Best Friends Animal Society, a rescue organization based in Kanab, Utah, is leading a coalition to make all animal shelters across the country “no-kill” by 2025.
"We thought it was time to put a stake in the ground and say, ‘This is what we all need to do,’" said Gregory Castle, the organization’s co-founder and CEO.
The organization announced the 2025 goal last year during its annual conference, which brings together animal rescuers who share the same no-kill philosophy. More and more each year, Best Friends could sense a groundswell of support for a national initiative. "There was so much momentum behind communities going no-kill,” Castle told petMD.
With regional centers in cities including New York and Atlanta, Best Friends provides grant programs, fundraising activities, and training practices for animal rescue groups and shelters across the country. Together, this ever-growing coalition will help bring the organization closer to achieving its 2025 mission.
The effective techniques that Best Friends has been able to share with other organizations include helping at-risk animals. For instance, when it comes to Pit Bull Terriers and similar breeds with unfair stigmas and stereotypes, its programs help socialize and train these dogs so that potential adopters can see how loving these pets are when they’re raised in the right conditions. When this initiative was put forth in Utah shelters, up to 94 percent of dogs were saved, as opposed to previous years when it was as low as 40 percent, Castle said.
Another tool Best Friends uses to establish no-kill standards is to aid newborn kittens who have been orphaned. "When they are young, they have to be bottle fed every two hours until they are 8 weeks," Castle explained. "It is very labor intensive, and most shelters don’t have the resources to do that.” Because of this factor, Best Friends has developed kitten nurseries where volunteers feed the tiny cats throughout the night and give them a fighting chance to survive.
In addition to the kitten nurseries, Best Friends also works to introduce trap, neuter, and return (TNR) programs to communities with feral or free-roaming cats who would not survive in a shelter situation, as they are not adoptable. Castle shared the example of Jacksonville, Florida, where the TNR program helped reduce the number of feral cats killed from 5,000 to 2,000 in one year. Since then, he said, the numbers have continued to drastically fall.
Thanks to these successful initiatives, Castle said the number of communities getting involved and practicing these techniques continues to grow with positive results. Communities that have enacted these practices are seeing up to a 90 percent no-kill rate—save for the 10 percent, in most cases, where an animal was humanely euthanized due to terminal illnesses, severe behavior issues, or overall poor quality of life from health issues, Castle said.
Over the course of the next few years, Best Friends plans to continue working on legislation at the local and state levels to ensure the safety of at-risk animals. One of the most important messages the organization wants to convey to lawmakers is that "every animal should be based as an individual, not because of a breed," Castle said.
While it won't always be an easy road to achieving its 2025 goal, Best Friends is happy with the progress it has made thus far, Castle said. "We’re optimistic about it, and we see the increasing number of people who want to help."