"Kill" vs "No Kill" Animal Shelters and Rescues

What is the difference between no kill and kill animal rescues and shelters?
May 31, 2023
Human Issues

Let's learn the difference between a "No Kill" Animal Shelter VS "Kill" Animal Rescue...

It may seem natural to only want to support "no kill." We don't want animals to be euthanized, after all!

Generally Speaking:

  • NO KILL refers to private-business / non-profit rescues which may make their own rules
  • KILL refers to municipal shelters which must go by the law of the city or county

Understanding Kill Shelters

"Kill" shelters, also known as open-admission or municipal shelters, have the daunting task of addressing the overpopulation of stray and abandoned animals. These shelters do not turn away any animals, regardless of their health, temperament, or adoptability. Due to limited space, resources, and a high intake rate, they are often faced with the difficult decision of euthanizing adoptable animals.

Non-profit, "No-Kill" cat and dog rescues can close intake and serve limited amounts of animals and people. "No-Kill" Animal Rescues may simply say, "we are full," or "we are closed for intakes while we manage a disease outbreak." Guess where those turned away animals go? THE MUNICIPAL "Kill" SHELTER.

In the case of Dallas Animal Services, where I volunteer and foster, the shelter must take in every stray, surrender, abuse case, "owner sick, or died, or arrested," sick, injured, or terrified animal which comes their way. They handle approximately 30,000 animals a year. The United States euthanizes approximately ONE MILLION dogs and cats a year. We cannot build enough kennels or create enough rescue space to save that many animals, annually. This is why euthanasia happens.

When adopter, rescue, and foster support resources are slow or at capacity - there is simply nowhere for the animals to go. Yet kennels must be cleared for the never-ending influx of animals in need.

NO ONE wants to be in the position to have to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals. NO ONE.

"No Kill" animal rescue industry standard is defined as 90% live release rate. Meaning 90% of animals which enter that rescue leave, alive. The Dallas Animal Services slogan, "Be Dallas 90" is a reference to this 90% live release rate goal and DAS is always aiming for 90% (and hits it, sometimes!)

Area (and remote!) animal rescues are constantly pulling animals from higher-kill municipal shelters. No-Kill Dog and Cat Rescues are an important piece to the support system of municipal shelters. Every "No Kill" rescue you support, supports municipal shelters with their efforts. You should, too!

How to stop this? Combat the overpopulation? Curb euthanasia rates?

  1. SPAY & NEUTER- curb production
  2. 3/3/3 RULE - keep dogs in homes
  3. VOLUNTEER - get in the trenches, and help!
  4. ADOPT - not shop
  5. SPREAD THE WORD -  lead by example! be a megaphone! a messenger! an influencer! educate & communicate!


December 2014 NPR "No-Kill Shelters Save Millions Of Unwanted Pets — But Not All Of Them"

Animal Humane Society "What Does It Mean To Be A No Kill"

Best Friends "What No Kill Really Means"

"No Kill" is a luxury municipal shelters do not have.
"No Kill" is a luxury municipal shelters do not have.

Listen - NO ONE wants to be in the position to have to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals. NO ONE.