also only take in either dogs or cats, resulting in the other species data being blank.