Making Utah “No-Kill” Together

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by Gene Baierschmidt, HSU Executive Director


You’ve probably heard the term “no-kill” many times before, but do you know what it means? In 2017, HSU saved 11,141 lives and maintained no-kill standards for dogs and cats combined for the third year in a row. The Best Friends Animal Society No-Kill Utah (NKUT) initiative goals are to provide spay/neuter services so that fewer animals enter the shelter system, and increase adoptions to place more pets into new homes. The term “no-kill” can be complicated to define as it does not mean an animal will never be humanely euthanized in a shelter. As stewards for the thousands of dogs and cats who enter our shelter system each year, the 59 members of the NKUT Coalition define the term “kill” as when a healthy or treatable pet’s life is needlessly ended. However, euthanasia may be necessary as an act of mercy when a pet is suffering. For many of us, understanding the importance of humane euthanasia is as simple as remembering a time when you had to make the difficult decision to euthanize a beloved elderly, ill or injured pet.


No-kill standards outline that a dog or cat will not be killed for space, time or financial restrictions. At the Humane Society of Utah, we do not limit the time that a pet can stay with us until it finds a new home. Pets with treatable medical and behavioral issues will pass through our lifesaving Clinic, Foster Care, Behavior, and Adoption programs to receive all services and resources at our disposal to find them new loving homes. Moreover, we work with other NKUT members to save lives across the state through our Transfer and Rescue program. By moving pets to and from different shelters and rescue groups, more options become available for every pet to receive a positive outcome.


A statistical live-release rate of 90% or higher is required to be called a no-kill shelter. This means that 90% of the dogs and cats in Utah shelters must receive a positive outcome, including adoption into a new home; placement with a rescue group or other organization; trapping, sterilizing and releasing back outside of feral/community cats (TNR); or returning pets to their owners. Consequently, it is anticipated that nearly 10% of animals received by any shelter or rescue group may be suffering from an incurable condition or dangerous behavior, in which case, euthanasia as a show of mercy is in the best interest of that animal.


The Humane Society of Utah is the state’s largest open-admission private animal shelter, which means we welcome any animal that we can legally accept. As you can imagine, we receive animals in many states of health and behavior. We work extremely hard to save as many animals as possible and are proud to report that, for the third year in a row, our live-release rate was above 90% for cats and dogs combined in 2017. We are happy to report that so far this year our live-release rate is 91.51%. While we strive to reach these industry standards, we know saving lives is not all about numbers or statistics; rather, the quality of life that we provide to the animals in our care is our ultimate goal


HSU believes that it is possible to achieve a no-kill Utah by 2019 with the combined efforts of all No-Kill Utah Coalition members and our animal-loving communities. We have maintained no-kill standards as an open-admission shelter receiving over 12,000 animals a year because of the amazing generosity of our adopters, donors and volunteers. Together, we know your continued support will help the animal welfare community reach this goal and save as many animals as possible.