Some good news from 2020


As we all know, 2020 was hectic and sometimes a little harrowing, and many of us would rather look ahead than back. But with some new data in hand, I’m happy to report that 2020 saw some good news for homeless pets in America’s shelters.

Last year, Best Friends teamed up with 127 of the most resource-challenged shelters in the country to provide support through grants, executive leadership certifications, embed programming and mentorships. These shelters have been working incredibly hard with their communities to save the lives of more dogs and cats.

And these numbers are now in: From October through December of last year, 19,000 more cats and dogs were saved from these 127 shelters than during the same period in 2019. Now that is some news from 2020 worth celebrating.

How did we know that these shelters are among those that need the most support? Through our pet lifesaving dashboard, which centralizes shelter data from every state, community and shelter, and makes it easy for people to know which communities and shelters need additional help. We know that when communities know better, they do better, so our goal is to provide community members who care about animals with the data and facts they need to assist their local shelters.

Data helps to tell a story, and for animal welfare in 2020, that story was about progress and gaps. Last summer, when we rolled out our most updated national data, we identified that nearly half of the 4,850 U.S. shelters are already at a save rate of 90% or above, which means that they have reached the no-kill threshold. That is huge progress.

Still, that dataset also revealed that in 2019, about 625,000 cats and dogs were killed in shelters simply because they didn’t have a safe place to call home. While this is a dramatic decrease from the approximately 17 million killed annually in the 1980s, our goal is to make the entire country no-kill by 2025. Without hard data about what animals are being killed and where, we’d never get there.

We also know that we need to see 126,000 fewer animals killed in 2021 than in 2020 to keep pace with our goal to achieve a no-kill country by 2025. We think Best Friends’ direct programming can help save a minimum of 64,000 of these lives, but we know that we can’t achieve no-kill nationwide by ourselves, without our partners and without individuals who want to help homeless pets.

With that in mind, we want to help even more communities achieve the same amazing results as the 127 shelters we partnered with in 2020. So, Best Friends provides access to the dashboard, as well as extensive resources and learning opportunities on the Best Friends Network website, and we’re rolling out new resources as fast as we can. Whether you’re an existing partner or someone who wants to help your local rescue group or shelter, we want to make it easier for you to save lives.

Like everyone, nothing makes me happier than sharing good news, because good news means lives saved. So please keep an eye out in the coming weeks and months for more stories about collaboration that dramatically increases lifesaving, and consequently moves us closer and closer to our 2025 goal.

As industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said: “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision — the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

This quote encompasses our approach to bringing the nation to no-kill by 2025. Together, we can Save Them All.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society