Did you know? What No-Kill Really Means

What does it mean for a shelter to be No-Kill?

"Did you know" Lynchburg Humane Society logo, a green dog icon that has a confused head tilt

If you follow the Lynchburg Humane Society, you probably know that we are a no-kill organization.  But what does that mean?   

A 90% save rate is the industry-wide benchmark for no-kill designation. The reason that this percentage isn’t 100% is because national data shows that about 10% of the pets that enter an animal shelter suffer from medical or behavior issues that  may require humane euthanasia due to low quality of life.

Some no-kill organizations will occasionally dip below 90% for various reasons but still be no-kill.  As a matter of fact, the Lynchburg Humane Society has had a save rate for cats in the summer months that is below 90%.  This is because we take in a high number of neonate kittens not just from Lynchburg, but from Amherst, Bedford, Campbell and Appomattox counties, as well as from many other areas.  Those newborn kittens are very fragile and susceptible to diseases, illnesses and many fail to thrive. We also take in many hospice, special needs, and injured pets from other shelters that do not have the resources to treat and save these pets.  We also help keep pets in their homes, so we often will take in a pet for life threatening illnesses or injuries, treat them and get them back in their loving home where they belong. So, because we take in a higher number of sick, injured, or difficult-to-treat animals, we sometimes have a month or two that we do not hit a 90% save rate, but we are still a no-kill organization.  

Life-saving Programs

One of the important elements of no-kill is implementing lifesaving programs. These include, foster, targeted spay/neuter, and community cat programs, as well as removing adoption barriers.  All communities are different and have varying needs for lifesaving programs – but all need to have an open mind and be willing to try new things.  Basing lifesaving programs and decisions on data is imperative in creating and maintaining a no-kill organization.

LHS No-Kill FAQs

Some of the most frequent comments and questions we receive about being a no-kill shelter:

  • Since you are a no-kill shelter, that means you never euthanize, right?  No, we do euthanize – if a pet is suffering or too dangerous to be adopted, we will euthanize to alleviate suffering and for public safety.
  • No-kill shelters hoard pets in unhealthy conditions.  No, a true no-kill shelter in my opinion, responsibly manages their population and cleanliness.  Do your research concerning any organization you want to support – be confident things like this aren’t happening.
  • Some shelters misrepresent their numbers to appear no-kill.  The great thing about Virginia is that all shelters must report their data to the state (you can see any Virginia shelter’s statistics here – https://arr.vdacs.virginia.gov/Reports06 ).  We also report our statistics on our website: https://lynchburghumane.org/about-us/statistical-information/. Thanks to this reporting, you can do your own research on the organizations you support!  

How the Lynchburg Humane Society helps other shelters work towards No-Kill

Mother Hubbard who was transferred in from Appomattox with her 10 nursing puppies.

There are many shelters that are under-resourced and need help to meet the pets’ needs and become no-kill.  That is where the Lynchburg Humane Society and other progressive shelters can help – we provide mentorship opportunities to those under-resourced shelters to help them create lifesaving programs and to find every possible resource in order to save all of the healthy and treatable pets.  We also transfer pets to our Center from shelters with at-risk pets.

Essentially, being no-kill is using every resource you have available to save pets and not euthanizing healthy or treatable pets and never euthanizing for space or time.

 For more information on this topic and to help you understand more about shelters that you are supporting, Best Friends Animal Society has a great article with wonderful information, read it here: https://bestfriends.org/no-kill-2025/what-does-no-kill-mean