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City of Los Angeles animal shelters celebrate a no-kill December

Chihuahuas await adoption at a Los Angeles Department of Animal Services shelter.
Chihuahuas await adoption at a Los Angeles Department of Animal Services shelter.
David McNew/Getty Images

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December 2012 was the first month on record that no adoptable healthy animals were euthanized by City of Los Angeles animal shelters. It’s a huge accomplishment for a shelter system that takes in thousands of cats and dogs each month.

Dubbed "No-Kill December," the initiative was conceived by No-Kill Los Angeles, a coalition of animal rescue groups, shelters and individuals, working to prevent adoptable animals from being euthanized in L.A. shelters.

"This is a whole community effort and it's being helped by the large national groups as well as the people here," said Brenda Barnette, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services. "We realized our goal for the first year was to euthanize 3,000 less animals and at the end of October we were already at 3,800, so we'd gone over the goal for the year and we said: 'Well, let's see what we can do for December.'"

The Found Animals Foundation launched the "12 Pets of Christmas" campaign to help the No-Kill Coalition encourage people hoping to add a pet to their homes during the holidays to adopt from a shelter, rather than from a pet store or breeder.

"It used to be that people said, 'Oh, don't do those impulse adoptions,' but that's when people are going to get pets, so it's better that they come and get them from the shelter, that they help the shelter animals than it is that they go buy a pet," said Barnette. "If you're ready to add a companion animal then this is the time to do it."

The group also changed how they decide whether or not animals with behavioral issues get put down. Instead of one person recognizing a behavior issue and deciding to euthanize, now three people must observe a behavior issue three different times before an animal is branded as unadoptable. 

"We put some criterion on, and that worked amazingly well," said Barnette. "This year there were 25 animals euthanized for serious behavior issues compared to 119 same time last year."