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San Diego Humane Society maintains no-kill status

However, California ranks as #2 state in the country for killing of cats and dogs

KANAB, Utah – Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization, released its sixth annual pet lifesaving dataset, which gives a national overview of the number of dogs and cats that enter and exit shelters in a given year. It also includes a state-by-state no-kill priority ranking of which California is second (based on 2021 data).

In 2021, 472,840 dogs and cats entered California shelters and 390,944 were saved, giving the state an aggregate save rate* of 82.7%. In the same year, 46.3% of state shelters measured above the 90% benchmark.

San Diego Humane Society was amongst those retaining or achieving no kill status in 2021 with a save rate of 90.8% where they took in 22,976 dogs and cats and 20,862 were saved.

By comparison, in 2020, 456,717 dogs and cats entered California shelters and 374,838 were saved, giving the state an aggregate save rate of 82.1%. At the time, 42.2% of state shelters measured above the 90% benchmark. Those that were below it needed to save 39,111 more animals.

“We are so proud of San Diego Humane Society for maintaining their no-kill status,” says Kaylee Hawkins, Pacific Regional director for Best Friends Animal Society. “San Diego has proved that reaching and maintaining a 90% save rate or higher is possible in California, even during these challenging times. We hope this will inspire other shelters to adopt lifesaving models that will help them save as many dogs and cats as possible."

Shelters with the support of their pet loving community needed to save 37,021 more healthy or treatable animals to make California no-kill (a state is considered to be no-kill when every brick-and-mortar shelter serving and/or located within the state has a save rate of 90% or higher).

“Unfortunately, the setback in lifesaving is largely due to the historic decreases in pets entering shelters in 2020,” said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “As shelters began to reopen in 2021 in increasing numbers, so did the number of pets entering their facilities.”

While the population in California is a contributing factor for the volume we see in shelters, it’s also reflective of what the data showed nationally: as overall lifesaving stalls, the animal shelter crisis in America is growing with increasing intakes and waning adoptions. For the first time in five years, U.S. shelter systems are seeing a setback in lifesaving. In 2021, the number of dogs and cats killed in U.S. shelters increased from 347,000 to 355,000 and was especially stark when compared to the dramatic life saving efforts seen throughout the previous year.

The reasons were partly due to staffing shortages that limited hours, decreased in-person volunteers, reduced adoption events and pet care support. As overall lifesaving stalls, Best Friends’ data shows the animal shelter crisis in America growing with increasing intakes and waning adoptions.

Individuals can help save lives by choosing to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, spay or neuter their pets, foster, volunteer, donate, and support and advocate for community cats through trap-neuter-vaccinate-return and shelter-run TNVR programming.

“The responsibility of saving pets’ lives should not rest solely on shelters and those in animal welfare, but on entire communities including community members, government leaders, shelters and other animal welfare groups,” said Castle. “Through collaboration and community involvement, this model provides better support for pet owners, efficiency in shelters, and more lifesaving outcomes for pets. When a community supports its shelter’s critical needs, we see dramatic results.”  

For the past six years, Best Friends has spearheaded a one-of-a-kind extensive data collection process that involved coordinated outreach to every shelter in America followed by additional research, data analysis, and technology development. The dataset is the most comprehensive on U.S. sheltered animals, and is based on data collected directly from shelters, state and local coalitions, government websites, and FOIA requests. From this, 94% of the animal intake in U.S. shelters is known, 6% is estimated.

* Best Friends measures shelter lifesaving with a metric called “save rate.” A 90% save rate is the nationally recognized benchmark to be considered “no-kill,” factoring that approximately 10% of pets who enter shelters have medical or behavioral circumstances that warrant humane euthanasia rather than killing for lack of space. 


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