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« Very Good Sentences -- Without Provocation | Main | Tips on decreasing length of stay in your shelter or rescue »

April 20, 2015



Shelters are retailers that do not choose their inventory. The two "math concepts" you discuss are more commonly known in business as inventory turnover which is a commonly tracked metric in any sales oriented business or any business where a product enters a static state before being transported/sold to a customer. These sorts of metrics for efficiency are often not present or not understood in the sheltering world. Another concept directly related to sheltering is value chain or value chain mapping. The idea of adding value to a pet as they pass through the process seems to get lost, but that’s another discussion. The industry needs more business people at the helm…

You only mentioned two aspects of the divisiveness of the term "no kill." I completely agree with your assessment that the two reasons commonly given are both red herrings. A third reason, and one I see first hand everyday, comes about with the manipulation of the ignorance of the public. The dichotomy between shetering's view of "no kill" as a paradigm to reduce euthanasia and the general public's understanding of the phrase to mean the shelter euthanizes nothing is as stark as the difference in physical appearance between a Shih Tzu and a Pit Bull. The phrase has a definite felling of being contrived to alleviate the problem of raising revenue or maintaining good PR as a shelter that euthanizes. Especially since the term “no kill” is absolute in nature and the definition commonly used in sheltering could not be farther from the literal meaning of the term.

You and your organization are one of the few shining beacons that do not seem to rely on this disconnect. That said I could spend all day making a list of organizations that do. As usual I enjoy your well thought out posts and hold the work your shelter does in the highest regard. I often find myself thinking, “someday we will get to the same point they are.”

Debbie Tucker

Your link to the 'hiding behind the word adoptable' article is not working for me, just so you can check and see if it's a glitch only for me. Love your articles!


Fixed now Debbie. Thanks for pointing that out!


One of the hardest things for me to stomach is facilities who claim to "not kill for space" and "place all 'adoptable' animals - they get to pick what 'adoptable' is". So the uninformed public sends them money, thinks they do an awesome job and would be completely horrified if they knew the truth. There are several in my home state, with millions of dollars in a budget and most not spent on the animals that come into their care. And they are a large humane society. You all are doing an amazing job in KC and I wish that we could get more of this going.


Thanks for the kind words db (and RN)-- and I agree. I'm a huge proponent of people being transparent with their numbers so that everyone can see exactly what is happening at a shelter so they can make donation decisions accordingly.

Cheryl Huerta

Brent once again you have shared not only interesting but useful and valid information and thoughts with us. I can't tell you how many times I've been in heated discussions on line with local, and some not local, shelter personnel who insist again and again that 'no kill' is IMPOSSIBLE and will NEVER be possible. Even when explained to them that 'no kill' in the context in which I meant it was as your blog suggests is 90-95% live rate out of the shelter but even then they still insist that those numbers are impossible to reach and that anyone who says they are possible is seriously deluding themselves. Well my friend welcome to the seriously deluded group!!! LOL

My personal feelings about the 'push back' you get from shelter personnel when discussing the issue of 'no kill' is that some of them are still stuck in the shelter paradigm of the 1950's when animals came in and were damned lucky to make it out alive and that was acceptable to most then because they truly believed that nothing else was possible. Some are simply pushing back because they take the suggestion of no kill personally and are trying to cover their ass if you'll excuse the language.

In the end it's very, very easy to give excuses why a shelter can't accomplish low/no kill, which is how I choose to frame it these days, apparently because I've heard them all. The excuses range from too many breeders are still breeding dogs to too many people are surrendering their dogs to not enough people are adopting dogs with not a single mention of what the shelter is doing to counter or improve those factors.

Thanks again for framing it in an easily understood and well written blog that hopefully will encourage some of the non-believers in low/no kill to explore how their shelter can get much closer to low/no kill than it is today.


I guess I'd also note that even if a 90% live release rate WASN'T possible, it still doesn't give them a reason not to implement life-saving elements (foster homes, increasing adoptions, using volunteers, social media, etc) to get as close as possible to that number.


The goal is generally the same for all shelters, reduce euthanasia. Or at least one has to hope that. The hurdles preventing many who have been in the industry for a significant time to not aggressively pursing proven methods to achieve that goal general fall in the realm of confirmation bias or the backfire effect. All too often it seems no matter what fact or valid evidence you present the contradicted internalized beliefs are so rooted they are unshakable. Sadly confirmation bias at such a level requires time and a changing of the guard to achieve results.

I won't lie that the term "no kill" bothers me since it's connotation is significantly different than it's literal meaning. That to me rings of deception rather than a life saving paradigm. But I've learned to live with the phrase since the principles and methods associated with the phrase are the same principles I hold true and methods I advocate. Even if I know the phrase is often used solely as a marketing tool.


RN is correct that the term itself is the problem with the movement. The use of phrasing such as "no" not really meaning "no" is a hard sell to the general public, portrays our movement as deceptive, and is actually setting us back. Trust in shelters and rescues is low already and life saving efforts would be greatly expanded and improved if the term itself were to just go away. The public discussion should be focused on saving lives, not how many have been ended. Unfortunately many of the so called "leaders" of this movement perpetuate the term and fuel the fire for what are most likely egotistical purposes.


Great post! There's a small glitch though. When I click on Length of Stay category, this post doesn't appear, only the newer one. Thanks Brent!


Re: defining 'no kill' that some seem concerned about. The public are generally on board with the common definition, described in this Associated Press-Petside poll, conducted by GfK Roper. " asked 1,118 people in 50 states to identify which of two statements matched their own view.

Seventy-one percent said they believed "Animal shelters should only be allowed to euthanize animals when they are too sick to be treated or too aggressive to be adopted."

Only 25 percent believed "Sometimes animal shelters should be allowed to euthanize animals as a necessary way of controlling the population of animals."
- Posted on Kristy Keith's Dogged Blog, under "The No-Kill Movement: We are the 71 percent".

With the public already on board, they are either assuming shelters and pounds are also on board or want to be, or are waiting for them to catch up to reflect what they want, the values of the community.

Shelters must be transparent with policies and definitions because the public, donors and taxpayers deserve it.

Killing should be defined along similar lines as how it applies to people. Euthanasia should apply only to those with unbearable suffering who can't be made better. Some say dangerously aggressive dogs who can't be managed or rehabilitated should be executed humanely.

I don't know about the US, but most Canadians in this survey regarding people have a clear definition of euthanasia, how it's different. The poll, — "commissioned by the euthanasia-supporting group Dying With Dignity Canada and conducted by Ipsos Reid — found that over 90 per cent of respondents agree with the concept of assisted dying.

While over 85 per cent of respondents support the right to die in the case of patients suffering from a terminal or serious incurable illness that results in unbearable suffering, that support drops to 67 per cent for people with a permanent and severe disability that significantly impacts their quality of life."


Thanks Chris. I tend to agree with you that I think most of the general public understands the difference between killing and euthanasia -- or at the very least, are very understanding when it is explained to them. I feel like most of the angst over the term no kill is created with-in the animal welfare movement, not to those outside of it.

I'm not sure your concerns on the links and tags, because I'm seeing both of these under the "Length of Stay" tag...

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