April 1 is right around the corner. We will have our fun. We will pull our pranks. We will wake our spouses and partners and tell them something they’ve been waiting—or dreading—to hear, only to follow up with an “April Fool’s” retort. But one thing is no April Fool’s Joke. April 1 also has a far more important—and deadly serious—significance. In my humble view, it is one of the most important days in the history of animal sheltering, right up there with the day Henry Bergh incorporated the ASPCA in New York City, the first in the nation.

Sixteen years ago, on April 1, 1994, after months of negotiation and the threat of a public initiative, Richard Avanzino, then President of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals signed the Adoption “Pact”, a memorandum of understanding between the SF/SPCA and the city shelter that guaranteed a home for every healthy dog and cat in San Francisco. Each and every healthy dog and cat who entered the city’s pound would be saved—no matter how many there were or how long it took to find them a home.

It was a historic beginning of an altogether different future for shelter animals—not of certain death as had been the case nationwide since before the turn of the century, but a future that held promise, protection, and a new chance at life. As the front door at 2500 16th Street in San Francisco slowly swung open that morning, the first battle flag of the No Kill revolution was being raised.

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