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

How Maddie's Fund defines no-kill, and how the foundation is helping to guide the nation to the no-kill goal.

Q. The term no-kill is frequently bandied about, but what exactly is it?

A. As much as anything, no-kill is a rallying cry; a slogan that defines a movement. The term no-kill clearly and powerfully protests the status quo - the killing of millions of healthy and treatable animals in our nation's animal shelters every year. At the same time, it describes a new approach to animal sheltering and a new commitment to saving lives within animal welfare organizations and communities.

Q. How does Maddie's Fund define no-kill?

A. Maddie's Fund defines no-kill as saving both healthy and treatable dogs and cats, with euthanasia reserved only for unhealthy & untreatable animals. While no-kill organizations save all the healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats under their care, no-kill communities save all of the healthy and treatable pets in all of the animal welfare agencies community-wide.

Q. The proclaimed goal of Maddie's Fund is to take the nation no-kill. How do you plan to do that?

A. We want to start by ending the problem described as "too many pets, not enough homes." To do this, we increase the demand for shelter dogs and cats and reduce the supply being born. Maddie's Fund is financially supporting collaborative community projects that build the programs and infrastructure necessary to ensure that new homes are available for every abandoned dog and cat who is immediately ready to be placed. Programs might include adoption outreach, new marketing strategies, advertising, events and promotions that put the animals in front of the adoping public. Even changes like longer hours, lower adoption fees or adoption incentives can help build a broad new base of adopters. At the same time, we are financially investing in efforts that reduce the supply of unwanted pets through spay/neuter programs. By working diligently on both sides of the equation, both demand and supply, Maddie's Fund plans to leverage its lifesaving investments.

When we reach the juncture where healthy shelter animals can be guaranteed a home, Maddie's Fund will then focus its resources on funding programs to rehabilitate the sick, injured and poorly behaved, knowing that when these animals are whole again, there will be a home waiting for them.

Q. What are the benefits of an adoption guarantee?

A. An adoption guarantee gives a community confidence that an animal shelter is truly a shelter, that is, a respite on the way to a new loving home. When this happens, the community becomes an active partner in saving lives. For example: Maddie's Fund believes that many people who abandon their animals on the streets do so because they fear their family pet will die if surrendered to an animal shelter. This, then, starts a negative cycle, a cycle that starts with the perception the animal will die, which leads to people's fear of using the shelter, which leads to abandonment on the street, which puts the animal at risk of injury, illness and uncontrolled breeding. Then, when the animals are impounded as sick and injured strays, they're killed at animal control. With an adoption guarantee that says no healthy cat or dog will die in any community shelter, you break the cycle. People who find lost animals, who no longer want their animals or who can no longer keep their animals can have the confidence to bring them into the shelter, knowing these animal lives will be saved. They won't abandon them on the street or leave them tied up in the backyard. And these healthy animals can then be placed, which then reduces shelter deaths and euthanasia costs. Richmond, Virginia, Tompkins County, New York and Charlottesville, Virginia currently have an adoption guarantee in place for healthy animals.

Q. Getting back to the term, "no-kill." It implies that those who practice it are good and those who don't are bad. Isn't this divisive in the animal welfare community?

A. Many animal control agencies and traditional shelters feel that no-kill makes them look like villains. In deference to these concerns, Maddie's Fund no longer refers to individual organizations that save all of their healthy and treatable animals as no-kill agencies; instead we call them adoption guarantee agencies. However, we continue to strive for no-kill communities and a no-kill nation. The bottom line is, the no-kill movement represents a paradigm shift, a revolution, if you will, in the way we consider and treat companion animals. No-kill shelters have chosen a path different from traditional shelters, refusing to sacrifice an animal because society says there are too many. It's a commitment that directs organizational policy. And when a minority movement like this gains momentum, those who are put in the position of having to defend the status quo generally feel threatened, no matter what terminology is used.