Key Differences Between No-Kill Shelters and Kill Shelters


A dog waits to be adopted at the Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh, N.C. on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. As a government-run, open-admission animal shelter, the Wake County Animal Center is legally required to accept every small pet brought to their doorstep. But as space is tight, the shelter is asking community members for help.

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Animal ingestion rates are skyrocketing in the Triangle. North Carolina has the third highest rate of euthanasia at animal shelters in the nation. With many at risk of being put down, will the growing number of unwanted animals reverse years of progress?

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What is a “no kill” shelter?

What makes it different from a “killer” shelter?

And does that really mean that animals in a no-kill shelter are never euthanized?

The no-kill movement was founded by the San Francisco SPCA in the late 1980s. Animal shelters and rescue organizations consider themselves no-kill when they do not euthanize animals for space reasons. and time.

No-kill shelters still keep licensed euthanasia technicians on-site, but they only euthanize an animal for medical necessity, end-of-life care, or genuine danger posed by the animal’s behavior, according to the Animal. Humane Society.

To account for these cases, animal rescue organization Best Friends considers a shelter “no-kill” when it routinely euthanizes no more than 10 percent of all animals that come through the door. In contrast, a shelter where healthy domestic animals are routinely slaughtered is called a slaughter shelter.

Killing shelters may euthanize animals based on how long they stay in the shelter or how many other animals enter. Any animal can be legally euthanized in North Carolina after 72 hours if it is a stray or after 24 hours if it is stray. was returned by its owner.

In the no-kill shelters The News & Observer spoke to for this story, few animals stayed longer than two or three months. Instead, animals that have not been adopted may be transferred to another shelter or rescue group or placed in foster care.

What happens when animals are euthanized?

Euthanasia practices should be designed to end each animal’s life with a minimum of pain and suffering, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Drowning and gas chambers were considered humane euthanasia strategies in the 19th century. They primarily targeted suspected rabid dogs and other pets considered dangerous, said Kristen Hassen, director of American Pets Alive!, a no-kill education initiative based in Austin, Texas.

Now many animals in North Carolina shelters and rescues are being euthanized by lethal injection. If injected into the heart, the animal must first be sedated or anesthetized according to state law.

The state banned carbon monoxide gas chambers in 2014, by which time only four state-approved shelters still used one, The N&O previously reported.

A 2011 UNC study found that owners felt more comfortable bringing their animals to be euthanized at county shelters that used needles instead of gas.

What happens if the huts run out of space?

Different shelter and rescue designs face different challenges if they run out of space.

Most municipal shelters in North Carolina are open-access kill shelters who euthanize for space and time.

They should accommodate strays brought in by county animal control, but may need to drop off older arrivals to make room for newer ones. County Durham Humane Society and Sampson County Animal Shelter fall into this category.

Some municipal shelters are kill-free despite having open admission. These organizations face conflicting challenges and could lose their no-kill status if they cannot stay ahead of their admissions.

The Wake County Animal Center, Orange County Animal Shelter, and Vance County Animal Shelter fall into this category.

Since they cannot repel stray animals, some no-kill shelters have made it harder for residents to drop off unwanted animals. To slow admission, some now require owners to make an appointment to return their dogs and are booked weeks in advance.

This strategy can reduce overcrowding, said Tenille Fox of Orange County Animal Services, which uses appointments. However, she says, owners who can’t wait for an appointment may be more likely to abandon or neglect their pets.

Most rescues are no-kill and limited-intake. These private groups may work closely with county shelters but do not have animal control teams and do not have to accept strays.

This means that any animal that arrives will remain in their care indefinitely, but it also means that there will be times when they will not have room for those at risk of euthanasia elsewhere. The Wake County SPCA and Saving Grace Animals For Adoption in Wake Forest are in this category.

This story was originally published August 5, 2022 06:00.

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Ilana Arougheti is an underground reporting intern at The News & Observer. They are a rising senior at Northwestern University, where she was most recently city editor at the Daily Northwestern. You can reach Ilana at [email protected]

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