NC is # 3 in the Nation for Pet Shelter Deaths

Best Friends Animal Society has released its 2020 pet lifesaving findings (consisting of statistics collected during 2019), which gives a national overview of the number of dogs and cats that enter shelters each year in the United States, and the number of dogs and cats that are leaving those shelters alive. Best Friends also released an inaugural state-by-state ranking of this data (view it here) and North Carolina is #3 in the country for pet shelter deaths.

Of the 241,117 dogs and cats that entered North Carolina shelters, 170,753 found positive placements, while 47,652 were killed (76% were cats), for a save rate of 70.82%. 25.58% of North Carolina shelters are 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).

Compared to 2018, there was a statewide reduction in shelter deaths by 8,296. In particular, progress was made by Burke County Animal Services who reduced shelter deaths by over 1,400, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control reduced by 825, and Cumberland County Animal Control who had 480 more pets leave their facility than the previous year.

“We are seeing continued momentum and progress towards the goal of ending the killing of dogs and cats in U.S. shelters by the year 2025, with the overall number of pets being killed in the U.S. continuing to go down and the number of shelters that are no-kill going up,” said Julie Castle, chief executive officer, Best Friends Animal Society.

The top five states where the most pets need to be saved are North Carolina, California, Texas, Florida and Louisiana, who together make up more than 50% of the nation’s shelter killing of dogs and cats.

The year-over-year data also shows that the number of dogs and cats killed annually nationally has dropped from about 733,000 to 625,000 (or about 1,700 killed per day). Across the U.S., about 5.4 million dogs and cats entered shelters in 2019, and 4.2 million were saved making the national save rate 79.02% (2018 was 76.6%).

Castle continued, “For the past several years, Best Friends and progressive shelters nationwide have been changing the way they do business and the way they relate to their communities: simplifying adoption policies and requirements; building out community pet fostering programs; implementing trap, neuter, return (TNR) programs for community cats; passing more pet-friendly legislation to combat the retail sale of puppy mill dogs and breed discrimination; advocating for more pet-inclusive housing, and removing barriers for the public to help pets with the use of technology. And it is making a difference.”

Over the past three years, Best Friends has spearheaded a first-of-its-kind extensive data collection process that involved coordinated outreach to every shelter in America followed by additional research, data analysis, and technology development. To create the most comprehensive data set on animal welfare ever published, Best Friends collected data directly from shelters, state and local coalitions, government websites, and even FOIA requests. The Best Friends 2020 dataset of U.S. shelters has a total net intake of 5,360,060 animals representing 4,850 known shelters. Of this intake total, 92% of the data is based on collected information from 3,608 brick and mortar shelters. The remaining 8% is estimated to cover the uncollected shelters and their respective counties.

“Best Friends has always believed that anyone can help homeless pets. You don’t need a rescue label, special credentials or permission to help save animals. Individual community members are the no-kill movement’s greatest resource. Putting this data directly into the hands of the public allows individual community members and advocates like the members of our 2025 Action Team to gain a better understanding of exactly which shelters and types of pets are most in need of help and helps to connect them to those shelters,” Castle added.

To view the 2020 lifesaving findings, visit