An Overview of No-Kill Animal Shelters

Recent college graduate Maral Cavner is a passionate lover of animals, particularly dogs. Maral Cavner maintains a leadership position with the Route 66 animal rescue group and supports a number of no-kill animal shelters.

Animal shelters can be loosely classified as no-kill, low-kill, or kill, but definitions and policies vary widely. In general, a no-kill facility strives to avoid euthanizing healthy animals, regardless of age or length of stay in a shelter. However, despite the label “no-kill,” a shelter may have to put down a number of animals every year. All healthy animals are accepted and kept alive regardless of space, but unhealthy animals with untreatable conditions are still candidates for euthanasia.

To avoid overcrowding, no-kill shelters often rely on foster families to care for animals until the can be adopted. Another strategy for keeping a manageable population is transporting animals outside of the local area to shelters that do not have enough adoptable animals.

Some shelters may advertise themselves as saving all adoptable animals, but these facilities may not qualify as no-kill shelters. One shelter’s definition of what constitutes an adoptable animal may differ significantly from another. For example, a puppy under the age of eight weeks or an adult dog above the age of five or six, despite being completely healthy, could be termed unadoptable.

Similarly, an animal with a minor and treatable illness could be considered unadoptable and immediately put down. In general, no-kill shelters should maintain a save rate of 90 percent or higher. A number of leaders in the no-kill community have advocated for this number to be raised to at least 95 percent.

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