Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) a non-profit organization that works with shelters, animal welfare organizations, and government entities has a goal to make the United States a no-kill nation by 2025 they announced recently at their yearly conference in Dallas, Texas.
BFAS has helped Delaware become Americas very first and sadly only no-kill shelter state. The marketing director of the Brandywine Valley SPCA Linda Torelli said:
“The community in Delaware is very oriented to pet advocacy, so we had their support,” she told TODAY.
The Brandywine Valley SPCA has three locations in Delaware where they care for over 14,000 animals every year. Torelli credits their ability to become the first no-kill state on a multi-faceted plan that involves the community.
They implemented multiple programs that allowed 95% of animals that are dumped in their shelters to find new loving homes. Alarmingly Torelli says that cats are killed at twice the rate of dogs but this has turned around thanks to a TNR program.
TNR or Trap Neuter and Release is a great option for “ferals” or “community cats” as they are more commonly being called now. The process involves trapping the cats, sterilizing them, and then returning them to where they live allowing them to live out their lives.
They have also switched to an open adoption model that doesn’t require the same invasive home visits or time intense application processes that they traditionally had in place for adoptions. They are able to quickly move animals through their shelters matching companion animals with their new guardians in no time at all.
Implementing reduced fee adoption events has really made an impact as well. “Mega adoption events” are held regularly each year.
“They are weekend-long events where we adopt out over a thousand animals in two days,” Torelli said. “It’s an amazing experience. It’s really something to see.”
Brandywine offers a pet pantry, emergency veterinary fund for those who need it, and free vaccine clinics. All of that is in an effort to keep animals from ending up in a shelter to begin with.
There’s also a mobile veterinary clinic that helps to reach those who are further away from a shelter or might not be able to make it into one easily.
Teaching a new generation of young people how to care for their companion animals as proper guardians is also a priority for them. They host a “Critter Camp” at schools where they teach kids how to be compassionate with animals.
The myth that companion animals from rescues or shelters are somehow broken continues to make it hard to find homes for them noted Torelli.
Many times animals end up in shelters, not because of behavior issues but because their guardian dies, someone has allergies, or a guardian falls ill. There’s also those who move into new places where animals are not allowed but they should do better and find a place that does.
“There’s a long list of reasons why great pets end up in shelters,” she said. “I’d encourage people to have an open mind of the kind of animals you’re going to find in a shelter. In most cases, you’re going to find what you’re looking for.”
Delaware becoming the first state to become no-kill is a huge first step in making the entire nation no-kill by 2025 said Holly Sizemore the chief mission officer of Best Friends Animal Society.
“Back in 2016, Julie Castle, who is now our CEO, put Best Friends’ stake in the ground to lead the country to no-kill by the year 2025, and it was a pretty bold, brave stake to put out there,” she told TODAY.
BFAS spent three years collecting data from each and every shelter in the U.S. so that they could make and assess the ability of the shelters to save lives in their communities and states. They created a master list of these shelters that the public now has access to on the Best Friends Animal Society’s website where they’ve developed a “community lifesaving dashboard” that allows people to check local and national save rates quickly and easily.
“We’ve done testing on this, and if the public knows that animals are still dying in their community, it motivates them to want to help,” Sizemore said.
Currently, across the country there are about 4,000 no-kill communities. Once a shelter in a community hits a save rate of 90% or better they are then considered no-kill.
North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, California, and Florida currently kill half of all the companion animals in the U.S. so they will need much more support if they are to reach their goal by 2025.
In 1984 an estimated 17 million animals a year were dying in shelters, flash forward to recent years and that figured had dropped to around 4 million per year being killed in shelters. BFAS was founded at the height of shelter killings in the United States and now about 733,000 cats and dogs are being killed each year.
“We absolutely have been able to track the catalyst of change and the speeding up of life-saving that’s happening in shelters all across the U.S.,” she said. “I believe the public wants to be a positive part of the solution.”
Sizemore says that at the heart of the no-kill movement is “the golden rule”. It allows communities as a whole to generate compassion for both the animals and the human workers who of course do not want to kill healthy companion animals.
“The beautiful thing about this movement is that it is such a nonpartisan issue. It doesn’t matter where you may fall in your political views — everybody loves animals and most everyone understands how valuable the human-animal bond is,” she said. “So I do believe this movement is not only about saving animals’ lives, but it’s kind of redeeming us as people, and showing what kindness does to elevate us all and to just make a better world.”