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First State-by-State No-Kill Rankings Released

California, Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Louisiana account for 50% of deaths.




(PRESS RELEASE) KANAB, UT – Best Friends Animal Society has released its 2020 pet lifesaving findings, which gives a national overview of the number of dogs and cats that enter shelters each year in the United States, and the number of dogs and cats that are leaving those shelters alive. The year-over-year data shows that the number of dogs and cats killed annually nationally has dropped from about 733,000 to 625,000 (or about 1,700 killed per day).

In addition, this year, Best Friends released an inaugural state-by-state ranking that shows where the most dogs and cats need to be saved, and where the most dogs and cats are being killed (view it here).

The top five states where the most pets need to be saved are California, Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Louisiana, who together make up more than 50% of the nation’s shelter killing of dogs and cats. While the top five states with the smallest number of pets being killed are Vermont, Rhode Island, North Dakota, New Hampshire and Delaware, which has once again reached no-kill status in the state (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).

More highlights from the findings are listed below.

map of USA

Over the past three years, Best Friends has spearheaded a first-of-its-kind extensive data collection process that involved coordinated outreach to every shelter in America followed by additional research, data analysis, and technology development. To create the most comprehensive data set on animal welfare ever published, Best Friends collected data directly from shelters, state and local coalitions, government websites, and even FOIA requests. The Best Friends 2020 dataset (consisting of statistics collected during 2019) of U.S. shelters has a total net intake of 5,360,060 animals representing 4,850 known shelters. Of this intake total, 92% of the data is based on collected information from 3,608 brick and mortar shelters. The remaining 8% is estimated to cover the uncollected shelters and their respective counties.


“We are seeing continued momentum and progress towards the goal of ending the killing of dogs and cats in U.S. shelters by the year 2025, with the overall number of pets being killed in the U.S. continuing to go down and the number of shelters that are no-kill going up,” said Julie Castle, chief executive officer, Best Friends Animal Society.

Castle continued, “For the past several years, Best Friends and progressive shelters nationwide have been changing the way they do business and the way they relate to their communities: simplifying adoption policies and requirements; building out community pet fostering programs; implementing trap, neuter, return (TNR) programs for community cats; passing more pet-friendly legislation to combat the retail sale of puppy mill dogs and breed discrimination; advocating for more pet-inclusive housing, and removing barriers for the public to help pets with the use of technology. And it is making a difference.”

Notable highlights from the findings include:

  • Across the U.S., about 5.4 million dogs and cats entered shelters in 2019, and 4.2 million were saved making the national save rate 79.02% (2018 was 76.6%)
  • There are more than 2,000 no-kill shelters nationwide (up 15% from 2018), which means that 44% of the nation’s shelters are now no-kill
  • Despite continued progress, just 35% of communities around the country are considered no-kill (up from 28 percent in 2018)
  • Of the total number of pets killed, 30.9% are dogs and 69.1% are cats (2018 was 32.9% dogs and 67.1% cats)
    -While dog intakes are nearly 10% higher than cats, more than 2 cats are now being killed for every 1 dog
    -Cats are in trouble – due to outdated laws and ordinances and road blocks preventing communities from implementing effective trap-neuter-return programs that are proven to save lives and reduce the free-roaming cat population.
  • There’s trouble in paradise in Hawaii – this state has the lowest save rate percentage of any other state in the country (most of the killing is of cats) at 51.98%
  • The top 14 states who killed the most dogs and cats in 2019 were CA, TX, NC, FL, LA, GA, AL, OK, HI, MI, VA, KY, AR, IL (2018 was TX, CA, NC, FL, GA, AL, LA, MI, SC, IL, KY, VA, HI, TN)
    -The top 14 states make up more than 75% of the nation’s killing of dogs and cats

“Best Friends has always believed that anyone can help homeless pets. You don’t need a rescue label, special credentials or permission to help save animals. Individual community members are the no-kill movement’s greatest resource. Putting this data directly into the hands of the public allows individual community members and advocates like the members of our 2025 Action Team to gain a better understanding of exactly which shelters and types of pets are most in need of help and helps to connect them to those shelters,” Castle added.

To view the 2020 lifesaving findings, visit




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