The State of No Kill: Central U.S.

This post looks at how No Kill did in the central part of the United States in 2015. We can break the area down into four regions:

Upper Midwest – Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota
Lower Midwest – Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa
Western Midwest – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas
South Central – Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana

The Upper Midwest, consisting of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, has been doing very well at No Kill. All three of these states are destination states for dog transports. We have numerous No Kill communities in this region, many of them with very high save rates. No Kill success seems to correlate with cold temperatures, and we certainly have that in these states. In Minnesota we have Duluth and St. Paul as stand-outs. In Wisconsin, the communities of Brown County, Brookfield, and Dane County are noteworthy.

Michigan has over a dozen public shelters serving over 20 communities that have a 90% or better live release rate. Michigan is also one of the small number of states that has a requirement that shelters report their statistics to the state. The state has all the statistics posted online, going back several years. There seems to be a correlation between states collecting shelter statistics and posting them online and how well the states rank at lifesaving. It may be that when shelters know they have to report and that anyone can read their reports at the click of a mouse, they do better. Detroit remains a problem, though.

The Lower Midwest states of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Iowa have historically had high kill rates, but we are seeing signs of progress. Kansas City Pet Project (KCPP) in Kansas City, Missouri, is proof that communities in this region can do a very good job of saving shelter pets. KCPP is a good example of an increasingly common trend, which is ordinary citizens forming a non-profit to bid on and take over animal control and sheltering. Terre Haute (Indiana), and Ames (Iowa), are additional bright spots in this region. No Kill efforts in Chicago have been ongoing for a long time and the city shelter has been making slow progress. Their main problem at the present time seems to be a high kill rate for pit-bull-type dogs.

Ohio has an interesting scheme that could potentially be turned to good advantage for No Kill. State law provides that each county must have an appointed dog warden, who is responsible for dog licensing and control. The potential for this system is that in Ohio we know who is responsible for dog control, so efforts to make each dog warden’s operation No Kill would be easy to coordinate and standardize. The historical distinction in Ohio between dog sheltering and cat sheltering should also make it easier to set up return-to-field programs for community cats.

The western area of the Midwest, consisting of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, is kind of a black hole for No Kill, in the sense that we just do not have much data on these states. I would expect the Dakotas to have relatively small stray populations due to their brutal weather. The region is sparsely populated, with all four states together having a human population of only about 6.5 million.

The South Central region of the United States, consisting of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, is a very mixed bag. There is little data available on Oklahoma. In Arkansas, the progressive city of Fayetteville would seem to be a likely venue for No Kill, but the city shelter is not a model. A quick check of their Facebook page showed that they were closed on the MLK holiday, for example. Baton Rouge in Louisiana has been working on No Kill for several years, but is running at only about a 65% save rate.

Texas is where the No Kill action is in the South Central region, but Texas, of all the states in the union, probably has the highest highs and the lowest lows. Austin, the progressive capital of the state, has had high save rates for five years now. Austin has a cooperative model for No Kill that is often cited as an example for other cities. Just north of Austin is Williamson County, which has also been No Kill for five years. San Antonio, about an hour’s drive southwest of Austin, has struggled up into the 80% range. Waco has made an impressive turnaround.

But the dark side of things in Texas is very dark. There are consistent reports of high numbers of stray dogs in Houston and Dallas. Shelter intake numbers in Houston are mind-boggling, and the Dallas shelter is under intense pressure to make sweeps to take in (and kill) more stray dogs. As far as I can tell, no national organization has rallied to help the Dallas shelter in this crisis by transporting dogs out of the state. In most parts of the United States spay-neuter efforts that started back in the 1970s have resulted in the vast majority of owned pets being sterilized today. Houston and Dallas apparently never got that memo. They need intervention, and they need it badly.


The Upper Midwest gets a solid B. Without Detroit it would be a B+. The Lower Midwest gets a C. If there were more information about the Lower Midwest it might get a C+. There is not enough information available about the Western Midwest to even guess at a grade. The South Central region gets a D. The few bright spots in Texas, bright as they are, do not outweigh the serious problems in the rest of the region. If it were not for Austin, Williamson County, and San Antonio the South Central region would get an F.

7 thoughts on “The State of No Kill: Central U.S.

  1. Deb Landers

    I think it all goes back to educating the public, especially the low-income public about spaying and neutering. Those that could be rallied to put a stop to the killing have to know what is really going on in order for them to become mobilized. NO KILL can be achieved but it takes the whole village working together.

  2. Victoria Brooks

    Austin provides free spay and neuter for residents, with no income qualifications. The majority of people who use these services are people who don’t have much money. I think this is a great area of investment for any city. I have seen residents pick up strays and spay/neuter them (especially for TNR). People get in line at 6am and wait until 8am to hopefully get their pet spayed/neutered or get a voucher to have the surgery at later date or different location if the slots are filled up.

    The majority of people that go to these, seem to be low-income. The people who seem to have a higher income will typically donate money when they see where it is going. Frankly, I don’t know that people with a higher income would spend several hours outside waiting for this service, because it does take a good chunk out of the day.

    I love speaking with people about why they are having their pets fixed. Often, it is because they love their pet or they don’t want the burden of an oops litter. These people will get a ride or walk miles (because they don’t have cars) in order to have this done.

    I know that some people will argue that if they can’t afford $200 for spaying or neutering, they shouldn’t have a pet. For $200, I would likely put it off, because it isn’t necessary and my dogs aren’t outdoors unsupervised. $200 is lot to me. If I was working for minimum wage at the local McDonald’s, it wouldn’t even make it to the near the top of any list.

    I know that not every low-income person would take advantage of this, but I have seen with my own eyes many that do. I’m a firm believer that this combined with advertising to poorer neighborhoods and providing transportation would help with prevention over the long term. It’s not the end all, but it couldn’t hurt.

  3. Mary Fowler

    I sure wish they had some programs in Tifton, Georgia for stray cats. I have a feral colony I take care of. I have anywhere from 4-10 cats two males need to be fixed and at least 2 females, that were left behind, when the people moved. When I first moved here I took care of 15 cats. I bought the food and spent $1000 to get medical checkups and shots and have them fixed. 2 females had 9 babies before I knew it, so I raised them, then took them to the Tift Animal Shelter. Thanks to them they found homes for all of them, and I mom. I had they other mom spayed, and put back with the rest. What bothers me the most is I don’t have a safe place to feed them. The dogs roam free and they come and chase the cats off and eat the food. They also don’t have a warm place to sleep. I would appreciate help or advice.

  4. Selina Bonilla

    I have been researching pet rescue transports, which transports adoptable animals from the Southern states to the New England area, because apparently the South has a large stray population compared to NE. I have been trying to find any form of statistics or numbers to support this, do you know where I could find such numbers, i.e. comparing the stray population from US regions/cities/states?

  5. Susan Houser Post author

    I’m not aware of any reliable national compilation of data on transports or on stray populations.

  6. Selina Bonilla

    Thank you. Your “State of No Kill” has been very insightful!

Comments are closed.