Best Friends’ first report on the state of U.S. animal sheltering

By Julie Castle

Data. It’s the basis for everything we do and for the decisions we make.

In 2019, the save rate for the nation’s animal shelters increased 2.4 percentage points to 79%. The majority of the animals still being killed in shelters are cats — more than two of every three animals killed in shelters last year was a cat (even though dogs enter shelters at a higher rate). Forty one percent of all the animals killed are dying in just 100 (out of 4,850) shelters across the nation. Just five states (California, Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Louisiana) account for 52% of all the animals being killed in our nation’s shelters.

These are just a few of the highlights from Best Friends’ new white paper titled The State of U.S. Animal Sheltering, 2019.

From the beginning, Best Friends has been committed to data and data transparency for animal shelters. In 2016, after we put a stake in the ground to help the nation get to no-kill by 2025, one of our first courses of action was to gather as much shelter data as possible from around the country so we could establish a baseline for building our plans for 2025. It’s hard to determine where you’re going, how to get there and if you’re making progress without knowing where you are now.

Since then, we have made the data available to the public through the pet lifesaving dashboard to enable more people to understand the needs in their communities so more people can get involved.

Thanks to the data we’ve been collecting since 2016, we have been able to assemble the most comprehensive dataset in the industry on deaths in animal shelters. But with this new white paper, we have created what we believe to be the most comprehensive report ever on animal sheltering nationwide. We are able to report lifesaving by species-specific information and findings by region and by state. We can also report trends for increases in adoptions, return-to-owner rates and transfers for shelters, as well as changes in negative outcomes for pets in shelters.

We think that by making this data available to the animal welfare industry — and to people like you — everyone will be empowered to make more informed decisions that will lead to increased lifesaving across the U.S.

Last year, around 625,000 animals unnecessarily lost their lives in shelters. This represents a 58% decrease in the animals killed in shelters over the past four years. So, we are making progress. And by focusing our resources on the areas and shelters with the greatest needs, we can continue to have a tremendous impact. And by sharing the data, we hope to help others continue to support and engage in efforts to make the nation no-kill by 2025.

Together, we will Save Them All.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society