Tennessee has a savings rate of just over 87% among shelter dogs and cats, according to an annual data report from the Best Friends Animal Society.
Last year, 103,188 dogs and cats were taken to state shelters and 90,054 were rescued, said the animal rights group, which works to end the killing of animal shelters in the United States by 2025.
Best Friends’ sixth annual Pet Rescue Record gives a national overview of the number of dogs and cats entering and leaving shelters each year. The group measures shelter rescue using a metric called the Save Rate.
A savings rate of 90% is the nationally recognized benchmark that is considered a “no-kill”, as around 10% of pets entering animal shelters have medical or behavioral circumstances that justify humane euthanasia.
The report found Davidson County is almost a no-kill zone and Knoxville is a no-kill zone. Memphis lagged behind and was listed as a death zone.
Across the state, 37.50% of the accommodations were above the 90% mark. Those below that had to save 4,740 more healthy or treatable animals for Tennessee not to be killed (a state is considered non-killing if every stationary shelter that serves or is located within the state has a rescue rate of 90% or higher).
“In recent years we have seen lifesaving efforts mostly in urban areas of the state as city authorities have worked to provide effective programs and community-based support services,” said Angela Rovetto of the Best Friends Animal Society.
“Some of these agencies, like Memphis Animal Services, Metro Animal Care and Control, Young Williams Animal Center, and McKamey Animal Center, have partnered with animal welfare organizations and hugged their community members in pursuit of a shared goal of saving more lives for community pets. “said Rovetto.” While there is still much work to be done, particularly to help people and pets in rural areas connect with resources and support, working together has been lifesaving. ”
Nearly 70% of animal shelter deaths in 2020 were cats, most of which were free-range cats that lived in townships that had barriers to trap neuter return programming. At the national level, community cat programs have reduced the number of cats entering shelters and significantly improved savings rates.
According to Best Friends, the Trap-Neuter-Return involves capturing, neutering, vaccinating and returning community cats to their original outdoor locations. Sterilization and vaccination offer community public health benefits, the organization said, an improvement over the trap-and-kill approach.
For comparison: In 2019, 126,141 animals were sent to state animal shelters and 103,355 were rescued, which corresponds to an overall savings rate of 81.94%. At the time, 37.04% of the shelters were unskillable, and those below that had to save 10,882 more animals.
To view progress for each of the Tennessee counties and other states, visit https://ww2.bestfriends.org/no-kill-2025/animal-shelter-statistics.
Natalie Neysa Alund is based in Nashville, Tennessean and reports on breaking news from the south for the USA TODAY Network. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.