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Despite pandemic, Best Friends Animal Society says it’s ‘closer than ever’ to no-kill Utah

After launching an initiative in 2014 to end the killing of cats and dogs in Utah shelters, Best Friends Animal Society reports it's "closer than ever." (Photo courtesy Best Friends Animal Society)

SALT LAKE CITY — After launching an initiative in 2014 to end the killing of cats and dogs in Utah shelters, Best Friends Animal Society reports it’s “closer than ever” to achieving that goal. If accomplished, Utah will become the second no-kill state in the U.S. after Delaware, which earned the designation in 2019. 

To be deemed a no-kill state, all animal shelters in Utah must reach a 90% save rate, meaning 90% of animals who enter the shelter leave alive. The remaining 10% are typically euthanized for severe medical or behavioral issues. 

Only 11 counties in Utah still report a life-saving gap — the number of animals killed in 2020 that should’ve been saved to reach no-kill status — with the remaining 18 surpassing the save rate threshold. Best Friends estimates only a few hundred animals need to be saved to close the gap statewide. 

“Utahns have stepped up like never before to adopt and foster, and our communities have rallied to show their support for homeless animals,” the organization said in a statement. “In fact, this crisis has brought us closer than ever to ending the killing of pets in Utah’s shelters.”

As of Christmas Eve, the Sugar House location alone reported 5,000 animals were placed in foster homes and another 3,050 animals were adopted in 2020. That’s compared to the 2,740 foster placements and 2,514 adoptions over the same time period in 2019. 

This comes just six years after Best Friends launched No Kill Utah, an initiative dedicated to end the killing of animals in the state’s shelters.

In 2000, there were nearly 38,000 animal killings in Utah shelters every year. By 2020, that number is estimated to be fewer than 500. 

To close the gap, Best Friends said it would focus on saving felines as they are more likely to die in shelters than their canine counterparts. 

“Community cats, aka stray and free-roaming cats are some of the most at-risk pets in Utah’s shelters,” the shelter said. “For this reason, community support for Return-To-Field (RTF) programs, where shelter clinics spay/neuter, vaccinate and ear tip feral cats that enter shelters as strays, then officers release them back where they were found, and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) are vital.”

The two main focus areas are Utah County and Emery County, which report a life-saving gap of more than 100 animals before reaching the 90% save rate. Davis, Salt Lake, Sevier and Iron counties report a gap of 25-50 animals; and Summit, Box Elder, Tooele, Beaver and San Juan counties have smaller than a 25-animal gap to reach no-kill status. 

“We are extremely close, but there’s still work to be done,” Best Friends said. “We’re confident that by working together, we can save many more lives.”

 

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of estimated animal killings in 2020. That number is fewer than 500.