Brian Foster

No Kill South Carolina, What will it take?

Brian Foster
No Kill South Carolina, What will it take?

Written by Kelly Glasson, Staff Writer

In the 1990s the city of San Francisco implemented the first successful No Kill Shelter. Since then the movement has spread outwards around the nation. While many are familiar with the term “No Kill” few understand the true meaning.  

According to Abigail Kamleiter, No Kill South Carolina Project Manager,  “ We define No Kill as the saving of all the healthy and treatable animals in our community. While the healthy and treatable animals are saved, this does not mean all animals are saved. Sometimes there are animals that are sick and suffering and it is humane for them to be euthanized.”

For an animal in a No Kill shelter or community to be determined as healthy and adoptable, they undergo a qualitative evaluation performed by a veterinarian. Maddie’s Fund, a foundation dedicated to the no kill effort created in 1994 by Dave and Cheryl Duffield, helps to fund the veterinary evaluations, provide medical supplies to animals that are in need and has even implemented shelter medicine as a part of veterinary college curriculum.  Maddie’s Fund has also created the Pet Evolution Matrix, which according to, “categorizes the conditions as healthy, treatable-rehabilitatable, treatable-manageable or unhealthy and untreatable using Asilomar Accords definitions based on the standard of care an individual pet owner in that community would provide their pet.” Animals deemed healthy both behaviorally and mentally are considered adoptable. Animals labeled as treatable-rehabilitatable are not currently healthy but could become healthy with either behavioral or medical treatment. Treatable- manageable means that animals may be missing a limb or have other medical issues that won’t get better but the animal can still live a good life, and lastly unhealthy and untreatable means that the animal will be euthanized.

“The category of what is treatable is going to be different for each community,” said Kamleiter. “Things that might not be treatable in some places might be able to be treated in other places, so each community has developed their own standards as to what is treatable and what is not treatable.” Although euthanizations still occur, No Kill communities work to track what animals are being euthanized and why so they know where to focus their medical efforts.

In 2007 the live release rate for the Charleston Animal Society was 35%, meaning 6-7 out of every 10 animals were being euthanized. Deciding to raise the bar and save more lives, Charleston Animal Society and other community programs partnered up with the ASPCA for a program spanning five years. This program educated the Charleston County Community in the no kill practices and how to implement them.

When the ASPCA partnership ended in 2012 the live release rate in the Charleston community raised to 75%. Because of this vast improvement, Charleston Animal Society set a goal to make a No Kill Charleston by 2015. That goal was attained in only a year when in 2013 Charleston became the first no kill community in the South East.  After that goal was attained, the Charleston community set their sights on becoming a no kill state and in January 2016 No Kill South Carolina was born.  The cause has spanned out from Charleston through partnerships to include numerous county and private shelters across the state.

No Kill South Carolina partners with animal welfare organizations in South Carolina to spread the no kill cause by educating and coaching others on this strategy and how to implement this program successfully, as the ASPCA coached them. Once the partner has been educated then they will continue to spread this 10-point strategy to their surrounding community to help save the lives of the animals living in shelters.

The following are included in the 10-point no kill strategy according to, “Finding Homes for Homeless Animals, High Volume Spay-Neuter Program, Reducing the Number of Free-Roaming Cats, Fostering the Most At-Risk Animals, Reuniting Loved Ones with their Families, Containing Outbreaks of Deadly Disease, Saving Lives of Abused, Abandoned, and Unwanted Animals, Fighting Animal Cruelty, Helping Families to Keep their Pets for Life, and Guiding Children to Grow Into Humanitarians”.

Some of the various benefits of partnering with No Kill South Carolina are participation in community events such as adoption events, free registration for quarterly trainings, social media and website promotions, shelter evaluations based upon ASV Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, and access to Key Resource Centers, which include Charleston Animal Society, Greenville County Animal Care, Humane Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals, Pawmetto Lifeline, City of Columbia Animal Services and Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.

What is required of the partner with No Kill South Carolina includes developing and implementing leadership programs that follow the principles of No Kill South Carolina, providing daily care for animals that is deemed appropriate, ensure that no animal is being used for breeding purposes, sharing data via Shelter Animals Count, and actively upholding and striving to meet the goals of No Kill South Carolina.

Due to a lack of information when No Kill South Carolina began, an emphasis is placed upon partners to share information on their shelter animals because according to Kamleiter, “Right now we don’t know how many animals are in the sheltering system in South Carolina, we don’t know how many animals we’re adopting or transferring or euthanizing. is a new initiative aimed at addressing that gap nationwide, and we definitely encourage all our animal sheltering groups to participate.” Because of this lack of information, developing a statewide Pet Evolution Matrix in South Carolina to uphold a standard of qualitative evaluations for the animals in shelters becomes difficult. Project Managers like Kamleiter have no information to determine if the animals that are being euthanized in shelters across the state are healthy and treatable or if they are unhealthy and untreatable and are being humanely euthanized.

Though No Kill South Carolina has obstacles to overcome with research and spreading their educational practices, the progress that this initiative has seen in a short time period is nothing short of remarkable. And this is only the beginning. Kamleiter has been making an effort to visit as many shelters in the state as she can and she states, “People are open to be educated and really working together and trying their best to help save more animals.”