What is No Kill?

May 30th, 2019

What is No Kill?

In February of 2019, a group of lifesaving shelter directors met in Austin during the American Pets Alive! National Conference. With support from Maddie’s Fund, these leaders gathered to write ten guiding principles of No Kill. What came out of that initial meeting was so much more than anyone could have anticipated. A small task force of the group, after much discussion and many edits, has written a new definition of No Kill. This definition is based on the practices and experiences of some of the most successful shelter directors in the nation.

If you’ve ever heard or said the phrase “No Kill’ is a confusing term,” this blog is for you.

The contributing authors include Teresa Johnson of Kansas City Pet Project, Ginny Sims of Southern Pines, Paula Powell of El Paso Animal Services, Rebecca Guinn of LifeLine Animal Project, Cheryl Schneider of Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, Denise Deisler of Jacksonville Humane Society and Austin Pets Alive! Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson.

Defining No Kill

No Kill is the belief that every pet who enters a shelter should receive urgent, individualized treatment and care with the goal of a live outcome.

We assert:

As a movement and industry, we are still not saving the lives of more vulnerable groups of animals, including: senior and geriatric pets; orphaned puppies and kittens (especially the very young); dogs and cats with contagious but treatable illnesses like upper respiratory infections; pets who are fearful and shy in the shelter; animals that behaviorally decline due to the stress of confinement; injured animals and pets with injuries; animals who are not adopted quickly enough; and animals with treatable conditions including ringworm and other skin conditions, Parvovirus, distemper, Calicivirus, etc.

Animal shelters were built on a broken foundation, one designed to end lives, not to save them. Because of this, we must work to overcome our history in order to build organizations that value the lives of animals and make efforts to save even pets with special needs.

We believe:

  1. Killing any animal that can be saved is not acceptable.
  2. Every animal’s life has value and animals are prioritized equally. No animal is excluded from lifesaving efforts.
  3. Every animal is an individual, with its own, unique set of physical and emotional needs.
  4. All available resources and options should be utilized in an effort to find a lifesaving solution for every animal.
  5. We must identify the most vulnerable pets and build programs to save them.

We acknowledge:

There may be a certain, small percentage of animals for which there are no immediate live outcome options, including dogs with known histories of causing harm to people or animals who may pose a risk to public safety as well as pets with serious medical issues that a shelter does not currently have the financial resources to treat. For these animals, it is imperative that:

A. They are counted and part of publicly available data.

B. The organization is transparent -- telling the stories of those cases and explaining the barrier to a non-live outcome.

C. The community is engaged whenever possible in helping to save the lives of currently “at risk” animals. 

D. The organization works towards securing resources to save animals where a financial barrier currently prevents those animals from receiving lifesaving treatment.

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