Neighbors Magazines

Utah’s journey to no-kill shelters

"The good news is that with a save rate of 87.6% and 45 out of 57 shelters in the state already No-Kill, Utah is very close."

By: Julie Hooker, Neighbors of Park City

In 2016, at the Best Friends Animal Society’s National Conference, it was announced that the organization would focus efforts across the country to ensure that the United States was No-Kill by 2025.

It’s difficult to imagine that, even in 2024, dogs and cats will be killed in shelters purely because they don’t have safe places to call home. Established in Kanab, Utah in 1984, Best Friends Animal Society has always believed in rescuing animals from this final fate, knowing no organization can do this alone, we must collaborate to achieve No-Kill.  

Best Friends partners with individuals, communities, rescues, and municipal shelters to achieve No-Kill. For a shelter to achieve No-Kill, 90% of the cats and dogs coming into the shelter must leave that shelter, or rescue, alive. The 90% average rate was established as “No-Kill” because it was believed that not more than 10% of cats and dogs entering shelters are suffering from irreparable medical or behavioral issues that compromise their quality of life and prevent them from being rehomed.

Coalitions like NKUT, NKLA, and Best Friend Network Partners—a coalition of over 4,500 shelters and rescues dedicated to achieving and maintaining No-Kill—have achieved spectacular results. Where once more than 20 million animals needlessly died in shelters every year, by promoting programs such as adoption, spay/neuter, fostering, animal-friendly legislation, kitten nurseries, TNVR (trap, neuter, vaccinate, and release), that number has been reduced to about 400,000 in 2023. 

From zero known No-Kill communities just 20 years ago to today, with over 59% of communities and four states supporting No-Kill, Governor Spencer Cox wants to add Utah to that list. On February 24th, Governor Cox signed a historic declaration stating that 2024 was “No-Kill Shelter Year” for the state. This demonstrated a commitment, on a government level, for the state to save every pet possible and reach No-Kill by the end of 2024.

The good news is that with a save rate of 87.6% and 45 out of 57 shelters in the state already No-Kill, Utah is very close. Although Summit County is one of the 12 counties that are not yet No-Kill, we’re nearly there, and it’s a goal that folks in Summit County already support. 

One nine-year-old asked her party guests to bring pet food for shelter pets instead of gifts. That generosity filled up the back of my Honda Element and kept pets in homes.

Almost ten years ago, students in the Treasure Mountain Junior High School Leadership class created the Pet Food Pantry in partnership with the Christian Center. This meant that people in our community facing food insecurity for themselves, could also feed their pets. On the day of the grand opening, students handed a tray of canned cat food to an elderly woman who cried with gratitude. Another family shared, “Our dog was losing so much weight because we could only feed him rice.”

Now, in 2024, it is again time to rally our resources to support the Governor’s declaration and ensure that Summit County reaches No-Kill.

What can you do?

First, visit bestfriends.org. The first tab on the website, “No-Kill 2025,” will help you explore the initiatives around the movement and their goal for the entire country to establish “No-Kill in 2025.” Consider your role. Are you ready to adopt? Do you have room in your home and heart to foster?  

Can you donate? Donations allow shelters, rescues, and veterinary offices to support medical care, vaccinations, and spay/neuter programs. 

Can you help educate? Social media changed rescue, making it easier to share adoptable pets and the needs of rescue organizations.

When looking at the Best Friends website, click on the orange button asking, “Is your community No-Kill?” Nuzzles and Co. is No-Kill. They share, “We rescue many of the most vulnerable shelter animals in our state and beyond, giving them all the love, medical care, training, nourishment, socialization, and TLC they need to find their forever homes.”

The Summit County Animal Shelter, our local government-run shelter in Wanship, is still working to achieve No-Kill status and support the Governor’s declaration. We can help by getting involved. We can volunteer, adopt, foster, donate, and advocate. We can encourage our shelter to create a robust network of volunteers, fosters, and adopters, along with lifesaving protocols—like a community cat program that reduces shelter cat and outdoor cat populations, all without killing a single cat. And, we can reach out to our Summit County Council to express our interest in achieving the Governor’s goal of No-Kill in 2024. Both the State of Utah and Summit County are on the precipice of achieving No-Kill. Your actions, your support, and your voices are all we need to put us over the top by the end of the year. 

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