What 'No-Kill' Really Means

Profile photo of Whitney-C

Posted August 28, 2013 by Whitney Calk

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve more than likely heard the phrase “no-kill” when referring to limited-admission shelters.

To hear supporters of “no-kill” talk, you’d probably assume that the only reason why animals in shelters are euthanized is because open-admission shelter workers just haven’t closed their eyes, clicked their heels, and wished hard enough. So, is the “no-kill” movement really helping animals as much as supporters claim it is?

The answer again and again is a resounding NO.

Here are just a few examples of why “no-kill” DOESN’T mean “no suffering”:

    • After a Hillsborough County, Florida, shelter adopted a “low-kill” policy, it became so crowded that dogs and cats started getting sick and dying. “If someone from Animal Services came to my home and inspected my home and my dogs lived in the conditions that exist in this county [shelter], they would confiscate every one of my dogs and shut down my rescue,” said a man who runs a local bulldog and boxer rescue group.
    • Things got so bad at the “no-kill” Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Kent County, Delaware (where pro–”no-kill” legislation was passed in 2010 with disastrous results for animals and taxpayers), that the county government revoked its dog-control contract. “The problem is your business model. It doesn’t work. It’s not going to work,” one county commissioner told Safe Haven. The head of the Kent County SPCA, the state’s largest open-admission shelter, said, “The expectation of our community is that every animal will be saved, but there’s not enough money to pay for it.”
    • In San Antonio, thousands of stray animals are suffering and dying on the streets, a predictable result when “no-kill” shelters turn away animals because they are full or refuse to accept strays—a common limited-admission “strategy.”

“No-kill” shelters and “no-kill” rescue groups often find themselves filled to capacity, which means that they must turn animals away. These animals will still face untimely deaths—just not at these facilities. In the best-case scenario, they will be taken to another facility that does euthanize animals. Some will be dumped by the roadside to die a gruesome and horrible death.

Although it is true that “no-kill” shelters do not kill animals, this doesn’t mean that animals are saved. 

sad shelter dog

Open-admission shelters are committed to keeping animals safe and off the streets and do not have the option of turning their backs on the victims of the overpopulation crisis as “no-kill” shelters do.

Instead of focusing on the end result—euthanasia—we need to focus on how so many animals get to this point in the first place. The only way to stop euthanasia is to stop puppy mills, breeders, and irresponsible guardians from bringing more dogs and cats into a world that simply doesn’t have enough room for them.

You can help now by taking the pledge below to save animals right now:

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  • Profile photo of Nicholebridgewater

    1178 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Thank you for the explanation! My hometown is trying to convince the shelter to become no-kill, but I can see how that would end up hurting all the animals.

  • Profile photo of amyvp77

    1193 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    This is Horrible!!! Made me cry:( These poor cats!!! Is this not illegal to have animal in such shape??

  • Profile photo of alexblue

    1194 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]


    Great article…thanks for explaining it. I guess it’s like fixing the symptom without treating the disease.
    Adopt! Adopt! Adopt until every shelter animal has a home!

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