KANAB, Utah — On July 1, Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization, released its sixth annual pet lifesaving dataset, which gives a national overview of the number of dogs and cats that enter and exit shelters each year. It also includes a state-by-state no-kill* priority ranking of which Florida is fourth.
Best Friends measures shelter lifesaving with a metric called “save rate.” A 90 percent save rate is the nationally recognized benchmark to be considered “no-kill,” factoring that approximately 10 percent of pets who enter shelters have medical or behavioral circumstances that warrant humane euthanasia rather than killing for other reasons, such as lack of space. In 2020, 283,942 dogs and cats entered Florida shelters and 234,681 were saved, giving the state an aggregate save rate of 82.65%.
In the same year, an estimated 55.92% of state shelters measured above the 90% benchmark. Those that were below it needed to save an estimated 24,289 more healthy or treatable animals to make Florida no-kill (a state is considered to be no-kill when every brick-and-mortar shelter serving and/or located within the state has a save rate of 90% or higher).
“Florida has many animal sheltering agencies doing tremendous work within their local communities,” said Tiffany Deaton, Strategist – East Region, Best Friends Animal Society. “They have implemented best practices to save the animals in their care and keep pets out of shelters and with their families when possible. If we can take what we have learned from these model agencies and share that knowledge and those resources with other communities and shelters in Florida, we can make the Sunshine State a safe place for animals in shelters.”
By comparison, in 2019 361,478 animals entered state shelters and 282,021 were saved for an aggregate save rate of 78%. At the time, an estimated 53.29% of shelters were no-kill and those that were below it needed to save an estimated 45,503 more animals.
For the State of Florida, in 2020, data shows 283,942 animals entered a shelter in 2020 and 234,681 were saved, with 24,289 cats and dogs euthanized. According to the data compiled by Best Friends:
• In Okeechobee County of the 2,514 animals that landed in a shelter in 2020, 1,389 were saved.
“This was a monumental year for cats and dogs in America’s shelters,” said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “We saw communities, shelters, and individuals step up for animals in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and now we are closer than ever before to achieving our goal of no-kill by 2025.”
The top six states where pets need to be saved are Texas, California, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Louisiana, which make up 50 percent of the dogs and cats still being killed in the nation. Although they continue to represent the largest lifesaving gaps, these states have seen significant progress in lifesaving over the past year.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted this year’s data, as many shelters or services had to partially close or reduce services. Communities and individuals filled that gap through volunteering, fostering and adopting. As a result, fewer pets entered shelters and more lives were saved.
“This year’s progress has been exceptional, from what we have seen with community support and involvement and the lifesaving numbers as a result. It is crucial that we build on this momentum to keep pets out of shelters and in loving homes where they belong. This is how we will get to no-kill,” Castle said.
Nationally, about 347,000 cats and dogs were killed in America’s shelters in 2020, down from 625,000 in 2019. This is the largest yearly reduction in dogs and cats killed in the nation’s shelters (44.5 percent) to date, putting the nation at an 83 percent save rate. Best Friends has the most comprehensive national data on sheltered animals, representing an estimated 93 percent of all sheltered dogs and cats in the country.
“Since we announced our no-kill goal the number of cats and dogs killed in shelters has decreased by 76 percent, down from about 1.5 million in 2016. This is incredible progress, but we must never lose sight that there are still over 950 cats and dogs killed every day just because they do not have a safe place to call home,” Castle said.
For the past six years, Best Friends has spearheaded a one-of-a-kind extensive data collection process that involved coordinated outreach to every shelter in America followed by additional research, data analysis, and technology development. The dataset is the most comprehensive on sheltered animals, based off data 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 lifesaving dashboard, which displays the data clearly and further inspires community members through highlighting the areas of greatest need to help homeless pets in their communities.