LOS ANGELES — When Sabrina Maharaj walked into the No-Kill Los Angeles Pet Adoption Center in the summer of 2022, all she intended to do was volunteer.
A few months later, she left home with the newest addition to her family, the 10-year-old dog Elf.
“An elf came into the shelter and I listened to him. I was there,” said Maharaj.
Some of the No-Kill Los Angeles staff remembered when the elves first stayed. All the staff had his back, including Maharajji, who was covered in ticks and had a tough time.
When the loss of her family leaves a vacant lot in Maharajji’s heart and home, she finds out that the elf is hers.
“When I lost my boxer, I couldn’t resist looking for an elf home[because]he had a special place in my heart,” Maharaj said. “When I had the chance to bring someone home, it made sense for him to be one of them.”
The elf and Sabrina stories are sweetly tied together, but the elf’s situation is nothing special.
The Best Friends Animal Society, the organization that runs the No-Kill LA adoption center, estimates that about 473,000 animals entered California shelters in 2021.
California shelters may euthanize animals due to lack of space or resources. Best Friends marketing his manager Peggy Kennedy says he’s fighting to change by 2025.
“California is second only to Texas when it comes to endangered animals,” Kennedy outlined. “The nationally recognized preservation rate of 90% is a benchmark for no-kill, considering that about 10% who enter shelters have medical or behavioral conditions that justify humane euthanasia. I have,” said Kennedy.
California has made great strides in achieving this goal. The state’s conservation rate jumped to about 82%.
When Best Friends launched the Los Angeles No Kills initiative in 2012, only 56% of the dogs and cats in the city’s shelters survived. The city says he reached a sustained protection rate of 90% in 2020, but a threat looms in Los Angeles, especially for dogs.
“Dog intake rates have increased by just over 10%, but adoptions have only increased by about 5%, creating bottlenecks and overcapacity,” explained Kennedy. “They don’t want to kill for space, but it costs them a lot.”
Funded almost entirely by donors, Best Friends offers a program that takes animals from kill shelters in Los Angeles and encourages adoption. Shelters look and feel good and encourage people to bring animals home, but for those who can’t adopt, there are other options.
“We always need someone to walk the dog, help clean, feed the kittens, and even do the marketing,” Kennedy said. “If you’re a photographer, many shelters need help taking good pictures of their animals because good pictures go a long way in helping pets get adopted.”
As for Maharaj, she doesn’t look back and encourages the adoption of older pets, especially elves.
“If you’re thinking of getting a dog at home, go ahead. It’s worth it,” she said. “There are so many great dogs of all types, sizes and personalities. I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Adoption from any shelter will help the state move closer to its goal of no culling by 2025. You never know, you just might meet your new best friend.