Gov. Cox declares 2024 No-Kill Shelter Year in Utah

The governor of Utah, Gov. Spencer Cox, holding the written declaration as well as a kitten with Best Friends CEO Julie Castle behind him
By Julie Castle

On February 27, the governor of Utah, Gov. Spencer Cox, signed a historic declaration in support of Utah pets. Gov. Cox declared 2024 No-Kill Shelter Year in Utah — a commitment on a government level for the state to save every pet possible and reach no-kill by the end of the year. This is huge. Let me tell you why.

When Best Friends first put shovel to frozen sand and opened the Sanctuary in southern Utah in 1984, the founders did it with one question in mind: “Why are we killing our best friends instead of saving them?”

That question led the Best Friends founders to become the pioneers of the no-kill movement, a fitting title given the history of pioneers embedded in the spirit of Utah. It’s hard to say how many pets were killed in Utah shelters at that point in time, but nationally about 17 million dogs and cats were dying in America’s shelters. And animal control in Kanab was a shack that a veterinarian from a neighboring town would stop into weekly and euthanize any dog still there. (Best Friends took over animal control for Kanab and other neighboring communities upon discovering this — more on that in my previous blog here.)

Ten years later, in 1994, Best Friends organized the first Utah’s Week for the Animals, and in 2000, we built further on that foundation by launching No More Homeless Pets in Utah. By then, approximately 46,000 dogs and cats were being killed in Utah shelters every year. By 2014, that number was reduced to approximately 8,000 dogs and cats per year.

Now, Utah is on the threshold of becoming a no-kill state, achieving an 87.8% save rate with about 1,700 dogs and cats killed in shelters … and flipping that 2000 figure on its head with nearly 46,000 dogs and cats saved! Plus, only 12 shelters across the state aren’t yet no-kill. We are so close.

Gov. Cox’s declaration is one still rooted in that Utah pioneering spirit: It’s a commitment on a state government level to bridge that gap and achieve a no-kill Utah, which would lead the West to become the largest no-kill state in the U.S. This declaration sets a groundbreaking precedent and gives the no-kill movement an extra push to achieve this momentous accomplishment in 2024.

The ultimate goal is for every shelter, no matter the type, to make a clear commitment to lifesaving and transparency while working to achieve and sustain no-kill in both philosophy and practice, rather than simply working to obtain a no-kill designation. With Gov. Cox’s proclamation, I believe that Utah shelters can and will do just that.

I am always proud to be a Utahn. Today, I am even more proud. Thank you, Gov. Cox, for declaring 2024 No-Kill Shelter Year in Utah. Together, we will make Utah no-kill in 2024, and then, we will make the nation no-kill in 2025. Let’s do this.


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Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society