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The Life of an Animal: Why No-Kill Animal Shelters Matter

Posted by Johnine Larsen on June 10, 2014
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Puppy_program_003Not all animal shelters are created equal. Some shelters find good homes for animals even if it takes years to do so, and even if those animals require special training before they can be a safe pet. Other shelters, though, kill healthy cats and dogs just to make room for new ones. In the wrong type of shelter, if an animal doesn’t get adopted soon enough, it will find itself on the wrong end of a euthanasia needle.

The difference between these two types of animal shelters comes down to the term “no-kill.” For the most part, it’s self-explanatory (one type of shelter will kill unwanted animals; the other type won’t). But this is a serious issue, and serious issues deserve more explanation than that. We’ll explain why no-kill matters, break down the definition, and describe how some shelters succeed at the no-kill principle.

As a disclaimer: we’re biased. The Real Estate Gals support no-kill shelters. We put a high value on the lives of pets and animals.


Why No-Kill Matters

Animal shelters kill more healthy dogs and cats in America than any other cause. That’s right—the very institutions designed to help pets are their #1 cause of death.

The National Council surveyed 1,000 animal shelters in 1997 and found that 64 percent of all animals that entered animal shelters were euthanized. Reasons for euthanasia included overcrowding, aggression, injury, or “general suffering.” If we break those numbers down further, we find that 56 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats that entered animal shelters were euthanized.

64 percent is why no-kill matters

There hasn’t been a more recent study on animal shelter euthanasia rates, but estimates say approximately 3.7 million animals died in shelters in 2008. This is a widely accepted statistic used by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), as well as other animal welfare organizations.

3.7 million dead pets is why no-kill matters


What No-Kill Means

No-kill shelters save all adoptable animals. Old pets, three-legged cats, deaf dogs. Disfigured animals, damaged animals. They’re all adoptable. And if they stay around for a long time before someone adopts them, a no-kill shelter doesn’t mind. An animal’s life is an animal’s life, no matter how “imperfect” that animal is.

800px-4_KittensThe most impressive part of a no-kill shelter, is its commitment to also saving “treatable” animals. Treatable animals are not adoptable yet, but they could be with enough outside help. This category includes animals who are sick, traumatized, or unsocialized. They would make extremely poor or even dangerous pets on their own, but a no-kill shelter will invest the time and training necessary to turn them into healthy, loving animals.

NOTE: No-kill shelters will still euthanize select animals in special circumstances, such as when:

  1. euthanasia is the most humane option due to due to irreversible disease, injury, or suffering;
  2. a vicious animal would constitute a public danger if ever placed in a home;
  3. an animal would pose a public health hazard.


How No-Kill Works

Animal shelters still face the risk of overcrowding. If they keep every animal, won’t their facilities fill up? Short answer: yes. But no-kill shelters pursue other methods to keep their buildings from overflowing.


1.   Spray and neuter campaigns

Too often, a pet gets pregnant and delivers unwanted babies. Those puppies or kittens then find themselves on the streets, and eventually many of them turn up in animal shelters. Reducing unwanted pet pregnancies frees up space in animal shelters. This is a perfect example of addressing the underlying problem, not just the symptom.


 2. Volunteer assistance

Animal shelters need volunteers. There’s simply too much need and not enough money for shelters to save lives without the help of everyday people like you and me. Volunteers often perform much of the day-to-day work in animal shelters, such as cleaning cages, walking dogs, doing laundry, washing dishes, etc. Volunteering is also a perfect opportunity for the busy pet-lover who just doesn’t have time to care for an animal of her own. Spending time at a shelter lets her do a good deed and get her animal fix at the same time.

3.  Greater emphasis on adoption programs

No-kill shelters take pains to make the adoption process easy and convenient. This will often mean staying open for longer hours to be more accessible for people with atypical schedules, conducting publicity drives for adoption programs, and spending a larger portion of their budget on making adoption cheaper and easier. To adopt a pet from one of Seattle’s no-kill shelters, check out: