When former Mayor James Hahn vowed Los Angeles would stop killing unwanted pets within five years, it was written off as a feel-good pledge.
Nearly a decade later, city animal shelters are poised for their first month of not killing adoptable dogs and cats, city officials and animal welfare supporters say.
"So far so good," said Francis Battista, founder of the Best Friends Animal Society, which runs the city's Northeast Valley shelter in Mission Hills. "It's very hopeful, and we're very excited about it."
If the current No-Kill December campaign by the city, animal welfare groups and celebrities is successful, Los Angeles shelters would have found homes for thousands of dogs and cats - or 90 percent of incoming pets.
The remaining animals would be considered either too sick or too dangerous to adopt.
As of December 16 - the last date numbers were available - the city had taken in 1,951 dogs and cats, and euthanized 313, a save rate of 84 percent. A 90-percent save rate is considered by animal welfare groups to be "no-kill" - with 10 percent of untreatable animals put down.
Last December, the city took in 3,632 dogs and cats, and killed 1,017, for a save rate of 72 percent.
Over the entire fiscal year 2011-12, the city took in 57,000 pets, and put down 22,000 - for a save rate of 62 percent. The city, in documenting euthanasia, does not separate treatable or untreatable pets.
Now Los Angeles and its animal welfare supporters are praying for a municipal Christmas miracle.
"The city shelters are onboard for the December no-kill push," said General Manager Brenda Barnette, of Los Angeles Animal Services, in a statement. "We are asking the community of Los Angeles and the rescue community help us achieve this goal.
"What better holiday gift than a new home of their own and a new chance at life for our amazing companion animals?"
Barnette was unavailable for comment Monday.
It was more than a decade ago that city shelters became the target of animal activists bent on halting the euthanasia of unwanted pets. At its peak, Los Angeles once killed 50,000 dogs and cats a year.
It was Hahn who, flanked by protesters and the barking of condemned dogs at the South Los Angeles shelter, announced in August 2003 plans to stop euthanizing adoptable animals within five years. At the time, 30,000 animals a year were put down.
Since then, Animal Services has had a revolving door of general managers, each with a so-called no-kill mission. And since then, each has been attacked by activists saying the goal wasn't being met fast enough. And that euthanasia in recent years was rising.
Barnette, the fifth general manager in a decade, was hired in 2010.
Supporters of the No-Kill December campaign credit large billboards by the No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA) coalition, which includes the city, Best Friends and more than 50 animal welfare groups.
They also credit more than 50 celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, Sophia Bush and Alyssa Milano, who have implored Angelenos to adopt shelter pets.
Through October, Los Angeles saved 3,800 shelter animals, said Battista, who also serves as president of No-Kill L.A., which well surpassed the Best Friends' goal.
Since it assumed management of the Mission Hills shelter a year ago, Best Friends has found homes for 3,000 shelter animals, many sent on so-called Pup My Ride transports to the Pacific Northwest, he said. The city also ships about 240 dogs a year to the Seattle Humane Society.
Best Friends Animal Society, based in Utah, has spent nearly $1 million to fund NKLA, which includes $450,000 in adoption incentives, and $500,000 for spay/neuter services in poor areas. Another $3 million has been spent in Los Angeles.
A "12 Pets of Christmas" promotion, by the Found Animals Foundation, also lowered the cost of shelter adoptions for harder-to-adopt pets, such as older animals.