At Animal Friends Alliance, we describe ourselves as a “limited-admission, adoption guarantee shelter” – but what does that mean?  Let’s demystify that description and get to know a little more about who we are and what makes us special.

Limited-admission means that we don’t have to – and can’t – take every animal that needs help; we only take animals that we know we have the resources to care for.  That often means that we can only take in animals as other animals with similar needs are adopted.  We don’t have the resources to care for a lot of animals with special medical or behavioral needs at the same time, so that means harder-to-adopt animals often have to be placed on a waiting list until we have the resources to care for them, or we may not be able to take them at all. 

This is different from open-admission shelters, like your local municipal or county shelter that has a contract with the city or county where you live to serve as animal control and is required to help all animals in need.  Open-admission shelters, like the name suggests, are open to all animals in their jurisdiction, and typically they can’t turn away any animal, no matter how sick, injured, or difficult to adopt they may be.  

The other piece is “adoption guarantee.”  That means that once Animal Friends Alliance has committed to an animal, we will do everything we can to ensure that they have a loving home for their lifetime, including always accepting back any animal we have adopted out who is returned for any reason.  There are no time limits to our care and commitment.  We treat every animal as an individual; some cats and dogs may be with us only a short time and find a loving home where they will be cherished for the rest of their life, some may have medical or behavioral needs that require a longer stay, some may be returned multiple times for any number of reasons.  We are equally committed to the best outcome for each of these animals.

You might notice that we don’t use the common animal welfare term “no kill” – that is an intentional choice because at Animal Friends Alliance we understand that the animal welfare field is more complex than that simple designation.

According to Best Friends, one of the leaders of the “no kill” movement, the term broadly means “saving every dog or cat in a shelter who can be saved,” but quantitatively, it means a 90%+ live release rate.  This is because, according to Best Friends, “Typically, the number of pets who are suffering from irreparable medical or behavioral issues that compromise their quality of life and prevent them from being rehomed is not more than 10% of all dogs and cats entering shelters. Therefore, we designate shelters that meet the 90% save-rate benchmark as no-kill.”   By that definition, Animal Friends Alliance is a “no kill shelter,” and always has been.  However, the story is not that simple. 

No-kill does not mean animals are never euthanized.  Sometimes shelter animals are too sick, or too severely injured, to recover and find adoptive homes.  Animal Friends Alliance considers quality of life and prognosis among many factors when determining if humane euthanasia is the best choice for an animal in our care.  Animal Friends Alliance also considers public safety and does not adopt out animals that are dangerous to the public.  Behavior-based euthanasia is not often openly discussed, but it is not incompatible with a “no kill” designation.  In their definition, Best Friends goes on to say that “The no-kill philosophy acknowledges that euthanasia may sometimes be an appropriate choice in rare cases of irremediable canine aggression in which public safety cannot be reasonably assured and other interventions would compromise the animal’s quality of life.” 

Animal Friends Alliance has never described ourselves as “no-kill” because the factors that go into an organization’s euthanasia rate, and the outcome for every animal, are more nuanced than a “no kill” designation.  When we’re asked whether we’re a “no kill” shelter, we seek to open the door for that more nuanced conversation.  There are times when euthanasia is the necessary and appropriate outcome for an animal and we don’t want to ignore or shy away from conversations about the situations when that is the case.  Similarly, there are organizations for which a “no kill” designation is not currently possible, due to limited resources or complex community factors often out of the control of the organization.  We partner with many open admission shelters locally and across the country who are doing amazing things for the animals in their communities.  Animal Friends Alliance does not want to portray those partners as less caring or less important to animal welfare because they can’t meet a “no kill” designation at this time.

The bottom line of our “limited-admission, adoption guarantee” philosophy is that Animal Friends Alliance seeks to do the most good for the most animals within the limits of our resources.  We’re always looking for ways to do more and help more animals and the families who love them, so as we continue to grow, our resources and programs may continue to evolve, but our commitment to helping animals will never change.