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Strength — and transparency — in numbers

Together, we’ve made enormous strides in reducing the number of dogs and cats being killed in shelters, but we're not there yet.

Knowing where we stand not only helps determine the best way to move forward, but it also helps track the progress we’re making together. Data plays an essential role to track this progress and ultimately to help us end the killing of adoptable cats and dogs simply because they don’t have homes. 

We believe that being open and transparent about how we obtain information is equally important.

We call the goal of ending the killing in shelters “no-kill,” and one key component of reaching no-kill is Best Friends Animal Society’s nationwide data collection process.

This involves knowing how many shelters there are in America, reaching out to every shelter, and recording the number of animals a shelter takes in each year and the number of pets saved. 

It’s this data that helps us see where pets need us the most and informs us as to where we should focus our attention and lifesaving efforts. See how your community is doing saving the lives of pets.

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How to understand our data

Best Friends strives to be transparent about the information we share.

No-kill, as a philosophical principle, means saving every dog and cat who can be saved. But it’s helpful to have a way to clearly measure lifesaving progress as we move forward together, and that’s where the 90% benchmark comes in. 

That’s why we track save rate — because it’s a meaningful and common-sense benchmark for measuring lifesaving progress. 

Typically, the number of pets who are suffering from irreparable medical or behavioral issues that affect their quality of life and prevent them from being adopted is not more than 10% of all dogs and cats entering the organizations striving to save them. 

That’s why we designate organizations that meet the 90% save-rate benchmark as no-kill. 

We also recognize that certain organizations or efforts might target the easiest and/or hardest animals to save, and therefore save rates might vary as a result. For many organizations, a true no-kill save rate may be closer to 95% (or higher). 

For some — particularly those offering care and services such as neonatal kitten programs, homeless senior pet hospice care, or other programs targeting the animals who are harder to save — the no-kill benchmark may be below 90%. 

For this reason, Best Friends offers a benchmark exemption to organizations that can demonstrate that they meet the philosophical definition of no-kill despite a save rate below 90%. 

The goal is for every animal welfare organization to make a clear commitment to lifesaving and transparency while working to achieve and sustain no-kill in philosophy and practice, rather than only working to obtain a no-kill designation. Best Friends makes that commitment with every animal we take into our care. We will save every animal who can be saved.

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Where our data comes from

We collect data from eight hubs around the country where we’re taking animals into our direct care: Atlanta; Houston; Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah; Los Angeles; New York; Northwest Arkansas; Polk County, Florida; and Salt Lake City.

Best Friends collects data in real time using Shelterluv, an online shelter management system. After it’s collected, the data is then verified by our national operations support team and our business intelligence team. 

This information is used to track the effectiveness of our direct lifesaving efforts, such as foster programs and transports of Best Friends’ animals, and it helps us plan future strategies. 

Keep in mind that direct animal intake data seen in this section is only a part of our lifesaving work around the country. We’ve also engaged with thousands of shelters and rescue partners to help them save more lives in their own shelters and communities.

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Best Friends in Atlanta

Our Atlanta program not only works in Atlanta, but also across the Southeast where Best Friends is collaborating with shelters, animal welfare organizations, and individuals as part of our efforts to reach no-kill nationwide by 2025.

Best Friends in Atlanta is now a completely foster-based program, which we feel best serves the metro-Atlanta area in its final push to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters. The Atlanta program is doing well but is always in need of foster homes, especially for newborn kittens. 

We have reduced the size of our Atlanta program over the years while increasing efficiency. Our team has decreased our direct work with LifeLine, a local organization with a no-kill mission, and is serving more in a support role. We have worked hard perfecting transports and collaborating with our northern partners to break barriers. 

In Atlanta, our team has managed to reduce the time dogs and cats are staying at our facilities by building a system where foster caregivers pick up animals while intake procedures are being done. 

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Best Friends in Houston

Best Friends works with local shelters and rescue groups in Houston and the surrounding area to help more pets find homes and keep more pets at home with their families.

Our work in Houston is 100% foster based. In addition to a network of foster homes in Houston, Best Friends launched a successful satellite foster program in West Texas to help save lives and support area shelters. 

A satellite foster program is a foster program run by Best Friends staff and volunteers without an actual building or staff in the shelter. Our staff recruits and manages the foster network as well as diligently works to find adopters in the community. 

Our Houston program is small but mighty — saving an average of over 700 animals per year. 

The Houston team has truly transformed from when we were running a large temporary shelter during Hurricane Harvey. Our team continues to find ways to be creative in lifesaving by serving as a temporary foster placement for animals from large Houston shelters and finding partners in other areas of the country.

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Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab

At the Sanctuary, no matter their individual needs, all the animals get the care they need to thrive. The Sanctuary is a safe haven for up to 1,600 animals on any given day, many of whom have special needs.

The Sanctuary is unique in that it takes on some of the toughest cases that shelters and rescue groups across the country typically can’t accept, so our data looks a little different. 

Because of the special nature of the Sanctuary’s work, save rates can dip below 90%. Some animals spend their whole lives with us to receive the special care they need.

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Best Friends in Los Angeles

Best Friends’ lifesaving center in Los Angeles saves thousands of lives each year — including newborn kittens, some of the most at-risk pets in L.A. shelters.

Our location in West L.A., our largest in terms of volume of animals entering, features adoptable dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens from regional shelters and rescue partner organizations. 

The city’s greatest needs are foster homes for kittens, spay and neuter resources, pet-friendly housing for low-income families, and community support for trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) for cats. 

Save rates for cats tend to be lower due to the large number of fragile kitten intakes.

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Best Friends in New York

Best Friends in New York works collaboratively with city shelters, local animal welfare organizations, passionate advocates, and volunteers to save the lives of pets in New York City and the surrounding tri-state area.

Here we operate a pet adoption and brand center, where dogs and cats are moved rapidly from a foster home to an adoptive home by utilizing the power of New York City. The center features dogs and cats from Animal Care Centers (ACC) of New York City and local shelters. 

Because large dogs and kittens are more at risk in New York City, we focus on finding them foster homes and families while working to find permanent partners outside the city that can better manage large dogs in their community. 

Our New York program is highly successful with an average save rate for cats and dogs of just over 97%, representing nearly 5,000 animals saved over the past four years. In addition to our center, Best Friends hosts adoption and fundraising events and runs a lifesaving pet foster program in partnership with Animal Care & Control of New York City. 

Best Friends also runs the Wheel of Hope program for ACC of New York City, where over 1,000 dogs with behavior challenges are moved from New York City to partner northern shelters.

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Best Friends in Northwest Arkansas

Best Friends supports Northwest Arkansas shelters and rescue groups with lifesaving grants and support.

Best Friends’ work in Northwest Arkansas began in February 2020, and we've been prioritizing our work with shelters in Fort Smith, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, Dardanelle, North Little Rock, and Russellville. 

In 2021, Best Friends opened a temporary lifesaving center in Northwest Arkansas while building the state-of-the-art Best Friends Pet Resource Center, which held its grand opening on March 11, 2023. 

Our Northwest Arkansas program is small and just getting started. The program has already grown by over 700% from 2020 to 2022, with more growth to come with the opening of the Best Friends Pet Resource Center.

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Best Friends in Utah

In Salt Lake City, Best Friends runs a pet adoption center, a spay/neuter clinic, a community cat program, and a newborn kitten care program serving the entire state of Utah. 

Pets from our partner shelters find homes through the adoption center while several hundred orphaned kittens are helped through our kitten care program each year, and our community cat programs are helping to save more lives in Utah. 

Our Salt Lake City program is our second largest in terms of volume. Save rates for dogs are consistently close to 100%. Save rates for cats are lower due to the large number of fragile kitten intakes. 

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Best Friends in Polk County, Florida

Best Friends’ work in Polk County started in 2021 as a short-term program, but it soon became clear that the county needed more assistance.

Today, we're working closely with the county shelter to help save more lives in Polk County and beyond. 

Most animals who need help in Polk County are newborn kittens, so they are the focus when it comes to saving lives here. Because kittens need around-the-clock care, they're more at risk in shelters. But by working together, we're saving their lives and giving them the care they need to grow and thrive.

As a new program that focuses on some of the most fragile lives, kittens, Polk County is currently below a 90% save rate. When we first started the satellite foster program, we knew this work was difficult but could play a huge role in lifesaving. 

A satellite foster program is a foster program run by Best Friends staff and volunteers without an actual building or staff in the shelter. Our staff recruits and manages the foster network as well as diligently works to find adopters in the community. 

Since launching our Polk County program, we have expanded our lifesaving strategies and developed new ones. Tackling the most fragile lives in Polk County wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right decision. 

Without our foster caregivers and volunteers, the kittens wouldn’t be likely to have positive outcomes. Based on our experience in many communities all over the country, success is possible, and we hope to see that success reflected in our numbers soon.

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Want to see how your community is doing?

Now that you’ve seen our data for Best Friends locations, we invite you to check out how shelters are doing around the country. 

Best Friends’ data is the most comprehensive, accurate information about dogs and cats in U.S. shelters.

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About Best Friends 

Best Friends Animal Society is working to save the lives of cats and dogs all across the country, giving pets second chances and happy homes.  

Just a few short years ago, cats and dogs were killed in staggering numbers in this country simply because shelters didn't have the community support or the resources to save their lives. That number is now less than half a million per year, but there’s still work to do to ensure a bright future for every dog and cat in America.   

Best Friends operates the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals and is committed to saving the lives of homeless pets by working with shelters and passionate people like you. Together, we will bring the whole country to no-kill by 2025. Together, we will Save Them All.