Delaware Becomes First “No Kill” State for Shelter Animals, Lauded on Today Show

The Brandywine Valley SPCA welcomed 54 new dogs this week from shelters in Mississippi looking for adopters. These dogs will be available for adoption at the Clear the Shelters event this weekend. Photo by Brandywine Valley SPCA.

The First State to ratify the US Constitution is also now the first – and only – “no-kill” state for shelter animals in the country.

Delaware’s designation was announced at the annual gathering of the Best Friends organization in Dallas, Texas and was quickly the subject of a major feature on NBC’s Today Show

According to the Brandywine Valley SPCA, which manages three animal shelters across the state, programs implemented to find homes for all pets at the shelters have achieved a 95% success rate. Linda Torelli, the SPCA’s director of marketing told the Today show that a “multipronged approach” and a pet-loving culture made the First State first in the nation in achieving “no-kill” status for its shelters.

Delaware became the first no-kill state in the nation. All brick-and-mortar shelters in the First State have at least a 90% save rate.

This is a huge reversal of the 90% kill rate that existed in the state in 2000.

The Brandywine Valley SPCA cares for over 14,000 animals each year in their shelters. Best Friends has a goal of making every state “no-kill” by 2025. “The community in Delaware is very oriented to pet advocacy, so we had their support,” said Torelli.

Jane Pierantozzi, executive director of Faithful Friends Society in Wilmington, credits the progress to the state legislature working with shelters across the state and other stakeholders to put forth animal-friendly initiatives including:

  • a 2006 spay/neuter law and a publicly funded spay/neuter program for low-income families
  • a 2010 shelter standards law
  • the 2013 creation of the Delaware Office of Animal Welfare

But Pierantozzi says that while the national recognition is important, there are still critical gaps in services due to lack of state resources. “We have not crossed the finish line in terms of having a complete safety net for Delaware animals,” she said.

Best Friends Animal Society works with rescue organizations, government agencies and animal lovers around the country to “save them all” by 2025. Photo courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society.

Pierantozzi adds that there is a cat crisis in Delaware due to the lack of cat shelter space and resources for owner surrender requests. “We are still having to turn away people who cannot keep their pets — with the highest number being cats,” said Pierantozzi. 

Still, the milestone is a watershed moment for animal lovers. The news comes in advance of the 5th Annual “Clear the Shelters” nationwide pet adoption promotion scheduled for this Saturday August 17.  Shelters across Delaware, including the Delaware SPCAFaithful Friends Animal Society, the Delaware Humane Association and the Brandywine Valley SPCA will be participating.

More than 1400 shelters across the country have already registered for this year’s event, and last year, more than 100,000 pets were adopted from over 1,200 shelters across the country. Since 2015, Clear the Shelters has helped 256,688 pets find forever homes.

If you want to adopt a shelter animal, you may contact any of the agencies listed in this article.


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1 Comment

  • This sounds great… except it does not work. Look at all the (mainly) Pit Bulls, Pit Bull/Labrador, Pit Bull/Boxer and other Pitty crosses that are forced to live in a CAGE for months and YEARS because they are really not adoptable. DO these animals fall off the charts? How about the cats & kittens. Last time I checked, a local shelter had almost 400 cats and kittens looking for homes.

    Then comes the question as to WHY Brandywine has imported THOUSANDS of dogs and cats from outside the state of Delaware for adoption. What about the animals within the shelters already? What is the real percentage of those mega event adopted animals coming back to the shelters — of course, not to include the dogs with PARVO!