No Kill Day- April 1

Dear Friends,

I meant to run this yesterday but my cat crashed and we spent the entire day in the emergency room with her. She is a 19-year old we found on the streets of San Francisco about 17 years ago. She is in the advanced stages of cancer, and her blood sugar dropped to the mid-20s. She’s back up to almost 70 and moving in the right direction. We hope to have her home tonight.

No Kill Day- April 1


Today is April 1. 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 founded the first SPCA in North America. Fifteen years ago today, after months of negotiation, 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 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.

And what virtually every animal shelter in the country kept saying was an impossibility became a reality for the fourth largest city in the country’s most populous state. After the first year of the Adoption Pact, the deaths of healthy animals in San Francisco shelters dropped to zero, and the deaths of sick and injured animals dropped by close to 50%.

But the real treasure for San Francisco dogs and cats was the formalization of an adoption agreement that saved the lives of 2,500 additional animals every year that the city shelter could not place – effectively putting them on death row without Avanzino’s intervention. With a huge groundswell of support, Avanzino took an SPCA on the verge of bankruptcy in a city that took in over 20,000 animals per year, most of whom were killed, and turned it into the then-safest urban community for homeless pets in the United States.

And for other communities with an eye toward San Francisco, what was thought impossible, become possible, and what was possible came to be. And it is my hope that some day, we celebrate No Kill day the way our country celebrates other seminal events in our nation’s history, because I truly believe that our cause is every bit as noble and worthy in our human march to growing compassion as any movements that have come before.

I hope you take a little time today to reflect on what we are doing, and join me for a nationwide toast to how far we have come. Roughly 4 million dogs and cats who will face death in shelters every year depend on us. And thanks to what transpired 15 years ago, I have every faith that, as we continue our noble quest, we will not let them down.