Dispelling myths about ‘no-kill’ animal shelters

Reno media outlets recently reported that the Nevada Humane Society is disputing an online petition that alleges its shelter is unnecessarily killing shelter pets that have minor behavioral problems.

The Humane Society is a “high-save” organization and only euthanizes animals in “limited cases when it would be dangerous to adopt a dog into the community,” according to Jerleen Bryant, the organization’s CEO. “Our status as no-kill has not changed,” Bryant told News 4-Fox 11 in Reno. “We very much qualify as a no-kill organization.”

There are many myths about the definition of “no-kill” shelters and exactly what that designation means. As a regional director of the Best Friends Animal Society, I wanted to take the opportunity to set the record straight.

“No-kill” means that no healthy or treatable animals should be killed when there are alternatives available to save them. That means a pet shouldn’t be killed just because it finds itself temporarily homeless or has minor behavioral or health problems. Communities should rally behind organizations that are working to achieve and maintain that goal effectively and responsibly.

The benchmark for the no-kill designation is defined by a 90 percent save rate, according to the Animal Humane Society. The Nevada Humane Society, for example, so far this year has a 95 percent release rate for dogs, meaning 19 of 20 dogs received this year have been adopted or placed into foster care, according to Bryant.

Typically, the number of pets suffering from irreparable medical or behavioral issues that compromise their quality of life and prevent them from being re-homed does not exceed 10 percent of all dogs and cats entering shelters. According to Best Friends’ most recent data, the percentage of U.S. shelters that achieved the no-kill benchmark reached an all-time high of nearly 57 percent in 2022.

The bottom line is that the no-kill movement is working to save shelter pets’ lives by employing several strategies, including a combination of collaborative partnerships, proven programs and data-driven decision-making.

No-kill is about creating partnerships with other animal-welfare organizations and the community to help find lifesaving solutions for pets—either before they enter the shelter, or after. It’s about political leaders removing policy barriers to lifesaving. It’s about finding alternatives to killing, because those alternatives exist, as long as we care enough to find them.

Some of the most effective ways that shelters can become and sustain no-kill is through community engagement. When residents, government leaders, shelters and other animal-welfare groups work together, shelters and communities can become and maintain no-kill. Through collaboration, we can provide better support in shelters and more lifesaving outcomes for pets.

Other ways people can help are by adopting, fostering, volunteering and donating to local shelters. At Best Friends, we also have a community-driven, grassroots movement to help save more dogs and cats across the country. More information about that effort and our organization is available at www.bestfriends.org.

When a community supports its shelter’s critical needs, we begin to see dramatic results and will be on the right track to achieving a no-kill policy.

Michelle Dosson is executive director of the Mountain West Region of the Best Friends Animal Society.

Originally posted 2023-10-25 17:30:34.