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Animal Care Blog

Defining No-Kill
 Posted: 03/02/17 4:18 PM by Shelly Simmons

In December 2016, Animal Care announced that we are now in a fellowship with a national organization called Target Zero to aggressively implement recommended strategies that helps decrease shelter intake and increase live release rates with the goal of building and maintaining a “No-Kill Community”.

But what is “No-Kill”?  For the last decade or so, we have all been inundated by the no-kill movement.  If you ask five people on the street, “What does ‘No-Kill’ mean to you?” you’ll get five very different answers.  Because we need our community to be 100% committed to helping us build a No-Kill Community in Greenville County, we need to make sure everyone understands how the animal welfare industry defines one.

In a nutshell, “No-Kill” means that a community is saving 90% or more of its homeless pets that end up in animal sheltering facilities.  When Animal Care came into existence in late 2007, your local shelter operated by the Humane Society was saving only 20% of the incoming animals.  Just 20%!!    It’s been a long, hard road for this community to be saving as many dogs and cats as we do.  As we begin 2017, we are consistently finding life-saving opportunities for 90% of our homeless dogs and upwards of 70% of our homeless cats, and those percentages keep rising.

Despite these promising statistics, we often get questions like, “Why aren’t you doing more?” or comments such as, “90% isn’t good enough!  You should be saving 100%!”  I want to clarify why we can’t save them all.  That’s not a canned response.  It’s simply a fact.  Nationwide, 5-10% of the animals in an open-admission shelter like Greenville County Animal Care cannot realistically be saved. 

The reason for this is because we take in homeless animals regardless of their level of adoptability.  We are known in the industry as “open admission” because we allow all animals in all conditions and stages of life.  It’s pretty simple to limit what an animal sheltering facility will accept into their adoption program and then call themselves “No Kill”.  Any business savvy person can open an adoption center tomorrow and call it 100% “No-Kill”, simply by turning away homeless animals that are not easily adoptable, restricting certain breeds of dogs or the very young and the very old, or when the kennels are full and there’s not more room “at the inn”. 

This is not “No Kill”; this is simply limiting admission.  And when those animals are turned away, guess where they often end up?  Greenville County Animal Care. 

It’s our staff’s job to keep the community safe just as much as it is our job to save the lives of savable animals.  And because we cannot limit what types of animals we take in, we will be the shelter that takes in the aggressive dog when no one else will. 

And while most of the animals that enter our facility are happy and healthy, we will also be the shelter that takes in the cat with a poor health prognosis when no one else will.  We will be the shelter that takes in the homeless animals that are truly suffering and need someone to step up to the plate and alleviate that suffering…when no one else will.

We have to make those tough decisions every day.  To know this means that you understand the struggles your local open-admission animal shelter is faced with and you can become a key player and advocate in our life-saving efforts.  You are now a community member who understands the job that the amazing people do who work and volunteer at Greenville County Animal Care.  Hopefully, after reading this, you are all empowered to help us in our mission. 

How can you help?  Subscribe to our blog to find out!  We will share our stories with you.  Some will make you laugh.  Others will make you cry.  All of them will inspire you to do more.  We will send out calls to action that you can share with your friends, family, and co-workers to spread the word of what we need the most help with at any given moment.  And we will share all of the different ways that our community can get involved and support our life-saving mission. 

Together, we will save every healthy and treatable homeless animal in Greenville County.  I have no doubts about this.  Come on Greenvillians!  The animals need you!  Help us build a "No Kill Community"!

Shelly Simmons, CAWA

Division Manager for Greenville County Animal Care