The term “no kill shelter” means different things to different people. Some people classify a shelter as “no kill” when it doesn’t euthanize any animals for any reason. However, many people find that reasoning to be cruel, insisting that there should be some concession given when the animal is too sick or too dangerous to rehabilitate. The most common type of no kill shelters, then, are those that don’t euthanize animals simply because of lack of space, or just because the animal has been at the shelter for too long.
What Do They Do?
When an animal arrives at a no kill shelter, he is assessed for temperament issues. If the animal is deemed to be behaviorally unsound, the shelter staff will work patiently with him, either on site or through an experienced foster family, to try to get him to a point where he is adoptable. Unfortunately though, it isn’t always possible, as many animals have a history of being abused and neglected. If an animal is too aggressive and continually shows a potential to hurt people or other animals, he is eventually deemed to be unadoptable, and may get euthanized. However, this is a very rare occurrence in a no kill shelter, and only the most aggressive of animals fall into this category.
Animals also receive a physical examination upon intake into a no kill shelter. The staff veterinarian examines the health of the animal, looking for signs of neglect and illness. All illness that is deemed to be treatable is then treated. If the animal is too ill or injured, and his quality of life is suffering greatly (ex: terminal cancer, hit by a car) then he may be labeled as unadoptable and eventually euthanized. The act of euthanizing an animal in this instance is considered to be humane, as it ends his suffering.
Difference in Philosophies
If these steps sound like any other shelter, that’s because the majority of shelters do engage in one form or another of health and behavioral screening for animals. However, the difference is that, in a no kill shelter, adoptable animals are held and housed for an unlimited period of time. That is the distinction. Other shelters hold animals for only a limited period of time, and if they aren’t adopted, the animals are euthanized, regardless of how adoptable they’ve proven to be in their assessment.
Reaching Their Goals Through Outreach
A general rule is that, in order to be classified as a no kill shelter, more than 90% of the animals that are taken into receiving by the shelter must be saved. In order to achieve their goal, shelters implement different programs and methods to get the word out about the animals they’re housing, as well as to help stem the tide of unwanted animals when there are already too many to help. For example, no kill shelters host adoption events at local pet stores. Not only are they advertising for their current animals to be adopted, but they are making people aware of their shelter, and they’re advertising for the animals that have yet to be admitted.
Another way that no kill shelters work toward maintaining their 90%+ goal is by trying to circumvent the problem in the first place. They advocate for spaying and neutering (like most shelters do), and they also offer information on low cost veterinary services, as well as training and behavioral classes. The goal is to prevent the animal from being returned, and to empower the adopter with the necessary information and support network they need.
It’s clear that no kill shelters offer many of the same services that are provided by other shelters. They prepare the animals for adoption by ensuring that they are ready physically and behaviorally. The shelter staff also advocates spaying and neutering, and they educate adoptive families. The difference between the two types of shelters is that no kill shelters don’t put a time limit on the adoption process. They believe that all animals that are adoptable should be allowed as much time as they need to find their forever home.