||This article may be unbalanced towards certain viewpoints. (December 2010)|
||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
A "No Kill" shelter is an animal shelter that does not euthanize animals who can be adopted or when the shelter is full, reserving euthanasia for animals who are terminally ill or considered dangerous.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimated in November 2009 that approximately three to four million animals are killed yearly in shelters across the United States. No-kill shelters are trying to end this killing by increasing the demand for shelter dogs and cats. The demand increase could be achieved by an event called Spay Day. "Every year Spay Day encourages people worldwide to help animals by spaying or neutering their pets." By decreasing the amount of new born cats and dogs the demand for the ones already in shelters will increase. 
The no-kill concept received a legal boost in 1998 when the state of California passed three pieces of legislation directed to reduce animal suffering at shelters in California: the Vincent Law, which requires shelters to spay or neuter animals prior to adoption; the Hayden Law, which requires improved shelter accountability; and the Kopp Law, which prohibited the use of carbon monoxide to euthanize animals. No-Kill shelters received a financial boost with the establishment of Maddie's Fund in 1999, from which a number of communities in the United States have since received millions in financial grants.
A no-kill shelter is most widely defined as an animal shelter where 90% of all animals received are not euthanized. Ideally, No Kill would mean all "adoptable" and "treatable" animals are saved and only "unadoptable" or "non-rehabilitatable" animals are euthanized, but 90% is the threshold. Definition of the terms adoptable, unadoptable and what is treatable, may vary widely between organizations and this has led to controversy. A common definition used by shelters is that of the Asilomar Accords, created by a group who described themselves as “some of the most influential leaders in the animal welfare movement”. The Asilomar Accords definition has been criticized by other No-kill proponents as being too vague, which may lead to "misuse and misapplication".
Adoptable animals include only those animals eight weeks of age or older that, at or subsequent to the time the animal is impounded or otherwise taken into possession, have manifested no sign of a behavioral or temperamental defect that could pose a health or safety risk or otherwise make the animal unsuitable for placement as a pet, and have manifested no sign of disease, injury, or congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the health of the animal or that is likely to adversely affect the animal's health in the future. Adoptable dogs may be old, deaf, blind, disfigured or disabled
A treatable animal shall include any animal that is not adoptable but that could become adoptable with reasonable efforts." Sick, traumatized, infant or unsocialized dogs need appropriate medical treatment, behavior modification and/or foster care to turn them into healthy animals ready for placement.
"Unadoptable" or "non-rehabilitatable" means animals that are neither adoptable or treatable. By way of exclusion, SB1785 defines "unadoptable":
- Animals eight weeks of age or younger at or subsequent to the time the animal is impounded;
- Animals that have manifested signs of a behavioral or temperamental defect;
- Those that could pose a health or safety risk or otherwise make the animal unsuitable for placement as a pet and
- Animals that have manifested signs of disease, injury, or congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the health of the animal or that is likely to adversely affect the animal's health in the future.
 Techniques used
 Spay/neuter programs
No-kill shelter advocates state that spay/neuter programs are among the most important techniques in achieving no-kill goals. A US study showed that low income families are less likely to have their pets neutered. In San Francisco, CA, the city’s animal shelter took in 21 percent fewer pit bulls just 18 months after the passage of a law requiring the sterilization of the breed.
 Adoption programs
No-Kill proponents believe that while spay/neuter programs reduce the overall supply of pets, adoption programs allow pets to go to permanent homes and make space for other incoming animals. Shelters may be open beyond normal working hours to allow working families more opportunities to visit and adopt animals. Cageless facilities may be used to create a more inviting setting for the public and the animals.
Advertising and off-site adoption programs are set up to increase the visibility of available animals. Pet supply companies such as Petsmart and Petco have participated in such programs. Many shelters, regardless of admission policy, work with local or national breed rescue groups who focus on finding homes for specific breeds to enable more effective matching of potential adopters.
 Retention programs
Shelters may offer information on behavioral advice, low-cost veterinary care, behavior classes and dog training to reduce the number of animals surrendered due to avoidable issues. Staff and volunteers can make sure shelter animals are well socialized before being adopted out to avoid similar issues.
No-Kill shelters rely heavily on volunteers for assistance in shelter operations, socialization of animals, adoption promotion and foster care.
Besides off-site adoption program partnerships, shelters may also partner with veterinarians, veterinary and local businesses for funding, in-kind donations and sponsorships. Maddie's Fund has given grants to veterinary groups and veterinarians who have provided low-cost spay/neuter programs, as well to as veterinary schools for shelter medicine programs, including UC Davis Veterinary College, Auburn University and Cornell University.
India has the world's oldest no-kill traditions. The earliest instances of high volume spaying/neutering of stray dogs were done in India. In 1994, the city of Mumbai agreed to handle dog control on a no-kill basis . In 1998, the Indian government announced the goal of the whole country becoming no-kill by 2005. At that time, cities such as Delhi, Chennai and Jaipur had already adopted no-kill. The Supreme Court is currently reconsidering authorizing the “extermination” of stray dogs considered a nuisance.
Italy has outlawed the euthanasia of healthy companion animals since 1991 and controls stray populations through trap, neuter and return programs. A compilation of 10 years' worth of data on feral cat colonies in Rome has shown that although trap-neuter-return decreased the cat population, pet abandonment was a significant problem. Dog attacks on Italian citizens and tourists have been blamed on a lack of enforcement of animal control laws in the country.
In Portugal, euthanasia is practiced at publicly owned kennels although several different associations actively shelter strays. Among those is Patas Errantes, a non-profit private organization founded in 2006 which practices a policy of taking dogs off the street, vaccinating and sterilizing them, and either returning them to the streets or finding them new owners. Liga Portuguesa dos Direitos do Animal, a public utility state-recognized organization founded in 1981, is also quite active in animal sterilization and fights for no-kill. Sintra town kennel is noted for having ceased euthanasia practices in their kennel. However, the shelter admits that during the holidays, it is so overwhelmed with unwanted and discarded animals that euthanasia is required for humane reasons.
 Puerto Rico
Pets Alive is an American no-kill shelter operating in Puerto Rico, rescuing canines from "dead dog beach", where people leave their strays. It ships some of the dogs to the Middletown and Elmsford locations in New York.
 United Kingdom
The UK animal charity Dogs Trust states in its constitution that "no mentally and physically healthy dog taken into the protection of the rescue/re-homing centres shall be destroyed." The charity runs 17 rehoming centers, which care for 16,000 dogs a year and house 1,400 dogs at any one time. It also operates a sanctuary for dogs that are unadoptable.
In 2012 the RSPCA announced plans to end the euthanasia of any rehomeable animals in their care by 2017. However, the charity recognizes that this cannot be done without major changes in the public’s behaviour, including spaying and neutering owned animals and making long term commitments to animal companions.
The Scottish SPCA operate on a no kill basis unless given veterinary advice that an animal is so ill or in such pain that the kindest decision is to end their suffering or if they are so dangerously aggressive that they could not be rehomed safely. 
 United States
In 1994, the City of San Francisco popularized the trend towards No-kill shelters. The San Francisco SPCA, led by President Richard Avanzino who would later become the President of Maddie's Fund, along with the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control guaranteed a home to every "adoptable" dog and cat who entered the shelter system. Since then the city of San Francisco (the SPCA along with the Department of Animal Care and Control) has been able to keep San Francisco as a no-kill city. In 2007, the live release rate of all dogs and cats in the city of San Francisco was 82%. In 2010, the live release rate of all dogs and cats in the city of San Francisco was 86%. In November, 2010, the city voted to table indefinitely a proposed mandate to require city animal shelters to adopt “no-kill” policies.
In 2001, Tompkins County, New York transitioned over a two-year period to a no-kill community. The Tompkins SPCA, an open-admission shelter and animal control facility for Tompkins County, was instrumental in achieving this goal. Tompkins SPCA was able to achieve a live release rate of over 90% every year since then. Tompkins SPCA was able to achieve this while going from having a budget deficit to a budget surplus and was even able to raise millions of dollars to build a new cageless no-kill shelter. In 2006, 145 (6% of a total intake of 2353) dogs and cats classified as unhealthy or untreatable were euthanized. In comparison, the national average rate of euthanasia in 2005 was 56%.
In 2009, Shelby County, Kentucky, became the first no-kill community in Kentucky through a joint effort of the county shelter and the Shelby Humane Society.
In March 2010, the Austin City Council unanimously passed a resolution for the City's open-admission shelter to achieve a 90% save rate of all impounded animals. The City Council mandated, among other things, that the City shelter was prohibited from killing healthy, adoptable pets while there were empty cages at the shelter. In August 2011, the City celebrated its highest save-rate month ever, in which the shelter saved 96% of all impounded animals.
In May 2010, three communities announced a pact to become no-kill communities by guaranteeing homes for all healthy and treatable pets: Hastings and Rosemount, Minnesota, along with Prescott, Wisconsin.
In November 2010, the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter, an open-admission shelter in Marquette, Michigan, announced that it had achieved no-kill status.
The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah is a no-kill animal sanctuary providing homes for thousands of homeless pets. With financial help from Maddie's totaling over $9 million spread over five years, they led a coalition of rescue groups called "No More Homeless Pets in Utah". The goal of the coalition was to move the state of Utah closer to a no-kill community. In the period from 1999 to 2006, the organization reported that statewide adoption rate increased 39% while euthanasia rate dropped 30%.
The No-Kill Declaration, published by the No Kill Advocacy Center and Alley Cat Allies, defines many of the goals of no-kill sheltering. These organizations claim that over 30,000 US-based groups and individuals have signed this declaration.
Although proponents of no-kill make the distinction between euthanasia and killing, some still assert that the term "no-kill" is unfair to employees of traditional shelters. The term has also caused a divide in the animal welfare community beyond ideology as it differentiates between no-kill and "kill" shelters, an accusation that cast a bad light on traditional shelters. Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Arnold Arluke has argued that "The no-kill perspective has damaged the community that long existed among shelter workers, changing how they think and feel about each other. The vast majority of shelter workers suddenly are thought of as cruel; five million deaths each year are seen as avoidable rather than inevitable, as previously thought. The no-kill idea created culpability within the shelter world; open-admissionists became the guilty party." Nathan Winograd, generally considered the leader of the no-kill movement, makes no apology for the differentiation, and states that the No-Kill ideology is "A Reason for Hope."
 Arguments over categorizations
No-kill proponents have said that some self-described no-kill shelters alter the definitions of "adoptable" and "treatable" in order to manipulate statistics. A lower kill-rate is said to increase the public's perception of the shelter and lead to increased donations. No Kill Now! suggests that "Deterrents must be put in place at the outset to discourage fraudulent representations. Remedies may include regular reviews by outside committees, open-door policies for rescues and visitors, public display of impound data, published guidelines and procedures and criminal prosecution for intentional misrepresentations."
 Limited admission v. open admission
There is a difference between a limited-admission shelter and an open-admission shelter. An open-admission shelter takes every animal it receives, while a limited-admission shelter does not. This has led to some confusion and misunderstanding between animal-welfare advocates, with advocates of no-kill communities pointing out that a limited-admission shelter does not create a true no-kill community. The leading advocates of the American no-kill movement contend that open-admission shelters can be no-kill by implementing proven and cost-effective life-saving programs.
Critics, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, refer to no-kill shelters as "limited admission shelters" and argue that the policy simply shifts the burden to nearby traditional shelters. They also contend that owners who are turned away may abandon or harm the unwanted animals. No-Kill advocates counter that open admission shelters may actually be "closed" to people who have to give up their pets, but don't want them to be killed.
Collinsville and Jenks, Oklahoma operate no-kill shelters, but routinely send unwanted animals to Tulsa for euthanasia. According to Jenks operations superintendent Gary Head, the city "wants nothing to do with killing dogs....It keeps us low-key and out of the public's eye. We don't have a bad reputation here." Tulsa only charges $1 per animal for euthanasia and accepts about 4000 animals per year from surrounding communities for euthanasia.
The Delaware County, Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) announced in 2010 it would convert to a no-kill shelter, but that animal control was not compatible with its mission or commitment to becoming a “no-kill” organization because it could not achieve no-kill status unless it refused to perform the basic animal control function of accepting stray animals.
 Any shelter can be poorly run
Horrible living conditions have been exposed at shelters, regardless of admission policy. Three limited-admission, no-kill shelters in North Carolina have been investigated by the N.C. Department of Agriculture's Animal Welfare Division due to complaints about substandard conditions. In July 2006 PETA conducted an undercover investigation at one of the shelter, All Creatures Great and Small, and published graphic photos and video of alleged abuse and neglect. Media reports in October 2007 says that "the no-kill shelter has failed numerous health and safety inspections." In December 2007, the state entered into a consent order requiring All Creatures to “work diligently to improve conditions at the Hendersonville no-kill shelter… to release 350 animals to a state-designated animal rescue organization to relieve crowding” and not to admit any new animals for two months. The shelter was shut down in February 2008. Dr. Kelli Ferris, a veterinarian and assistant professor said that "Some of the worst places to be, if you're an animal in North Carolina, is a no-kill shelter." Critics assert that the no-kill label has been used as a cover by some animal hoarders and the situation with All Creatures have been described as a case of hoarding. For example, a 1995 Animal People editorial stated that "the image of no-kill sheltering remains tainted by hoarders" and accused "the national organizations most involved in sheltering" of "perpetuat[ing] the hoarder stereotype".
While no-kill advocates accept that there are some poorly run limited-admission no-kill shelters, they consider them exceptions to the norm.
 Overpopulation and mandatory spay/neuter
Nathan Winograd, of the No Kill Advocacy Center, believes that there is no real pet overpopulation problem and that there are more than enough homes for every dog and cat being killed in shelters every year. He claims that based on data from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, and the latest census that "there aren't just enough homes for the dogs and cats being killed in shelters. There are more homes for cats and dogs opening each year than there are cats and dogs even entering shelters." Critics argue that such claims do a disservice to population control efforts by causing some pet owners to refuse spaying and neutering recommendations. They also claim that such calculations do not take into account the hundreds of thousands of animals sold by breeders and pet stores.
While some shelter professionals have called for laws that mandate all pet owners to pay for hysterectomies or castration of their pets through mandatory spay/neuter laws, (see also: AB 1634), those in the no-kill movement have consistently opposed such measures, asserting that mandatory legislation is ineffective and counterproductive. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted a study of mandatory spay/neuter laws and concluded that there is no "credible evidence" that such laws work to reduce euthanasia in animal shelters.
 Failed attempts
In 2008, the Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County, in Tacoma, Washington, backed away from its no-kill commitment, acknowledging the difficulties encountered in trying to keep animals alive. In announcing their decision, the shelter president stated “that because we are an open shelter that will accept every animal that comes to us, regardless of its medical or behavior problems, true ‘no-kill’ status will never be a reality.” The shelter has now switched from no-kill to “Counting Down to Zero”, a coordinated effort to reduce euthanasia.
In 2009, the Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada provincial government and the town of Stephenville began negotiations to close their no-kill animal shelter, claiming that upwards of 100 dogs and cats with diseases or behavioral problems were suffering severe neglect. Media quoted the town's mayor as stating that animals cannot be humanely stored indefinitely. The animals in the shelter will be evaluated by veterinarians but will most likely be euthanized.
A no-kill policy led to a dispute between the Toronto Humane Society and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 2009, with the OSPCA revoking the THS' credentials for several months while it conducted an investigation. Several staff and officers with the THS were arrested, although all of the charges were eventually dropped.
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- Unhappy endings
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 Further reading
- Brestrup, Craig (1997). Disposable Animals: Ending the Tragedy of Throwaway Pets. Camino Bay Books. ISBN 978-0-9657285-9-1.
- Winograd, Nathan (2007). Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America. Almaden Books. ISBN 978-0-9790743-0-1.