November 2012

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Maddie's Fund has invested in the creation of a no-kill nation ever since we opened our doors in 1999. Based on industry trends, our own projects and old-fashioned intuition, we projected the animal welfare movement would achieve no-kill nationwide by 2015. The pronouncement was met with cynicism, derision and disbelief. It can't be done. There are too many pets and not enough homes. It costs too much money. We can't adopt our way to no-kill. The public won't adopt old, sick, deformed, poorly behaved or unattractive pets.

But in the past few years, the old adages have proven to be myths.

Research shows there are far more adopters every year than there are shelter pets in need of homes. 24 million animal lovers will bring a new dog or cat into their home in any given year, and of those, 17 million are undecided about where their next pet will come from. Based on 2010 estimates, roughly 7.6 million dogs and cats enter shelters, 4.2 million are either adopted or reclaimed and approximately 3.4 million are euthanized. Of those euthanized, about 2.7 million are healthy or treatable pets needing to be saved to reach the no-kill goal.

Convincing an additional 2.7 out of 17 million pet lovers to adopt each year shouldn't be that hard. The trend is in our favor. The percentage of pets in homes that were adopted from animal shelters and rescue groups rose from 27% in 2008 to 29% in 2010.

Thanks in part to The Shelter Pet Project, a national public service advertising campaign promoting shelter pet adoption (sponsored by the Ad Council, Maddie's Fund and The Humane Society of the United States), shelter pets now have cachet and shelters are becoming the "politically correct" and preferred place to acquire a pet. Studies and surveys of potential adopters say that more than 51% plan to get their next cat from a shelter and 42% their next dog.

The adoption of senior pets and pets with disabilities is no longer a rare occurrence - it's becoming commonplace. In June 2012, Maddie's® Matchmaker Adoptathon found homes for 2,601 dogs and cats in three California counties in one weekend. 965 pets (37%) were either seven or older, recovering from treatable medical conditions or both. The Unadopatables, a new feature on YouTube, spotlights disabled pets, Pit Bulls, seniors and other perceived hard-to-place pets. As many as 17,000 people view each compelling story.

More and more communities are saving all of their healthy and treatable shelter pets. The No-Kill Communities blog currently lists over 60 no-kill communities.

Statistics reflect our ever increasing lifesaving achievements. One credible source projects that shelter deaths will fall below the 3 million mark in 2012. Data gathered from hundreds of shelters by both Maddie's Fund and PetPoint indicate that in spite of the sluggish economy, intakes are down, deaths are down and adoptions are up nationwide.

We stick by what we said all those years ago, only now we're saying it louder: Getting to no-kill by 2015 is not just possible - it's probable.