2021 shelter report from Best Friends reveals promising no-kill trend

Puppies celebrating National Puppy Day. Photos courtesy Best Friends Animal Society
Puppies celebrating National Puppy Day. Photos courtesy Best Friends Animal Society /

A 2021 shelter report from Best Friends Animal Society shows a promising trend in the no-kill rate..

This is the sixth year that Best Friends has been releasing an annual nationwide animal shelter report, which shows that about 347,000 dogs and cats were euthanized during the 2020 year. While this isn’t great, it is a significant improvement from 2019,, when around 625,000 dogs and cats were put down.

“This was a monumental year for cats and dogs in America’s shelters,” Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, said in a press release. “We saw communities, shelters, and individuals step up for animals in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and now we are closer than ever before to achieving our goal of no-kill by 2025.

“Since we announced our no-kill goal the number of cats and dogs killed in shelters has decreased by 76 percent, down from about 1.5 million in 2016. This is incredible progress, but we must never lose sight that there are still over 950 cats and dogs killed every day just because they do not have a safe place to call home.”

A 2021 shelter report shows significant progress in no-kill rates.

The annual nationwide save rate was about 83 percent, up from 2019’s 79 percent, as about 4.26 million cats and dogs entered animal shelters, with about 3.9 million of those saved.

New Hampshire became the second state to reach no-kill status, after Delaware, and Rhode Island and Vermont should reach that standard soon.

While no animal shelter can truly be no-kill, as medical issues or severe behavioral problems that render them unadoptable are a distressing part of life, a 90 percent save rate is considered the “no-kill standard.”

States with much work still yet to be done in this area include California, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana, all of which have put down at least 15,000 cats and dogs last year, and collectively account for more than half of all euthanizations.

A full breakdown of the 2021 shelter report can be found here. In more promising news, almost half of all shelters in the US are no-kill, and of counties that offer shelter services of some kind, one-third of those are no-kill.

For much more on the daily life of working in animal rescue, we highly recommend reading Cara Sue Achterberg’s book One Hundred Dogs and Counting, and we hope you’ll check out Little Rock Games/Freedom Games’ simulator To the Rescue later this fall, as proceeds from each sale of the video game (available on PC and Nintendo Switch) will go the Petfinder Foundation to assist the efforts of animal shelters nationwide.

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Best Friends is a nationwide organization headquartered in Kanab, Utah, in 1984, with regional offices in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, New York, with a network of partner organizations serving on the local level to ideally reach a total no-kill standard by 2025.