• Susan Houser

News from Big Cities

I thought it would be interesting to catch up on how big cities are doing. Of the 30 United States cities that Wiki lists as having the highest populations, 6 are well established as No Kill cities: Austin, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver (although it still has that pit bull ban), and Portland.


And 7 cities are making credible efforts to get to No Kill, meaning they have strong programs in place and are making progress. Some of these are in the 80% range or have hit 90% and the only question is sustainability. The cities are New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Diego, Washington DC, Boston, and Baltimore. I debated including Las Vegas on this list, but decided not to because its serious effort is pretty recent.


That’s a total of 13 of the most populous 30 cities — which is 43% — that are either No Kill or have credible efforts in place to get there. In addition to the cities, there are high-population counties that are No Kill or have credible efforts, including Fairfax in Virginia and Hillsborough in Florida.


The most amazing thing about this list of 30 cities is that only 5 years ago none of these cities were No Kill and only a few had credible efforts in place to get there. If we see as much progress in the next 5 years as we did in the last 5 years, the great majority of our largest cities will be No Kill by 2020.


It’s not all good news, and some of  the top 30 cities are notoriously bad places for homeless pets. Memphis is on the list of the 30 most populous cities, as are Houston and Detroit. It’s becoming clearer as time goes on that No Kill is easier to achieve in progressive cities, and Memphis, Houston, and Detroit are not known for being progressive. The job of shelters in non-progressive cities is harder both because they do not get as much community and government support and because they tend to have less progressive leadership within the shelter. Detroit seems to be making a comeback, though, and there are some really encouraging signs of progress in Houston. I haven’t heard a single positive thing about Memphis.


You can to a great extent gauge how desirable a city is as a place to live by how well it is doing at saving shelter pets. Certainly most people would choose New York, Washington DC, Austin, Seattle, Denver, or Portland over Memphis, Louisville, or Oklahoma City as a place to live. Cities that are not doing well at saving shelter pets are typically doing badly on many other metrics of what makes a city great.


Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States after New York, has a particularly strong No Kill effort underway. That effort was the subject of an interesting article this past week from Best Friends, which is spearheading the effort there. Los Angeles has a large land area and a mild climate, which is a setting for huge kitten seasons. Best Friends reports that in 2014, 61% of the animals killed in the shelter system in Los Angeles were kittens. Kittens under 8 weeks, in particular, do not do well in shelters, and Best Friends plans to massively expand its kitten-nursery efforts as the key to further progress.


Some of the 13 cities that are doing well are part of formal metro coalitions. Portland and Denver fall into that category, and have very strong regional coalitions. The San Diego effort includes the entire county. Even if there is no formal coalition, No Kill seems to have an effect on nearby cities. Austin, Jacksonville, and San Francisco have all offered significant help to neighboring communities. Working together regionally really seems to help No Kill efforts.

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