This is the first in a series of Pet Columns highlighting our 2022 Impact Statistics.

In 2022, Second Chance had a 97% Save Rate. You may ask: what does that mean, and why wasn’t it 100%?

While tales of happy adoptions are our favorite stories, sometimes adoption is not an option. We, like all animal shelters and rescues, strive to do what is best for the pets that come through our doors. Sometimes the end of the story is not wagging tails and happy purrs.

Euthanasia is a fact in the animal rescue world. ASPCA estimates that approximately 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized each year, down from approximately 2.6 million in 2011.  This decline can be partially explained by an increase in adoptions and in the number of animals returned to their owners, as well as by progressive policies adopted by forward-thinking humane organizations. As an example, check out the Million Cat Challenge, which changed the approach to community cats and saved, literally, millions of lives. Improved databases, intake policies, microchipping all shelter animals, all these things and more have drastically lowered the euthanasia rate in this country.

There is a lot of talk about “No-kill” in the world of animal welfare. The term doesn’t mean that every single pet is saved. Best Friends defines no-kill as saving every dog or cat in a shelter who can be saved, with a goal of a 90% save rate. They estimate that the number of pets who are suffering from irreparable medical or behavioral issues is not more than 10% of all dogs and cats entering shelters. Not all humane organizations agree with Best Friend’s estimate or with their definition of “no-kill”. The term has been divisive in the world of animal welfare, bringing shame and judgment down on small, under-resourced, and over-crowded shelters.  Here at Second Chance, we prefer to not use the term, and we believe that the best way to help shelters struggling with a low save rate is to work with them to move animals and to help them adopt new strategies to increase lifesaving.

The other number that affects the save rate is pets that die at the shelter, which is almost always orphaned kittens. Even in a healthy litter raised by a mom, not all kittens survive to adulthood due to illness and genetic issues. When kittens are orphaned, their chance of survival is decreased.

At Second Chance, we are fortunate to have the resources, including a veterinarian on staff, to save every pet who can be saved. We sometimes must make the hard decision to humanely euthanize a dog or cat. Our criteria are clear- we only euthanize for health or safety. If a pet is just too sick sometimes the humane choice is to end suffering. We have experienced behavior experts on our staff who evaluate, train, and give every chance possible to difficult behavior cases. Sometimes the safety of staff, volunteers, and our community is the deciding factor to euthanize a pet. Our 97% save rate makes it clear that we rarely make that difficult decision.

There are shelters in our region where healthy, adoptable pets are euthanized because the shelter has no more space to house them or no more funds to care for them. In municipal shelters, they are required to take in all stray animals. ​​They have rising numbers of incoming pets, more behavior issues, limited veterinary support, and few options to create space. We do our best to help those shelters that are out of space and out of options. We recently transferred five healthy young dogs who were on the euthanasia list at an overcrowded municipal shelter in our region. Two have already found their homes, and the rest are safe and waiting for their new, bright future at our shelter.

My name is Sammy, and I was transferred to this wonderful place in Ridgway from an overcrowded shelter where I was on “the list”. I’m a young, healthy, energetic mix (maybe Australian Shepherd/Lab) who is ready to start my new life with a family.


Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops have served San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties since 1994. Adoption hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 5:30 pm. Our Community Veterinary Services are available by appointment. View our shelter pets and services online: