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  • Writer's pictureSusan Houser

The State of No Kill: Southeast

This post looks at how No Kill did in the Southeast in 2015. We can break the area down into two regions:

Upper Southeast – Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina Deep South – South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi

The surprising thing about the southeast in 2015 was that the most inspiring stories came from the Deep South – an area that we have traditionally thought of as terrible for shelter animals. For many years the only real hope for homeless dogs in the Deep South was to be transported to northern shelters, and the only real hope for cats was to avoid being caught by animal control at all. Today, we have communities in the Deep South, including some large cities, that are on the cutting edge of new No Kill techniques.

I had the privilege of visiting LifeLine Animal Project’s two open admission county shelters serving the city of Atlanta this past year. LifeLine took over the shelters in 2013, and both are now running at about an 85% live release rate. That’s up very sharply since they took over – a true reversal of what went before. They have all the problems of big-city shelters, including a high intake of pit bulls, and they have very little outside help. LifeLine is an example of what No Kill can do even with few resources.

Jacksonville, Florida, is another phenomenal story. They have a great coalition of three partners working together in harmony – the city shelter, the Jacksonville Humane Society, and First Coast No More Homeless Pets. That’s very nice to see because there are so many other cities where egos get in the way of cooperation and people go around with a chip on their shoulder.

Scott Trebatoski, who managed the city shelter in Jacksonville before being lured away to Hillsborough County, Florida (where the city of Tampa is located), has been making great strides in a place that was previously a death knell to No Kill attempts. The shelter there has been running at a save rate of over 80%. Another big story of 2015 was Miami, which is now reporting that it was over 90% for the year. Miami is getting a new shelter this year, which should help with even better lifesaving for the almost 30,000 dogs and cats they take in annually.

There are success stories in smaller cities in the Deep South too. Gainesville, Florida, has been making steady progress. I don’t think Gainesville is quite to No Kill yet, but one bright spot is the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where Dr. Julie Levy has been doing great research on TNR and RTF.

Huntsville, Alabama (yes, Alabama!) has been running at over 90% lately. Southern Pines Animal Shelter in Mississippi is over 90% (they need donations to shore up their shelter building against a landslide emergency). Columbia, South Carolina, has already cut its kill rate by half, and wants to go the rest of the way to No Kill. A committee has proposed a promising plan, with the exception of mandatory spay-neuter for pit bulls. Hopefully that idea will not make it into the final plan.

The upper Southeast did not have the kind of big headline No Kill stories last year that the Deep South had, but progress is being made. Virginia has more and more communities that are No Kill. Three of its communities are examples of the best in No Kill – Richmond, Lynchburg, and Charlottesville. Lynchburg is one of my favorite No Kill stories. The city’s median household income is below average for Virginia and for the United States as a whole, and yet the Lynchburg Humane Society has not only been No Kill for years now, it also opened a state-of-the-art new shelter in 2015.

The city of Asheville, in North Carolina, seems to be ramping up to become a No Kill powerhouse. The Foothills Humane Society in Polk County, North Carolina, has reportedly been No Kill for some time now. West Virginia has made it onto the board with the Charleston shelter. Tennessee has a few towns that are doing well, as does Kentucky. But North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky have few bright spots.

It’s interesting to speculate on why the Deep South has all these cities that are making such fast progress toward No Kill. Whatever the reasons behind the groundswell of progress in the region, though, it’s a great thing to see. One possible problem for the future is that northern shelters may lose their supply of dogs transported from the south. That’s a good problem to have, because it means that northern shelters will be able to start reaching out to more dogs in need, perhaps from overseas.


I would give the Upper Southeast a D, with the Deep South getting a C-. I would love to give the deep South a higher grade to recognize the rapid progress that is being made, but the majority of shelters there have not joined the bandwagon – yet.



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