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87%, how did we get here?

In July of 2009, when the Board of Directors decided to change the way the Lynchburg Humane Society operated, they gave the staff until 2015 to achieve a save rate over 90%.  This is a widely recognized benchmark used to define “no kill” status.  

The Board gave us real concrete goals such as increasing our adoption and return to owner rates and implementing spay/neuter programs.   The Board also realized that we needed a new building to really reach our ultimate goal of No Kill for the Lynchburg Community. 

In 2009 we increased our save rate to 65% after only the first six months of our new no kill policy. In 2010 we reached an 84% save rate.  This first 1½ years of progress should be compared to a 49% save rate in 2008.  Then in 2011 we were so excited to reach a 90% save rate.  

However, we are always careful that we don’t claim that we are no kill because we often find ourselves making hard decisions on animals that some might say are treatable.  This is a particular problem during our busy months when resources are low.   Well our stats are out for 2012 and we were only able to reach an 87% live release rate which means of all the animals that left us 87% went back to homes, to new homes, or to animal rescue organizations.   This is still really great when you look at the other pounds in the area that have save rates from 10% to 42%.  

Why did our save rate go down?

Simple, our current building and an increase in the number of major medical and aggressive animal cases we received in 2012.   

We do not have enough space for the animals we care for on a daily basis. The building’s air handling system is almost non-existent which causes illness to spread more easily.  The environment harbors viruses on the run down and dilapidated surfaces.   Plus, our community had a bad Feline panleukopenia (distemper) outbreak that ended up in our shelter.  This created a deadly environment for the kittens and unvaccinated cats. It is a terrible disease that is very hardy and can live longer than a year in the environment.  Because the surfaces are difficult to clean due to rust and poor materials, even bleaching and cleaning does not remove every spec of this disease.  The new building will have modern surfaces that will enable us to clean more thoroughly and the air handling system will be hospital quality in the intake and isolation areas.  Plus, we will have more than double the space to house the some 300 cats we have during our busy spring/summer months (also known as “kitten season”). 

Along with the increase in kitten/cat illness we also saw an increase in the number of major medical and bite/dangerous dog cases. We euthanize any dog that we determine is a safety threat to the community.  There are many factors that go into these decisions. Some were court ordered and others based on their past or current behaviors.   Because we had so many seized/bite cases coming in from animal control and the community, we had more problem cases and we had to make appropriate decisions on whether or not to place these dogs back into homes. 

To put it bluntly, we make informed and thoughtful decisions on the animals we put down.  We look at each animal as an individual case. We do not put down animals that we have the resources to treat and we never put down a single healthy animal (physically or behaviorally) due to space concerns or for any other reason.  

Despite the slight decrease in the save rate, I feel like we did a lot of great work this year.  We placed a lot of older/ unhealthy dogs and cats in foster homes to live out the rest of their lives.  This includes a wonderful dog named Wynonna with mammary cancer that is currently living with a foster family.  We could have euthanized this dog but we decided to find her a great home until her passing. I am happy to say that our adoptions are up.  Unfortunately, our return to owner rate is down for dogs, however, it is up for cats.  

What do we need to do for this year?  

We need more foster families so we can put these fragile kittens into homes where they can be safe from illness.   

We need more adoptions and more people to come looking for their lost pets.  
But ultimately, we NEED A NEW BUILDING.   We can’t accomplish a better than 90% rate without the proper environment for the animals and the people who care for them.   

To keep up with us as 2013 goes along you can go to our stats page on our website.  We post the years stats each month.  We are transparent on our stats because we feel our progress is the community’s progress and, if we are having difficulties, we know Lynchburg will respond to help us. We can’t and won’t accomplish our goals without community support. 

If you would like to see keep up with our stats for 2013 or to see the stats over the years here is a link to our website. 

Also every Humane Organization in the state has to report stats each year.  To see our stats over the years go to this website and select single organization and the year and then you can search by name.

To learn more about our Humane Education and Adoption Center please visit our website 


  1. This may sound naively stupid, but a new building would allow you to care for more animals and for a longer duration, thus increasing the opportunity that each dog can be adopted, correct?

    Granted, there is no such thing as unlimited resources...but aside from societal/external factors...the two things that you can do to increase adoption rates and save animals from being euthanized is capacity and duration in the kennel, right?

  2. The new building will do a lot of things. One is will give the animals a healthier and less stessful environment where they are contained properly and are not over crowded. Second, we are designing the new shelter to be very inviting and pleasant so that more people come adopt. The larger facility should result in more adoptions and more programs to help us keep animals from any shelter.

  3. I completely overlooked the issue of stress and environmental factors conducive to attracting the public to walk through its doors.

    We have an animal control facility near us run by the county that is locate out in the boonies. The building itself is old and outdated...but the actual location plays a huge part as well.

    I hope you all are successful in meeting this goal!


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