Denver CO

Open No Kill Letter to Santa and Denver City and County

Current State

Denver has seen an improvement over the past few years in the percentage of homeless pets saved as a result of intake vs. live animals leaving the shelter.  This statistic is encouraging, but as a community, we can do better.

A good place to start is looking at overall trends in life saving.  From a simple percentage analysis, one would think the shelter has improved year over year.


4 Year Save Rates









Although there was an encouraging increase in 2011, 2009 and 2010 were not as optimistic as a first pass would show.  In 2009 intake decreased by about 4.5% and saves percentage increased by about the same amount.  This is essentially a zero sum gain.   In 2010, dramatic decreases in intakes caused and increase in save percentage, but again this is offset by this large decrease in intakes.  Less intakes is good news, but that doesn’t mean much to the homeless pets that entered the shelter alive and didn’t leave that way.

But 2011 has some clear improvements in both save percentages and actual numbers of animals saved.  This is an encouraging statistic and hopefully the director, staff and Denver embraces this momentum to make a truly life affirming change in the Denver Animal Care and Control organization. You’ve made some real improvements in 2011 that we hope to see continue in 2012.

This is the moment to seize a life affirming strategy to improving Animal Care and Control and become the largest city in the US to achieve more than 90% save rate in our shelter system in DenverDenver Animal Shelter is the front line organization to lead this initiative and prove that we are a caring, ethical community.

Shelter movement nationwide

A paradigm for life saving has grown exponentially in the last few years.  Beginning a little more than ten years ago, a shelter took on the task of saving every animal that entered the shelter that was healthy or treatable.  The result was more than 90% of animals entering that shelter left alive through the front door.  This prototype has become the standard of compassionate directors nationwide.

Today, more than 70 communities servicing over 200 cities and towns now operate under the premises that more than 9 out of every 10 animals entering a shelter should leave alive.  There are communities that have achieved more than 98% save rates.  Save rates differ from Asimolar in that it counts every animal walking in the front door and does not allow the overuse of Unhealthy/Untreatable to be a loophole for statistics.

In the end, the percentage is irrelevant.  When every animal is assessed as an individual, 90% becomes the low water mark.

Denver environment

Denver has a population of roughly 620,000 people. Intake at the Denver Animal Shelter in 2011 was 6,144.  That is an intake rate of 10 animals for every 1,000 human residents of the city and county. The Shelter records 1,187, or 19.32% of all the animals entering the shelter in 2011 (essentially 1 in 5) were killed. By contrast, Washoe County, Nevada saves 94% of animals even though they take in almost 4 times as many animals per capita, about 39 pets per 1,000 people. In fact, there are No Kill communities with per capita intake rates as high as 73 pets per 1,000 people. If Denver Animal Shelter did the same level of adoptions as they do in Washoe County, our community should be able to adopt out about 14,104 animals per year, more than double total impounds.

The Denver community has a reputation of being pet friendly, sometimes pet crazy.  A wide range of communities that have achieved the types of save rates Denver has not achieved.  These communities represent virtually every demographic variation: red states and blue states, rural and urban, affluent and lower economic communities.  These extremes used to be cited as an excuse why a community was incapable of achieving this kind of success.  This is no longer a valid argument.


  • Denver is a small city or a big town by US standards being neither rural nor exceedingly urban.  Austin Texas, which has some similarities to Denver, has already achieved better than 90% save rates, coming from a killing centric shelter system.
  • With a mean income of over $71,000 and a median income of over $47,000 Denver has the economic stability higher than many communities achieving better save rates.  Austin has similar income numbers.

The Denver community comes forward strongly on animal issues, most strongly in defense of homeless pets.  We cannot point the finger at the community, we need to engage them and they will come forward as communities across the country have done in the past few years.


Comparing Denver to other cities, it has the benefit of starting out at a much more advantageous position than many other communities that made 90% save rates the goal.  About a 10% improvement will bring us to a place that we can achieve the save rates that reflects our views on homeless pets as a community.

There is a community of individuals and several organizations ready to step up to help Denver Animal Shelter achieve this goal.

3 thoughts on “Open No Kill Letter to Santa and Denver City and County”

  1. Excellent! There is no reason Denver ( and Boulder) shouldn’t be leaders in the national movement to steer away from killing our way out of the homeless pet problem.

  2. I would agree Spay and Neuter is a very improtant part of No Kill. But no one has succeeded at No Kill with out implementing all 11 steps of the No Kill Equation. But spay/neuter as absolutely an integral part of any strategy to lower the kill rates of any shelter.

Bark Away!