By Richard Sullins |

Lee County’s animal shelter has been doing good work for years, and now that work is drawing some national attention.

Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit organization formed nearly 40 years ago in Utah to champion best practices in the adoption of homeless cats and dogs, recognized Lee County Animal Services last week for achieving “No-Kill” status in calendar year 2022, meaning that at least 90 percent of the animals that were received by the shelter last year were re-homed instead of being euthanized.


More than 100 animal shelters in central North Carolina have earned “No-Kill” status. Best Friends CEO Julie Castle said earning this level of recognition represents “a dedicated staff, committed volunteers, and motivated supporters,” but starts with “extraordinary leadership.”

Animal shelters are meant to be stopover points for homeless or abandoned pets, a sanctuary where they can receive housing, food, and medical care as they go through the adoption process. But shelters across the country are facing a growing problem brought on by overcrowding and dwindling resources: high kill rates.

In 2021, the last year for which estimates are available, an estimated 350,000 cats and dogs were euthanized across the United States because shelters lacked the capability to house and care for them.

The website reported just last month that North Carolina had the second-highest percentage in the country of animals that had to be killed in shelters during 2022 for this reason (14.3 percent), and that it ranked third in the nation in the sheer numbers of animals that had to be killed (28,790). Only the much larger states of Texas and California had more.

Those numbers help put into perspective the quality of work that’s being done by Lee County Animal Services to help save animals from destruction. Elizabeth Hall, the shelter’s manager, says it is on-track to continue its No-Kill status in 2023. As of September 30, it has taken in 1,094 animals and has been able to save 92 percent of them. To qualify as a no-kill shelter, organizations must save 90 percent or more of the animals it takes in during the calendar year.

Heath Cain, Lee County’s Health Department director, said the county’s animal services rank among the state’s elite.

“In North Carolina, Lee County ranks in the top 10 with our adoption rates, and we are very fortunate to have many wonderful and passionate partners locally, in the state, and in many states who assist us in making this happen,” he said.

Cain said he’s proud of the work the shelter and credits it to a “culture of caring” that animals staying there can receive. Visit the shelter’s website to find out more about its work, how you can help, submit a lost or found pet report, and see the pets now up for adoption.