If you’ve heard the phrase “No Kill” but you aren’t sure what it means, you’re not alone. As it relates to companion animals, the phrase has more than one meaning and this has led to some confusion and some disagreement between people who feel strongly about helping animals. Some people have come to equate the phrase as being very literal (meaning that no animals are ever destroyed) and they believe people who support No Kill concepts advocate institutionalized hoarding. Nothing could be further from the truth. No Kill is not a definition; it is a culture in which life-saving is the ultimate goal and in which the only animals destroyed are those which are truly suffering or those dogs which are so aggressive that they cannot be rehabilitated (even by experts) and which present a genuine danger to the public.

The No Kill sheltering philosophy is one which rejects the decades old idea that the best we can do for homeless animals in shelters is to adopt out a few animals and destroy the rest. Although most of us believe that the animals who die in shelters must be suffering or damaged in some way, that is rarely the case. It is quite common for shelters and humane societies to destroy animals who are savable simply because it is what has been done for decades and because the shelter leadership has not yet found ways to implement methods being used in other regions to save more animals.

A No Kill shelter is not the same thing as a No Kill Community. While a shelter is a singular location, a No Kill Community is a location which provides at least one open admission, No Kill shelter and in which all healthy and treatable companion animals make it out of the private and government run shelter and animal control systems alive. That equates to a "save rate" or "live release rate" of approximately 90% to 98% of all companion animals entering any type of shelter. In a No Kill Community, only non-savable, irredeemable animals are euthanized.

No Kill communities are as diverse as the people which populate them. Some of these communities are in urban areas while others are rural. Some are in very politically liberal communities and others are in very conservative ones. Some are in municipalities with high per capita incomes and others are in communities known for high rates of poverty. These communities share very little demographically. What No Kill Communities do have in common is a passion for life-saving and leadership which is progressive enough to implement proven methods being used across the country.

Maddie’s Fund states, "one way to think about the meaning of no-kill is to apply the same standard to a shelter animal as you would to your own pet. Would you put your cat down if he had a broken bone? What if your dog had kennel cough or separation anxiety? I don't think most people would take their pet's lives for these conditions."