Today, most Americans hold the humane treatment of animals as a personal value, which is reflected in our laws, cultural practices, the proliferation of organizations founded for animal protection, increased per capita spending on animal care, and great advancements in veterinary medicine. But the agencies that the public expects to protect homeless animals are instead killing more than five million animals annually. And for far too long, we have been led to believe that there is no other way.
In 1994, however, one shelter embarked on a bold and revolutionary approach to animal sheltering. Although every national animal welfare agency said it was impossible and every other community in the country continued to kill animals at an astonishing rate, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to end the killing of healthy homeless dogs and cats in shelters. The No Kill movement it inspired has the potential to end, once and for all, the century-old notion that the best we can do for homeless dogs and cats is to adopt out a few, and kill the rest.
This is the story of animal sheltering in the United States, a movement that was born of compassion and then lost its way. It is the story of the No Kill movement, which says we can and must stop the killing. It is about heroes and villains, betrayal and redemption. And it is about a social movement as noble and just as those that have come before. But most of all, it is a story about believing in the community and trusting in the power of compassion.