Cheryl Wicks: What does “shelter without killing” mean?

Many in our county are proud to say that Nevada County is a kill-free county. Well, that’s “almost” true.

In 2001, when the work of Friends of Sammie began, the euthanasia rate was 68%. In 2006, the Nevada County Animal Shelter achieved a 2% euthanasia rate. Today it is less than 1% and has been since 2010. This is something the whole community can be very proud of. It took the teamwork of the entire county to make this happen.

In 2001, animals were being euthanized due to space/overcrowding and sick/injured animals were not receiving the care they needed to become adoptable rather than being euthanized. We decided to work very hard through aggressive marketing and building a large group of volunteers to help in this effort to get the animals out of the shelter before they are euthanized. To this day, the no-kill trend continues through the practice and philosophy of Friends of Sammie, not county politics. The Sammie’s Friends association was created to pay for the medical care of the animals in the shelter, so that they are not euthanized.



Additionally, community programs have been initiated to keep animals away from the shelter. Community programs pay for approximately 1,000 animals to be spayed and neutered every year so they don’t breed and we help another 600 animals in our community with veterinary care – keeping them out of the shelter and preventing them from breeding. ‘euthanasia.

Now for the “almost” part. In Vault vernacular, they are declared no-kill when they have a live release rate of 90%. Anything not released live is euthanized. At Sammie’s Friends, we do have a euthanasia rate below 1%, but even we are “almost”. Fortunately, we euthanized a small number of animals too sick or injured to be helped.



In the past 12 years, we have euthanized three dogs that have violently attacked people and caused serious harm. There was no other alternative.

As I mentioned above, it takes the whole community working together to make sure we continue to save all the animals that can possibly be saved. Sammie’s friends raise and spend an incredible amount of money to keep our shelter a no-kill. Many animals need veterinary care. We have a canine behaviorist and a group of volunteers who work very hard to rehabilitate dogs with bad behavior. Additionally, we have people who work with our cats and we have hired horse trainers to work with unruly horses.

The employees and volunteers of Friends of Sammie work hard to adopt the animals as quickly as possible into good families. We work hard to raise funds for our community programs to keep animals out of the shelter, keeping it at a manageable level.

“No-Kill” does not mean free for all, where at any time, for any reason, you can drop your pet off at the shelter and be done with it. The owner is responsible for his animal. It’s your pet! This means that if your pet behaves in a way you don’t like, you take the time to teach it how to behave better. There are many resources to help you with this. If your pet is vicious and has injured someone and you are in legal danger or if you have a serious concern that your pet is injuring someone even more seriously, it is your responsibility to euthanize your pet. .

If you move and cannot bring your pet with you, it is your responsibility to “relocate” your pet. There are also resources to help you. From the first moment you learn you’re moving and can’t bring your pet, begin the relocation process. Don’t wait until the day before thinking you can just drop it off at the shelter at the last minute, because you can’t. The same goes for bad behavior – as soon as you see it, address it. The shorter the period of time your pet has a bad habit, the quicker and easier it is to correct it.

Sammie’s Friends and all who help in so many ways have really stepped up over the past 20 years. More is also demanded of pet owners. Most are up to the challenge. By working together, we can continue to achieve the goal of having no more homeless animals in Nevada County. A big thank you to everyone who committed to this goal and helped make it a reality.

Cheryl Wicks is the co-founder and president of Sammie’s Friends

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