In Colorado, we have more adopters than needed for the healthy and treatable pets that die in our shelter system each year. Sounds crazy right? But according to the statistics released each year by PACFA (Pet Animal Care Facilities Act), it’s a simple truth.
In 2021, the last published PACFA statistics (PACFA stands for “Pet Animal Care Facilities Act”) the numbers are clear. Although there are other pets in the statistics, for this we are concentrating on cats and dogs as they make up well over 90% of all animals entering the system.
The state took in 110,062 cats and dogs in 2020
Over 44,000 were from out of state
Over 108,000 cats and dogs were adopted
9,119 cats and dogs died in the system in 2021
Of the 9,119 animals dying in our system, we would estimate around half are healthy and treatable and should have been saved. We will round to a whole number to illustrate the actual gap we need to fill locally.
Looking at this with simple math. Here are some rough numbers:
Colorado has over 108,000 adopters.
98,000 cats and dogs enter the system locally within the state.
An additional 20,000+ animals are returned to owners (they do not need adopters).
Colorado has at least 40,000 more adopters than needed inside our state.
We are killing an estimated 4,500 pets that can be saved.
· We can save every healthy and treatable entering the Colorado system locally and still help our neighbors with tens of thousands of transfers.
We essentially have 8 times the adopters needed to save every healthy and treatable pet entering our shelter system locally that is currently not getting out alive.
So where’s the rub? Why isn’t Colorado a No Kill state? There are two sides to this story and both have valid points as well as questionable views.
To set the landscape, Colorado (PACFA) requires all rescues and shelters to have a license and to report annually on intake, adoption, euthanasia, etc.
There are 349 licensees according to recent (2021) statistics. About half are rescues and half are shelters. Shelters break down further into private non-profit organizations and municipal tax-funded entities or a combination thereof.
The two sides have multiple reasons. Ask any organization and they will likely provide one or more of the reasons stated.
Shelters will not work with us or they make it difficult.
They only allow access to the hardest cases.
Some have regressive agreements (such as gag rules) and will not allow us to pull without signing to agreements that we do not find acceptable.
It’s easier to pull from other states as they make it easier to pull any animal we can place.
Rescues have to fit our criteria for pulling pets from our shelter.
Rescues only want to pull the easier pets.
They must sign our agreement to be considered a rescue partner.
No Kill Colorado believes both sides can do a better job. On the one hand, rescues should always look locally before driving out of state, or even out of the county. They should be pulling difficult-to-place pets whenever possible (some do). If rescues concentrated on local pets we could save every healthy and treatable pet a shelter is willing to release. But they should have more freedom to do this.
We also believe shelters should be able to work with rescues to get difficult to place pets out of their facility. Rescue partnerships are one of the 11 programs of the No kill Equation. Open admission shelters need to have strong rescue partners to help them in times of crisis (some do). Overpopulation at shelters is both cyclical and emergency situations that arise. Colorado has state oversight of PACFA licensees. This active license should be the only criterion for saving lives by pulling from the shelter. Shelters should allow all 300+ licensees to pull any healthy or treatable pet they are considering killing. We don't believe there is a shelter in Colorado that uses this basic criterion to save lives.
The best outcome is for shelters and rescues to improve their strategy for Colorado shelter pets. Shelters should open the door to any PACFA licensee to pull any animal they put on a kill list. Rescues should always look in their immediate community and go further if there is not a pet in their local shelter to adjoining communities before looking out of state. We need to simply lower the barriers to getting pets out of Colorado shelters and into rescues and homes. If they cannot do it independently inside the state animal welfare network, Colorado should pass a form of The Rescue Act to open shelters up to all PACFA licensees.
No Kill Colorado is a non-profit 501c3 working to make Colorado the safest state for homeless pets.