Not for Free-Living Cats or Cats with the Sniffles

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I received an email from someone asking me to post the good news that New Hampshire is the country’s first No Kill state. The claimed statewide save rate is impressive relative to most and nothing would give me greater pleasure, but in good conscience, I cannot make that claim now and New Hampshire is certainly not one yet.

The New Hampshire Federation of Humane Societies annually reports aggregate shelter statistics for the State of New Hampshire. It reports a 90% save rate in its most recent post. The executive director claims that NHFHS is dedicated to “complete transparency” but they refuse to provide the data for the individual shelters. And not all of the individual shelters will provide them, including the very shelter run by the NHFHS director who claims a commitment to transparency. In fact, only two of the eight founding members of the NHFHS would provide requested statistics.

Despite this secrecy, some have argued that the 90% aggregate save rate makes New Hampshire the first No Kill state. It does not and New Hampshire is not. While 90% is impressive relative to most shelters and states, New Hampshire shelters are not saving all healthy and treatable animals. To put it simply, if one shelter is saving 99% and another saving 81%, they may average up to 90% (assuming they take in an equal number of animals), but it does not mean both are No Kill.

Second, some New Hampshire shelters have an automatic kill policy for healthy and treatable community cats if those cats are not social with people. Who can ethically claim that a No Kill community kills community cats? Indeed, it is not even clear whether they count them in the data they provide the NHFHS or not. NHFHS refuses to provide the data and because some shelters support excluding feral cats from total kill count reporting data to the state in a bill currently pending in the New Hampshire legislature, there is no reason to assume these healthy and treatable feral cats are being counted. In fact, there is every reason to assume they are not. They simply do not count.

Third, some New Hampshire shelters kill cats and kittens with URI, the equivalent of a cold.

Finally, as I have argued elsewhere, a 90% save rate does not equal No Kill. See Our Eyes on the Real Prize, When No Kill Isn’t, No Bunny Left Behind, and They’re More Like Guidelines.

You can’t be No Kill and sweep free-living cats and cats with colds under the rug—or, more accurately, into the landfill. Of course, New Hampshire can become the first No Kill state and it may one day be. Without a doubt, there will come a time when some state will claim that honor. Why not New Hampshire? The shelters just have to want it and then implement it with transparency, integrity, and rigor.

Photo: A happy (but upside down) dog from the New Hampshire SPCA, which is a No Kill facility. Find out more here.

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