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  • Writer's pictureDavyd Smith

The No Kill Movement and Pet Population (NOT overpopulation)

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

Do you know what the leading cause of death is for a healthy and treatable homeless animal in today’s society? Surprisingly, it’s not starvation, disease or injury. It’s not conflict with predators or animal-vehicle collisions.

It’s death by shelter. To be certain, shelters are the leading cause of death for homeless in our nation. Despite improvements over the last century, the number of lives lost remains at a heartbreaking: Over One Million dogs and cats. The tragedy being, of the thirty million people estimated to be in search of their new best friend, at least twenty-two million are reportedly undecided about the origins of their next dog or cat. Some will purchase from breeders. Other enlightened people on the realities of pet overpopulation will adopt.

The net result: there are eighteen times more people opening their homes to these animals than there are pets losing their lives in the animal shelter system[1]. It gives rise to the inquiry,


Firstly, the question can be succinctly answered: Adherence to the status quo. For over one hundred years, shelters and animal control centers have operated under the antiquated policy of Catch and Kill, leaving some animals to be adopted into loving, healthy homes, yet others with treatable behavioral issues or special needs to meet an untimely demise. Shelters have employed the term euthanasia to soften this harsh reality. In fact, such term is specifically defined as:

The act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.

Others, such as animal rights philosopher Thomas Regan, clarifies that the term euthanasia means good death in Greek. Etymology aside, the reality remains, that to this day, the leading cause of death for a homeless animal is in a shelter. Reliance on age-old human grievances as overwhelm and lack of funding, some go so far as to ascribe false blame to the general public, invoking phrases as irresponsibility. In the meantime, a homeless animal is falsely imprisoned in what the public knows to be a shelter, but in reality, has become little more than a killing place to lose their lives.

Veterinarians, imbued with the inherent responsibility for treating and solving animals, opt for actual execution of lethal policies instead despite the veterinarian oath, which states:

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

For any animal lover, our present day, human-caused reality, is impossible to ignore. Another question arises, So what’s the good news, to which the answer is:

It’s within the purview of our human responsibilities to create new systems to help homeless animals make it out of shelters alive and into loving, healthy, sustainable homes.

That’s precisely where the No Kill Movement comes in. decades, progressive animal sheltering and the No Kill Movement has brought about a significant change in this approach. With the expansion of No Kill communities across the United States, more and more communities are embracing such systems of compassion.

The proven and publicly available way to save every healthy and treatable pet in your community is the No Kill Equation.

Another change to celebrate: The No Kill Movement has transcended across the Atlantic Ocean and touched other continents. Not only are there basic principles followed by most shelters in western Europe for example, laws have been passed to protect healthy and treatable homeless pets.


What has made the difference in the lives of homeless animals is the unwavering commitment of compassionate and hardworking individuals who have stood up and demanded change. These individuals have facilitated the necessary changes to save every healthy and treatable pet, every time. Now is the time for all communities to adopt this approach and ensure that every homeless animal finds the loving home he or she was born to. No Kill makes sense not just to help deliver joyful, healthful and loving homes to the respective animals, but enhances our human communities as well, in that people can feel more connected to a compassionate, supportive culture bringing life to all who are born to it, and deserve to live it.

Thank you to Denise Boehler for her assistance in this article.

[1] Shelters should not be allowed to use “shelter” as their name, unless it fits the definition: “Shelter (noun): Something that affords protection; a refuge; a haven.”


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