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The quest to make Idaho a no-kill state

Simply Cats is a no-kill shelter in Boise. In 2018, the shelter adopted more 1,000 cats - a new record for them. (Courtesy Axel Quartarone)
Simply Cats is a no-kill shelter in Boise. In 2018, the shelter adopted more 1,000 cats - a new record for them. (Courtesy Axel Quartarone)
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Two words should be easy enough to follow and understand.

No kill.

But there’s a lot more to the phrase.

“No kill does not mean we never kill,” said Nadia Novik, Director of Outreach at Mountain Humane in Hailey. “It means that any healthy adoptable animal will be housed and then adopted.”

The term started gaining steam a couple decades ago.

“It’s injected a lot of energy into animal shelters,” said Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, CEO of the Idaho Humane Society.


No kill is largely defined as saving 90 percent of the animals that come into a shelter.

According to, the nationwide save rate is 76 percent.

So no, no kill does not mean a shelter does not put down animals.

“Most folks in our community understand euthanasia, provided for the right reasons, is a mercy,” Rosenthal said.

It all sounds positive. Shelters living by a code to save as many animals as possible. But there’s really not a governing body looking over every shelter across the U.S.


Places can run into size or resource issues.

“Most shelters were built in the 60’s and 70’s,” Novik said. “Many areas have experienced extreme growth. These buildings were built for far fewer people and animals. Space is definitely an issue.”

Shelters can make policies that limit what or how many animals they take in.

“We are not an open-admission shelter,” said Nicholas Edge, Outreach Coordinator for Simply Cats in Boise. “We have to be a little more selective. We have to have cats that are adoptable and get along with other cats.”

Simply Cats is a no-kill shelter. Last year, they adopted out more cats than ever before - 1,040.

“We found we are getting close to that being our limit,” Edge said. “The intake process takes time. It requires medical attention and there are only so many cats we can push through at one time.”

Medical resources are another issue some shelters face. They simply don’t have what’s needed to help animals heal.

“How do we determine whether an animal is treatable or can be saved,” Rosenthal asked. “That depends on the organization."

Because of that, he says he doesn’t think that 90-percent statistic should carry so much weight.

“We have shelters that have the same policies in different parts of the country but they achieve very different success rates,” he said. “If you’re a shelter in south Texas where there’s an animal explosion that goes unabated, you’re going to have a really hard time achieving a high save rate. The same policies and procedures shared by a shelter in north New Hampshire, where the shelters are virtually empty, and they could have a nearly 100-percent save rate.”

Rosenthal says that since Idaho Humane Society has a big medical center, they could save animals that other shelters deem not savable.


To help with that problem and make sure as many animals are saved as possible, Mountain Humane is leading a charge to make Idaho a no-kill state by 2025.

“Right now we’re in the bit of the overwhelming let’s-get-organized phase so that we can really start to forge ahead in the coming months,” Novik said.

So far 21 shelters are on board and working together.

“It has not been well-regulated in the sense that no one really knows what’s going on from shelter to shelter,” Novik said. “We don’t even have a national database where we are keeping stats.”

Novik wants the shelters to record data the same way so they can compare ‘apples to apples.’

“By uniting our shelters and networking and transferring from one shelter to another (it will) increase the save rate of animals in Idaho,” Rosenthal said. reports the save rate in Idaho is 76.1 percent though it does not have shelter data from numerous places. Of what it does have, there are 38 no-kill communities in the state. The closest ones are in smaller towns like Cascade, Donnelly, McCall, New Meadows, Bellevue, Hailey, Sun Valley and Ketchum.

Everyone wants to save as many animals as possible but it’s not just on the shelters.

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“Euthanasia statistics also reflect the community,” Rosenthal said.

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