In the No Kill movement, every number is important because every life counts. Unfortunately, animal welfare has historically kept the public in the dark.
Until the No Kill movement began, shelters never talked about the number of animals they killed. Today, the topic of data transparency is at the forefront of animal welfare, thanks to No Kill organizations like Maddie’s Fund. Read more on Transparency in animal welfare.
Despite progress, it remains difficult to find shelter data. And when you see data, you need to be able to interpret it to ensure organizations are not hiding the real killing.
Animal Shelter Transparency
No Kill shelters embrace transparency and publish their statistics visibly and comprehensively. As a rule of thumb, No Kill shelters save more than 90% of the animals that come through their doors. This is called the Save Rate. Today, many leaders are raising the bar and stating that the No Kill Save Rate should really be 95%. Read more about the definition of No Kill.
At PAWS Chicago, our No Kill experience aligns with the 95% Save Rate. In fact, in 2020, we had a 98.17% Save Rate.
But the Save Rate is merely a rule of thumb. No Kill means every healthy and treatable pet is saved. To truly understand whether a shelter is No Kill, you also have to know that every euthanized pet was unhealthy and untreatable. Below, read more about how we evaluate pets’ health and how we report information and overall results.
Counting Every Pet
Many shelters across America say they save all “adoptable” pets. But what does that mean? They might not consider a pet “adoptable” because of a simple cold, because they had too many dogs of the same color, because they were over five years old (and thus deemed “too old”), because they were under eight weeks of age (and thus deemed “too young”) or because they were scared.
Since 2004, animal welfare leaders have been working to create standard reporting to track the number of animals that are euthanized each year and categorizing them as healthy, treatable or nonrehabilitatable. These resulting numbers provide transparency as to how a shelter operates. If a shelter is No Kill, it is only euthanizing nonrehabilitatable animals. If all shelters in a community commit to this shelter data tracking, it enables us to see how close the community is coming to achieving No Kill status. Read more about this in No Kill Communities.
Keep in mind that each shelter self-reports this information. You need to also understand what each shelter considers healthy, treatable and nonrehabilitatable. (Continue reading below for more information on Our Standard of Pet Care.)
There are two common reporting templates:
- The Asilomar Accords were developed in 2004 as a uniform reporting system for shelters. They established a baseline standard of definitions and a template to track shelter populations.
- Maddie’s Fund, a leader in the No Kill movement, has since expanded upon those standards and has developed a best-in-class shelter reporting system.
Our Standard of Pet Care
The consensus has been that animal shelters should have the same standard of pet care as the general public in the communities they serve. Defining a community’s Standard of Pet Care is required to interpret these reports and understand an organization or community’s lifesaving progress and commitment to No Kill.
A community’s Standard of Pet Care is shown through a Pet Evaluation Matrix (PEM), which lists specific medical and behavioral conditions that animals face. Each condition falls into one of four categories:
- Unhealthy & Untreatable (Nonrehabilitatable)
These categories are defined based on the standard of care an individual pet owner would provide their pet.
For example, in most communities:
- A geriatric animal without other diseases would be classified as Healthy
- A pet with an ear mite infection would be classified as Treatable-Rehabilitatable.
- A pet with congestive heart failure (medical) or separation anxiety (behavioral) would be classified as Treatable-Manageable.
- A pet with a severe spinal cord injury (medical) or severe aggression (behavioral) would be classified as unhealthy & untreatable.
PAWS Chicago has adopted the PEM created by Iowa State University. It is based on findings from private practice veterinarians in corroboration with pet-owner surveys, with an overall emphasis on lifesaving. Maddie’s Fund, a leader in the No Kill movement, considers this PEM an excellent model.
Check out our Pet Evaluation Matrix.