Can We Hope to See the United States a No Kill Nation?

by Denise Carey-Costa

Will the United States ever achieve the status of a no kill nation? According to a report by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, 733,000 dogs and cats were killed last in animal shelters across the nation because no one wanted them.

In a color-coded map on the Best Friends site, most states show no-kill, however, California and Texas are leading with the highest kill rate of 100k.  Ironically, Austin, Texas has the largest no-kill shelter, with a survival rate of 95%.  So what is going in with the rest of Texas?

North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida follow close behind with 40k to 100k kills a year.

The formula for achieving a no-kill status in a community is when every shelter in that community achieves a 90% save rate for cats and dogs; only euthanizing an animal to end suffering or if the animal is too dangerous to rehabilitate.

Why are some communities able to embrace the no-kill doctrine and make it work, yet others stay locked in the dark ages killing most of the animals who enter their shelters? Is it lack of caring and compassion on the part of the community? Is it a lack of education on proper care for companion animals? Or does the blame lie on the shoulders of those in leadership positions?

Broward County Animal Care and Adoption located in south Florida has had a long history of problems, along with a high kill rate. In 2012 the Broward Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to become a No-Kill community.

However, it is now 2019, and Broward County Animal Care is nowhere near a No Kill status. In June 2019, a news story aired regarding the too high euthanasia  rate.

In 2014, the Broward Office of the Inspector General filed a report citing misconduct and gross mismanagement by the division. It was confirmed in 2017 that shelter director Thomas Adair was changing euthanasia records to increase his performance records. Current director Lauralei Combs has done nothing under her leadership to decrease the Broward County Animal Care kill rate. She severed relationships with local rescues by discontinuing rescue bulletins. This reduced rescue transfers by 40%.

With no alternate placement plans for unwanted dogs and cats, the shelter continues killing for space.

In Spring of 2018, the dog inventory began to escalate. The already overwhelmed staff became unable to provide adequate care. Dogs began suffering from lack of prompt or ample medical care, unsanitary conditions and endless days in kennels without exercise or socialization. These conditions at the shelter induced depression, frustration and anxiety behaviors.

The leadership still had no plan to accommodate the inventory nor one to reduce the inventory with positive outcomes. Staff was unable to properly disinfect kennels since they were too understaffed to remove dogs during cleaning processes. Some dogs were becoming reactive to the water hoses and squeegees that taunted them in their kennels. Dogs were also becoming increasingly frustrated and redirected at other dogs, or possibly staff.

Quietly, dogs were no longer listed in inventory, but killed for shelter induced behavior problems due to the shelter’s own conditions. The active advocate community became alarmed at this trend and began inquiring and voicing concerns. In answer, the director instituted a 72-hour notice on dogs exhibiting concerning behaviors, even though the behaviors were caused by the shelter itself.

Poor attempts to reduce intake were made, such as an intake waiting list with little in pet retention resources offered. Staff was also instructed to avoid cruelty confiscations, potentially leaving animals in danger.

To help improve the quality of life and save adoption-worthy animals, Friends of Broward County Animals was founded in 2013.  Their main goal is to help facilitate adoptions, network and fund raise for medically needy and disadvantaged animals. They also started a heart-worm sponsorship program and met with the staff frequently.

In the last year, Friends of Broward Animals have provided more than $300,000 in support to Broward County Animal Care and Adoption.  This included clinic equipment, medical care, training for shelter staff and volunteers, boarding, training, and medical for dogs diagnosed with behaviors, medical sponsorship for sick and injured shelter pets, and heartworm treatment for dogs. In addition to financial assistance, Friends of Broward Animals will also take in shelter dogs with medical or suspected behavioral issues.

One of their most recent rescues was a dog named Polly. She came into the shelter very sickly. She was not eating, had a bad skin condition and was wasting away. She was clearly dying.  Volunteers showed concern for her deteriorating condition, yet she received no follow up care until 10 days after her first assessment.

Friends of Broward Animals picked her up and rushed her to an emergency vet on August 23,2019.  She is showing signs of improvement.

There is a fundraiser set up for Polly’s care

Another dog saved was Henry.

Henry arrived at Broward County with an injury to his tail that required an amputation. After repairing his injury and vetting him for adoption, Henry seemed to do well for a while but over time in the kennels he became hyper-anxious and erratic. His stress level was very high, and he needed immediate rescue to help him decompress from the shelter experience and to get regular exercise.

Sadly, this behavior caused him to be mislabeled as a red-dot dog, one not adoptable due to behaviors.

This was the furthest from the truth. Henry is very loving with people, other dogs and kids.

Henry is available for adoption. Visit his page.

You can donate to help support the work of Friends of Broward County Animals here. 

Best Friends Animal Society’s goal is to reach a nationwide no kill status by 2025.

This can only be achieved if certain problem shelters are completely overhauled and the current leadership replaced by those who care about the welfare of the animals.

Also, if breeders are eliminated, and communities take a more proactive approach to ending the problem of pet overpopulation.

Unless these things happen, the lives of countless animals are destined to be lost.

This article was first published in Pet Rescue Report.

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