The no-kill movement is making big progress: See the top milestones from 2019


Earlier this month, I wrote about 11 milestones from 2019 for Best Friends Animal Society, but you didn’t think I’d stop there, did you? The no-kill movement simply could not exist without collaboration, partnerships and a nationwide network of organizations paving the way, together, to end the killing of animals in shelters nationwide by 2025. Let’s take another look back at major milestones in 2019, but this time through the lens of the wider no-kill movement and the lifesaving progress being made all across the nation.

10. Animal lifesaving in Burke County, North Carolina

This story from Burke County is truly inspiring! The county had an open position that three women from the neighboring community shelter (which had already achieved no-kill status) all applied for. All three of these women came over to the shelter together and have made huge strides with saving lives there in just a few short months. Burke County went from a 3% save rate for cats up to 66% and from 79% to 95% for dogs, with a total of 645 fewer pets killed from August 5 to November 6, 2019, than the same period in 2018.

9. Puppy mill legislation

Last year was an exciting one for puppy mill legislation! A group in Colorado working hard to fight puppy mills, called Harley's Dream, spearheaded the first retail puppy mill sales ban in Colorado. Amazingly, this opened the door for four other Colorado communities to follow suit by passing similar ordinances.

In South Carolina, Tina Hunter, executive director of the North Myrtle Beach Humane Society, led the charge for the North Myrtle Beach retail puppy mill sales ban, which is the first of what is expected to be many more communities in South Carolina to follow.

Last, but certainly not least, our very own puppy mill legislative team deserves a huge shout-out for helping 27 communities ban the retail sale of puppies and kittens from commercial breeding mills in 2019!

8. Breed-discriminatory legislation overturned

Breed-discriminatory laws are not only a waste of community resources, they have been proven to be ineffective. Breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL) limits a dog owner’s choices of where to live, thus forcing loving and responsible owners to surrender their beloved pets, oftentimes overburdening municipal shelters with a disproportionate number of certain breeds. Among the many problems presented by BDL: Dogs falling under restricted breed lists have a significantly higher risk of being killed in shelters due to challenges imposed by such legislation.

That’s the not-so-great stuff. Now for the good stuff! In 2019, a remarkable number of communities voted to overturn pre-existing breed-discriminatory laws, including Liberty, Missouri, the first community to ever repeal a ban with a public vote. One of the biggest victories in 2019, however, came from Sioux City, Iowa, where a significant and ongoing effort ultimately culminated in a vote to overturn BDL in the city. This big win was the result of collaborative work of Animal Farm Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society and the Tri-State Coalition Partners, including Siouxland Humane Society and the Humane Society of the United States.

7. Embed programs in Palm Valley and Harlingen, Texas

Since the beginning of June 2019, Best Friends has had an expanded presence in Palm Valley Animal Society in Edinburg, Texas, and the Humane Society of Harlingen in Harlingen, Texas. Originally projected to save 8,000-plus lives in the Rio Grande Valley through Phase 1 of the Maddie’s® Shelter Embed Project, in the first four months of the program, 6,350 lives have been saved! #thankstomaddie

This game-changing outcome is the result of a collaborative team effort to increase lifesaving, ranging from implementing daily rounds to increasing adoptions and fostering through best-practice programming. Simply put, the teams at both agencies have been pulling out all the stops.

6. Presidential candidates adding animal welfare to platform

2019 was the year that, for the first time in history, a presidential candidate announced a comprehensive animal welfare plan as part of his or her campaign. In August, Julian Castro made the unprecedented announcement that animal welfare would be a national priority for his campaign. It was a great moment for our campaign to end the killing in shelters by 2025 and illuminated the true nonpartisan nature of saving animals. As you can imagine, this important lifesaving message reached households nationwide, and Julian Castro is, I hope, the first of many more politicians publicly recognizing animal welfare as a national priority.

5. Dallas Animal Services save rate increase

Amazing news out of Dallas! Dallas Animal Services operates a shelter with the third highest intake in the country and just finished 2019 with an 87.8% save rate (89.95% for dogs, 80.81% for cats), demonstrating the power of community involvement through their public-facing Dallas 90 campaign. I can't sing the praises of Dallas Animal Services enough! This exemplifies the ability of a high-intake shelter to work closely with the community to save more animals.

4. Million Cat Challenge

Special shout-out to the Million Cat Challenge (a partnership of Maddie’s Fund, the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine program and the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida) for saving the one millionth cat in 2019! This crucial lifesaving work was made possible by an array of supporting animal welfare organizations: the National Animal Care and Control Association, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the National Federation of Humane Societies, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, Best Friends Animal Society, PetSmart Charities, Petco Foundation, Alley Cat Allies, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and the Winn Feline Foundation.

3. More no-kill communities than ever

Thanks to the dedication and hard work of organizations and individuals across the country, there are now 1,979 no-kill shelters and 4,887 no-kill communities! And because of the community lifesaving dashboard, we are able to watch those numbers increase every single day in real time.

2. Record number of pets’ lives saved in 2019

Although we are still tallying official numbers for lives saved, we already know that 2019 was a record year for lifesaving nationwide. Talk about a pivotal 365 days, packed with more milestones across the no-kill movement than any other year before!

1. Best Friends Animal Society lifesaving dashboard

It goes without saying that this is something I am deeply proud of, but it makes the list on two important accounts: The revolutionary community lifesaving dashboard leverages technology for social good by helping dogs and cats in shelters, and it puts into perspective the impressive work being done in shelters across the country while bringing into focus where and what kind of additional resources need to be implemented. Clear data means more pets can be saved and, since the dashboard’s launch, have been saved. In fact, the dashboard delivers the largest amount of sheltering data ever available to the public, sharing the movement’s progress and needs at a national level and, more important, at the local level.

As I said, our moon shot of ending the killing of animals in shelters nationwide in just five years wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and collaboration of organizations and network partners doing this momentous work. Today, we look back on the past year only to see how far forward we already are in 2020 — and how much closer to our 2025 goal — because of the exciting progress in 2019.

And now we look forward, to the moon! Together, we will pave the way. Together, we will Save Them All.


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society