Tennessee has an 88.5% save rate for shelter dogs and cats | News


Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization, recently released its sixth annual pet lifesaving dataset, which gives a national overview of the number of dogs and cats that enter and exits shelter in a given year.

Best Friends measures shelter lifesaving with a metric called “save rate.” A 90% save rate is the nationally recognized benchmark to be considered “no-kill,” factoring that approximately 10% of pets who enter shelters have medical or behavioral circumstances that warrant humane euthanasia rather than killing for lack of space or resources.

In 2021, 108,642 dogs and cats entered Tennessee shelters and 96,228 were saved, giving the state an aggregate save rate of 88.5%. In the same year, 58% of state shelters measured above the 90% benchmark.

Those that were below it needed to save 3,630 more healthy or treatable animals to make Tennessee no-kill (a state is considered to be no-kill when every brick-and-mortar shelter serving and/or located within the state has a save rate of 90% or higher).

By comparison, in 2020, 103,188 dogs and cats entered Tennessee shelters and 90,054 were saved, giving the state an aggregate save rate of 87%. In the same year, 37% of state shelters measured above the 90% benchmark. Those that were below it needed to save 4,740 more healthy or treatable animals.

Tennessee did well last year compared to the country collectively. The data showed that nationally for the first time in five years, US shelter systems are seeing a setback in lifesaving. In 2021, the number of dogs and cats killed for reasons other than severe medical or behavioral issues that could not be rehabilitated in US shelters increased from 347,000 to 355,000 and was especially stark when compared to the dramatic lifesaving efforts seen throughout the previous year. The reasons were partly due to staffing shortages that limited hours, decreased in-person volunteers, reduced adoption events and pet care support.

As overall lifesaving stalls, Best Friends’ data shows the animal shelter crisis in America growing with increasing intakes and waning adoptions.

“Last year we continued to see an overall lifesaving increase in the state, as partnerships between municipal agencies have created and sustained programs and community support services,” said Angela Rovetto, Senior Strategist — East Region, Best Friends Animal Society.

“When local shelters and community members embrace the common goal of saving more community pets’ lives, change happens. And while there’s still more to do, especially in helping people and pets in rural areas connect to resources and support, the collaboration has been lifesaving throughout the state.”

Individuals can help save lives by choosing to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, spay or neuter their pets, foster, volunteer, donate, and support and advocate for community cats through trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) and shelter-run TNVR programming.

For the past six years, Best Friends has spearheaded a one-of-a-kind extensive data collection process that involved coordinated outreach to every shelter in America followed by additional research, data analysis, and technology development. The dataset is the most comprehensive on US sheltered animals, and is based on data collected directly from shelters, state and local coalitions, government websites, and FOIA requests. From this, 94% of the animal intake in US shelters is known, 6% is estimated.

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to around 355,000. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary. Working collaboratively with a network of more than 3,700 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All®. For more information, visit bestfriends.org.

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