In 2011, Best Friends Animal Society teamed up with LAAS and the six leading Los Angeles animal organizations at the time (Heaven on Earth was invited to join the steering committee in 2013 after opening Perry’s Place) to lay the groundwork for a bold campaign with a big goal: to end the killing of dogs and cats in LAAS shelters. That meant achieving a combined 90% save rate for both dogs and cats in L.A. city shelters for the year. Today, there are more than 130 NKLA Coalition partners.
The year before the launch of NKLA (2011), the save rate for LAAS was 58 percent for dogs and cats combined. For dogs in L.A. city shelters in 2011, the save rate was a mediocre 71 percent. For cats? A dismal 36 percent.
Heaven on Earth joined the other leaders in the cat rescue community in 2015 by accepting Best Friends’ challenge to “save them all,” especially underage kittens. These most adorable of shelter pets comprised the largest “demographic” of animals dying in shelters. Of the 23,751 dogs and cats who died in L.A. shelters in 2011, more than 7,400 were kittens. By the end of 2017, the number of kittens who lost their lives in the LAAS system had dropped an astounding 74 percent, with the number of kitten deaths in 2017 had decreased to 2,003, which is still 2,003 too many. Heaven on Earth has done its part by increasing the number of cats we’ve rescued from the city shelters from 250 in 2014 to 751 this past year, a 300% increase in just 3 years. Our 2018 goal is 800.
This has been accomplished as a result of the unparalleled dedication and fierce resolve of our staff under the leadership of Pamela Geisel, our Adoption and Admission Director since 2010. Pam was invited to join the NKLA Steering Committee in 2013; she has worked tirelessly, deciding which cats to pull and which she had to leave behind, because Perry’s Place was maxed out (at the peak of kitten season last year, there were 288 cats and kittens in our care!).
In the other half of her job, Pam and her adoptions team have placed most of the cats we’ve rescued from the shelters into loving homes, with those still awaiting adoption guaranteed the love and care of our caretaker staff and volunteers for the rest of their lives.
Overall, the lifesaving picture has improved dramatically for pets in Los Angeles city shelters. By the end of last year, L.A. did indeed become NKLA for dogs; 92 percent is the current save rate for dogs entering the LAAS system. The save rate for cats and kittens in 2017 improved even more, to 79 percent. The save rate for dogs and cats combined reached 86% in 2017, just 4% short of the no-kill threshold.
It would have been ideal to wrap up 2017 at no-kill, but we are confident that we will cross that 90 percent threshold sometime this year. In the meantime, the work of saving lives and sustaining the achievements of the last five years continues.