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LA City Animal Services Loses 'No-Kill' Shelter Status

A person holds a dog by a leash in shadows as they walk toward outdoor light in a dark hallway.
A shelter employee takes a dog out of an enclosure.
(Martin Bureau
AFP via Getty Images)
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To the layman, the title “no-kill shelter” may seem straightforward, thanks to the seemingly concrete definition of “no” most are familiar with.

But the status is a bit more complicated than the words themselves. In order for a shelter to be considered “no-kill,” it has to have an animal save-rate north of 90%. Due to a dip of less than a percentage point from year-to-year, LA’s city animal shelters have lost the key designation.

This change, however, didn’t come due to any space-based euthanizations, according to Los Angeles Department of Animal Services Director Agnes Sibal-von Debschitz.

“Animal Services actually saw an increase of sick and injured animals that came into our shelters,” Sibal-von Debschitz told LAist. “And so what that meant was, unfortunately for a lot of these animals to ensure they didn't suffer, euthanasia was kind of like the best outcome for them.”

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Sibal-von Debschitz said that Animal Services shelters received significantly more litters of kittens too young to be raised without their mothers in 2021, noticeably impacting the year’s save rate. She went on to say that pregnancy poses significant health risks to cats and oftentimes, the mother may die after giving birth to a litter too weak to survive.

In 2021, L.A. Animal Services reported a save rate of 89.22%, a decline of more than a percent from 2020’s rate of 90.64%. 2020 marked the first year in several that Animal Services had a “no-kill” save rate; 2019 reported 87.86%, 2018 reported 89.70%, and 2017 was at 85.35%.