Pros and Cons of Adopting From a Kill and No-Kill Shelters

Not everyone is aware that many cats and dogs in shelters are killed. Some are killed because they are sick or can’t get along with others, while others are killed because they are not claimed or adopted on time.

Rescuing animals from shelters, ironically, can help save their lives. The question is which shelters should you check first.

In general, adopting pets from kill or no-kill shelters can help reduce the number of homeless animals. Similarly, it can save animal adopters up to $2,000 to $3,000 compared to buying pets. Adopting cats and dogs from shelters, especially kill shelters, saves 2.7 million animals a year.

When adopting cats and dogs, going to animal shelters is a wonderful option.

However, these days, animal shelters come in a couple of forms: traditional kill shelters and no-kill shelters that first appeared in the early 1980s.

If you are planning on having a pet and considering getting one from a shelter, continue reading.

Below are some of the most important things you need to know about adopting from a kill and no-kill shelter.

Pros and Cons of Kill and No-Kill Shelters

As they say, never judge a book by its cover.

Just because a shelter’s name sounds heartless doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the cold-hearted kind.

For instance, did you know that no-kill shelters, in some instances, put cats and dogs to sleep, too?

And also, in certain cases, did you know that putting an animal to sleep is the most humane step to take?

Let’s get to know kill and no-kill shelters a little more and talk about pros and cons of each one.

cat shelter
Image credit: Canva

Kill shelters

Kill shelters accept all homeless animals. This means that it doesn’t matter whether cats and dogs are young or old or well or sick. Kill shelters also accept feral animals, but only to spay or neuter them. Kill shelters will release sterilized feral animals where they were captured once they have fully recovered from the surgery.

Needless to say, while they may have a repulsive name, in many instances, kill shelters actually help save homeless cats and dogs from suffering unnecessarily by putting them to sleep.


  • As mentioned earlier, kill shelters accept all animals. It doesn’t matter if they are healthy or not or cute or otherwise. For as long as it doesn’t have a home, kill shelters will take the cat or dog.
  • Kill shelters usually partner with various foster programs, veterinary clinics and pet stores to help get the animals adopted and also taken care of properly while they are waiting to get adopted.
  • One of the best things about kill shelters is that they spay and neuter cats and dogs before adopting them out. Similarly, they capture feral animals and release them once more after spaying or neutering them.


  • Since kill shelters accept all animals regardless of age, health condition or appearance, they are prone to overcrowding. This puts the animals in poor living conditions and also the next con.
  • Kill shelters kill not only cats and dogs that are sick. They also put to sleep animals that have no rooms, cannot get along with other animals and are not claimed or adopted on time.
  • Despite their best efforts, kill shelters are unable to rescue all stray animals. There are only about 3,500 brick-and-mortar shelters in the US and about 70 million stray animals living in the country.

No-kill shelters

Unlike kill shelters, only some animals are accepted by no-kill shelters. They may have a compassionate name alright, but no-kill shelters choose to take in nothing but easily adoptable and healthy cats and dogs.

It’s true that no-kill shelters will not kill animals that are not claimed or adopted on time — the animals can spend all their lives in these shelters without worries. However, no-kill shelters will also put to sleep animals that are dangerous or have suddenly become terminally ill while spending their time there waiting to get adopted.


  • No cat and dog is put to sleep at no-kill shelters. Well, except for those whose behavior is putting other animals and shelter employees in danger or have become terminally ill during their stay at the shelter.
  • Cats and dogs available for adoption at no-kill shelters are usually young, energetic and healthy. However, it’s only because no-kill shelters choose which animals they will take in and which animals they will avoid.
  • As the name suggests, no-kill shelters are dedicated to preserving the lives of homeless cats and dogs instead of ending them just because they have no homes or there is no more available space for them at shelters.


  • Unlike kill shelters that accept all stray cats and dogs, no-kill shelters welcome only selected animals. They will not take in cats and dogs that are old and sick, and even those that are not cute enough.
  • It’s very rare for no-kill shelters to spay and neuter cats and dogs, which traditional shelters carry out. Because of this, the root cause of the overpopulation of homeless animals is not dealt with.
  • The way no-kill shelters are called only fuels the stigma surrounding traditional kill shelters that are running out of available space since they take in all stray animals, which is one of the reasons for putting them to sleep.

FAQs on Adopting From Kill and No-Kill Shelters

Adopting a stray cat or dog from a shelter is easier said than done. Welcoming a four-legged member into one’s home is the easy part.

The hard part is deciding which animal to adopt and from which shelter, whether a traditional kill shelter or a no-kill shelter, one should adopt a pet.

Will it cost money to adopt from a shelter?

Adopting from a shelter doesn’t come free of charge. Rates tend to vary, depending on what animal is being adopted and where the animal is going to be adopted from. Adopting a dog from a shelter can cost anywhere from $50 to $350. Adopting a cat from a shelter can cost anywhere from $15 to $200.

How soon should I adopt an animal before it’s put to sleep?

Shelters keep animals for five to seven days. In some cases, they keep animals for 48 to 72 hours only. If the owners fail to claim their pets after the waiting period, the animals will be put out for adoption. Some of them will be put to sleep if ill or dangerous, or no more space is available.

Should I arrange for the animal’s sterilization before adoption?

Before shelters put cats and dogs out for adoption, they are spayed or neutered first. Besides sterilization, check-ups, vaccinations and other important medical procedures are carried out by veterinarians, too. Taking the animal to one’s preferred veterinary clinic may be done after adoption.

Is it better to adopt from a shelter than a rescue?

Adopting from a rescue is generally a lot more involved than adopting from a shelter, kill or no-kill alike. The process of adopting from a rescue can take several weeks. It can involve multiple visits to the rescue, too. If time is of the essence, it’s better to adopt from a shelter than rescue.

Just Before You Adopt From a Shelter

Instead of shopping for a pet, adopt one. Not only is adopting a cat or dog from a shelter easier on the pocket, but it also helps to give a homeless animal the opportunity to feel what it’s like to have a home.

When it comes to adopting a cat or dog from a shelter, you have a couple of options: adopt from a traditional kill shelter and adopt from a no-kill shelter.

If you want to save an innocent four-legged fellow from being put to sleep, consider adopting a pet from a traditional kill shelter, especially one that’s been out for adoption for a while now.

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