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Now those and other no-kill tactics are being embraced across the country. The chain stores PetSmart and Petco no longer sell dogs and cats; they host shelter adoption events. Spay-neuter laws and programs are more common. A loose network of rescue groups, shelters and pet-oriented businesses connects adoptable animals to new homes, sometimes hundreds of miles away, in what some animal advocates call a variation on the Underground Railroad.
The no-kill revolution has gone mainstream, promoting the ideal of euthanizing only those shelter animals suffering from terminal illness or injury or too vicious to live among humans. Nevertheless, millions of pets are still at risk, even in supposed no-kill shelters.
With the no-kill ideal, shelters would protect and place at least 90 percent of their wards. The stark reality is that half of the estimated 8 million dogs and cats entering U.S. shelters of all kinds last year were put down.
Roughly 1,200 of the nation's 6,700 shelters and rescue groups identify themselves as no-kill. But no matter how shelters label themselves, Scripps Howard News Service found shelters' performances and policies as mixed as a mutt's pedigree.
"Sheltering animals has become much more diverse in this country, from traditional public shelters to sanctuaries to a couple outfitting their garage with cages," said Boston veterinarian Martha Smith-Blackmore, who was president of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians last year.
"Sheltering is not just about shoving dogs and cats in cages, but giving them a life that's worth living," Smith-Blackmore said.
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Written by Lee Bowman/Scripps Howard News Service