DE still only no-kill state

Best Friends Animal Society has released its 2020 pet lifesaving findings, which gives a national view of dogs and cats entering and leaving shelters. For the second year, Delaware is identified as the only no-kill state in the country, with a save rate of 93.90%. (A state is considered to be no-kill when every shelter within the state has a save rate of 90% or higher.)

The state has been gathering shelter statistics as far back as 2006. State-wide lifesaving reached no-kill levels starting in 2016 and has continued since then without interruption. With the Best Friends No-kill 2025 initiative, comparative data identified Delaware as the only no-kill state in the country as of 2018 and continuing into 2019.

Adam Lamb, Brandywine Valley SPCA (BVSPCA) CEO, sits on the Best Friends No-kill 2025 Steering Committee and leads the organization responsible for 60% of Delaware’s shelter intake. “This prestigious recognition has resulted from hard work by all of the state’s shelters and rescues, legislators who advocate for animals, state leadership, and especially the community supporting progressive policies.” said Lamb. “Historically, the biggest barrier to Delaware achieving no-kill save rates was the open admission shelter providing animal services for lost/stray animals. We’re proud that the BVSPCA has reversed that trend to help Delaware crest to and sustain a no-kill lifesaving rate since taking the state contract in 2016.”

How Delaware Achieved No-kill

Delaware’s private, managed admission shelters have consistently operated at no-kill levels. The challenge had been the contracted service provider operating an open admission shelter with live release rates that pulled down the overall state performance. Several steps pushed the live release rate over 90% starting in 2016.

A big influence was consolidating animal control for dogs and humane law enforcement at the state level under the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare (OAW). In 2016, the BVSPCA was awarded a five-year, state-wide animal services contract by the OAW. The BVSPCA was the first contracted shelter to deliver no-kill life-saving, which it has sustained each year.

The BVSPCA has invested more than $5 million from private donations and grants to build a supportive infrastructure, including a shelter and low-cost veterinary clinic in each county. As the largest animal welfare organization in the state, the BVSPCA contributions to the state achieving a no-kill save rate for the past four years include:

  • Progressive adoption practices, such as implementing open adoptions and holding “mega” adoption events in which most of the state’s shelters participate

  • A nationally recognized return to field program for cats with limited adoption options otherwise

  • A behavior program to help dogs needing a little more support to be adoptable

  • Medical resources internally and in partnership with outside organizations to save animals that might have previously been deemed not treatable

  • Extensive adoption support system, including a 24/7 adopter hotline, a free follow-up exam at a BVSPCA Animal Health Center, and lifetime access to free behavior counseling

  • Intake intervention programs that focus on keeping pets out of shelters and with families that love them, such as low-cost veterinary clinics, free shot clinic days, mobile wellness services, and a pet food pantry

What's next

“Just because we’ve met a statistical measure of success, the work doesn’t stop,” said Lamb. “We’re expanding our community programs and continuing to find ways to save animals on the fringe of adoptability, those that make up the final percentage points in a live release rate. We’re also taking that local success to other communities that are still struggling.”

The BVSPCA recently expanded its pet food pantry, for instance, in response to the economic impact of Covid-19. The organization distributed more than 100,000 pounds of food to families in need. In addition, the BVSPCA also just rolled out its Animeals program in partnership with Meals on Wheels Delaware for state-wide pet food delivery to seniors.

The BVSPCA also continues its work on behalf of cats. According to Best Friends, more than two cats are being killed for every one dog in shelters across the country. The BVSPCA animal care staff just received training in the nationally renowned Cat Pawsitive behavior program from the Jackson Galaxy Project, expanding the organization’s skillset in helping cats that might otherwise be deemed adoptable. In the community, the BVSPCA has been expanding its relationships with cat-focused rescues, such as Forgotten Cats and Just Us Cats.

Helping other communities

While Delaware tops the country for lifesaving, 71 dogs and cats are killed each hour simply because they don’t have safe places to call home. The BVSPCA prioritizes local lifesaving first. With the success achieved over the past four years in Delaware, the organization has been able to also help communities not as fortunate.

“We have ongoing relationships with shelters in states such as Florida and Louisiana, which are among the top five states for euthanasia,” said Lamb. “Not only do we relocate highly adoptable animals to save them, we invest in mentoring and giveback programs to help those communities make sustainable change.”

How the community can help

Much of the BVSPCA’s work takes place outside of the scope of funding from the state contract, such as cat lifesaving programs, intake intervention programs, and humane education. Join our Circle of Life today to help maintain no-kill lifesaving animals for all the animals depending on all of us to work together.

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