Pet Shelter Death Toll In Virginia Drops, But Still One Of The Highest In The Country, Investigation Finds

Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization, has released its sixth annual pet rescue dataset, which provides a national snapshot of the number of dogs and cats entering and leaving shelters each year. It also includes a state-by-state no kill priority ranking of which Virginia is fifteenth.

Best Friends measures shelter rescue with a metric called “save rate.” A save rate of 90% is the nationally recognized benchmark for being considered “unkilled”, taking into account that approximately 10% of domestic animals entering shelters have medical or behavioral circumstances that justify treatment. human euthanasia rather than killing for other reasons, such as lack of space. In 2020, 113,153 dogs and cats entered shelters in Virginia and 96,004 were rescued, giving the state an overall save rate of 84.84%.

In the same year, 60.26% of public shelters exceeded the 90% threshold. Those below had to save 6,940 healthier or treatable animals to make Virginia no kill (a state is considered no kill when every brick and mortar shelter serving and / or located in the state has a save rate 90% or more).

84% of shelter deaths in 2020 were cats, most of which were outdoor community cats residing in townships with barriers to trap-sterilization-vaccination-return programs. Nationally, community-based cat programs have resulted in a notable reduction in the number of cats entering shelters, dramatically improved savings rates, and provided public health benefits.

For comparison, in 2019, 139,235 animals entered public shelters and 113,082 were rescued for an overall save rate of 81.22%. At the time, 61.73% of shelters were banned from slaughter, and those below had to rescue an additional 13,169 animals.

To see your community’s progress, click here.

“It has been a monumental year for cats and dogs in American shelters,” said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “We have seen communities, shelters and individuals rallying for the animals in ways we could not have imagined, and now we are closer than ever to our no-slaughter goal here. 2025. “

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted this year’s data as many shelters or services have had to partially shut down or scale back their services. Communities and individuals have filled this gap through volunteerism, hospitality and adoption. As a result, fewer pets entered shelters and more lives were saved.

“This year’s progress has been exceptional, based on what we have seen with the support and participation of the community and the numbers that have saved lives as a result. It is crucial that we use this momentum to keep pets out of the shelters and loving homes to which they belong. This is how we’ll get to the no-kill, ”Castle said.

Nationally, approximately 347,000 cats and dogs were killed in U.S. shelters in 2020, up from 625,000 in 2019. This is the largest annual reduction in dogs and cats killed in shelters nationwide ( 44.5%) to date, which puts the country at a rate of 83%. saving rate. Best Friends has the most comprehensive national data on protected animals, accounting for around 93 percent of all protected dogs and cats in the country.

“Since we announced our no-slaughter goal, the number of cats and dogs killed in shelters has declined by 76%, down from around 1.5 million in 2016. It’s incredible progress, but we don’t need to. never lose sight of the fact that there are still some? Over 950 of the cats and dogs killed every day just because they don’t have a safe place to call home, ”Castle said.

For the past six years, Best Friends has led a one-of-a-kind, extensive data collection process that involved coordinated outreach at every shelter in America, followed by additional research, data analysis, and technology development. The most comprehensive dataset on protected animals, based on data coming directly from shelters, state and local coalitions, government websites, and even FOIA requests.

This year, Best Friends launched a new user experience for its Pet Rescue Dashboard, which displays data clearly and further inspires community members by highlighting areas that need help most. homeless animals in their communities.

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the slaughter of dogs and cats in American shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer of the movement no-kill and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from around 17 million annually to around 347,000. Best Friends runs rescue programs across the country, as well as the world’s largest sanctuary. animals without killing the country. Working in conjunction with a network of more than 3,300 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends strives to save them all®. For more information, visit

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