Extraordinary progress in lifesaving


Buckle up! The Best Friends National Conference has officially beamed into homes, offices, shelters, schools, laptops and phones around the world. 

This is an exciting week. It’s a time when some of the most inspiring people on earth are gathering virtually for our annual conference. Thousands of people from every corner of animal welfare — from shelters to rescue groups to individuals wanting to make a difference — are watching, listening and learning from the most creative and innovative people in our field about how they can save more lives. 

This year’s conference features approximately 100 sessions, culminating in my conversation with one of the greatest advocates for our animal friends ever, and my personal hero, the remarkable Dr. Jane Goodall. It will be an incredible two days of intellectual generosity, learning and compassion.

On top of all this, I’m especially excited about our annual announcement today revealing the most updated pet lifesaving data, which shows how much progress we made in the no-kill movement over this last year. This is huge news, folks.

Our 2020 dataset shows the most significant annual decrease yet in the number of animals killed in shelters! 

As a country, we’ve reduced the number of animals killed in shelters from about 625,000 in 2019 to about 347,000 in 2020. This is a 76% reduction in killing in shelters since we dedicated ourselves to achieving no-kill across the country by 2025. From nearly 1.5 million annually to about 347,000 in just five years — WOW. Our national save rate is now 83%, and nearly half of the nation’s shelters are no-kill. This data is a direct result of the hard work and commitment of all the groups and individuals dedicated to saving lives.

Now is not the time to slow down, however. We have to move forward, not backward, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us to bring our entire country to no-kill. Last year brought new levels of participation from community members and greater collaboration to help homeless pets. When our world shut down, people stepped up. We have to make sure this continues.

If your eyes glaze over when you hear data, don’t let them. Data is our way to no-kill. In fact, shelters that engaged with our lifesaving data reduced killing from 2019 to 2020 at almost twice the rate of shelters that didn’t. Without knowing where and why animals are dying, we don’t know where to allocate resources, and we don’t know what’s working and what’s not. Without looking for trends, we won’t spot patterns and create efficiencies that will enable us to save more animals. In the last few years, we have developed what is now the most comprehensive and accurate dataset for sheltered dogs and cats in the United States, and this data is central to achieving our mission. 

With that said, we must never lose sight of the fact that every single number in the dataset represents precious individual lives. There are still more than 950 dogs and cats killed every day in shelters because they don’t have a safe place to call home. 

Whether you work in animal welfare or you have adopted or fostered a pet, you are making a difference. Thank you to everyone who is helping to save lives. Let’s build on what we’ve accomplished and Save Them All. 

P.S. Check out the pet lifesaving dashboard, which clearly displays the most recent data and shows the areas of the country with the greatest need for resources to help homeless pets.

Learn about no-kill 2025 »

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society