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Delaware becomes first no-kill state after saving over 90% of its shelter animals, according to nonprofit

Man devotes life to rescuing hundreds of dogs
Man devotes life to rescuing hundreds of dogs 02:19

Last year over 700,000 cats and dogs were euthanized in America's animal shelters — but Delaware is working to combat what animal advocates believe are unnecessary deaths. The First State is living up to its nickname, becoming the first no-kill state in the nation, according to the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society.

"When every shelter in a community achieves a 90% save rate for all cats and dogs, that community is designated as no-kill," the nonprofit noted on its website. The 10% margin of error factors in euthanasia for pets "who are suffering from irremediable medical or behavioral issues that compromise their quality of life and prevent them from being rehomed."

Delaware boasts a 92.9% save rate, meaning about 12,000 of the approximately 13,000 pets in its shelters were saved. Best Friends Animal society defines "saved" as if the pets are "returned to their owners or provided with expert care and safe places to call home."  

"Delaware put a policy emphasis on animal issues,"Holly Sizemore, the Chief Mission Officer of Best Friends Animal Society, told CBS News. "There are some terrific organizations working collaboratively there and the residents care deeply about the issue and have stepped up to help."

The news was announced at the organization's annual national conference in Texas late last month, a representative confirmed to CBS News. 

Best Friends Animal Society hopes to eventually find homes for every shelter animal "by helping end the killing in America's animal shelters through building community programs and partnerships all across the nation." Its goal is for every shelter in the U.S. to reach no-kill status by 2025.

"All communities have something unique about them and each community has unique challenges as it relates to achieving no-kill, " said Sizemore. "However, with about 4,300 no-kill communities across the U.S. achieving the no-kill benchmark, we know that it can be done. It can be done in rural communities, urban communities, East Coast communities, West Coast communities and everywhere in-between."

The United States, on average, is far behind Delaware, boasting a save rate of just 76.6%. Texas and California are the farthest from the goal, with save rates under 75%.

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