Better data, brighter picture


For obvious reasons, reliable shelter data is essential to the no-kill movement. Think about it: How do you know the scope of the problem that needs to be solved if shelters don’t publish or make available raw, unvarnished stats about the outcome of the animals they are responsible for? Essential information includes the number of animals entering the system; the number of animals who died while in the shelter’s care; the number of animals killed, along with for the reasons they were killed; and the number of animals returned to their family, adopted to a new home or placed with a rescue organization.

Not all states require that shelters publish such data and consequently there has been a black hole of information that has been filled by best guesses and semi-informed estimates.

When Best Friends planted a stake in the ground to lead the charge to end killing in shelters in this country by 2025, one of the first tasks we took on was to get a handle on the actual numbers of animals being killed in America’s shelters.

To accomplish this, we fielded a squadron of volunteers who contacted literally every county in the country and, when necessary, we filed FOIA requests to get what was needed. The work is ongoing.

Last February, I wrote here about the first results of this effort and reported that our research (including some very conservative estimates for large states, such as Texas, that do not require shelters to publish data) indicated that more than 2 million dogs and cats were being killed in our nation’s shelters annually.

As lifesaving efforts have increased and no-kill programs and policies have spread to more and more communities, the number of pets killed continues to drop.

Thanks to access to better data (more than 200 fewer counties had to be estimated) and an increasing lifesaving rate across the country, our latest count shows good progress and some very exciting no-kill news.

The number of animals being killed in shelters each day is now more accurately marked at slightly over 4,100 — down from the 5,500 per day we announced last year — or 1.5 million annually.

More exciting, though, is this: While we have been citing the number of no-kill communities at around 400, our stepped-up research shows that more than 1,500 communities are surpassing a 90 percent save rate, the threshold for no-kill. That is truly something to celebrate.

For those of us who have been working to advance no-kill since the 1980s, when 17 million animals were being killed each year in U.S. shelters, all of this is very good news indeed. It is the result of the hard work of organizations and individuals everywhere, and Best Friends is proud to have been advancing the no-kill agenda for more than three decades. We will continue to work to bring that number essentially to zero over the next eight years.

The simple and awful fact remains, though, that more than 4,100 dogs and cats are still being killed every day — and this waste of life must stop. Better numbers mean nothing to the dog or cat whose life may end in a shelter today.

We are committed to ending the killing, and we know that you are as well.

Together, we will Save Them All.

Gregory Castle
No-Kill 2025