In the U.S. today, the leading cause of death in cats and dogs is shelter euthanasia. Not all those who enter shelters find forever homes; in fact, only 35%
of dogs who enter shelters are successfully adopted.
Overpopulation, breed-bans, lack of medical resources, disease outbreak and behavioral difficulties are all factors that put shelter animals at risk for euthanasia. But there is hope; according to the ASPCA, precise data collection is an animal shelter's best bet to improve their animals' chances of finding families.
A behavioral analysis report
of companion-animal overpopulation published in 2004 states data collection as one of the "main dependent measures." According to the report, "systematic reporting can guide local officials to assign
necessary animal-control resources..."
Some shelters keep annual reports of their intake, adoption and euthanasia rates, and a few of them even make these reports available on their websites for public access. This transparency helps address the euthanasia problem, but there aren't nearly enough shelters involved (yet) to see real national improvement.
When we spoke to Corey Roscoe, the Humane Society of the United States director for the state of Ohio, for shelter statistics in her state, she said, "There is no central agency that has oversight over the humane societies in Ohio and they are all independent nonprofits."
Similarly, Heather Severt, the HSUS director of West Virginia, said, "They [animal shelters in WV] do not follow a universal system for collecting or reporting statistics."
Jill Fritz, the HSUS senior state director of Michigan, gave a different response. She said that Michigan's department of agriculture actually licensed and regulated animal shelters in the state and compiled all their data in annual reports
Megan Rees from the Dumb Friends League
also told us that Colorado was one of the few states that report statewide. "The Colorado Department of Agriculture Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) tracks statistics for shelters and rescue groups throughout Colorado," she says, you can read the 2013 report here
Michigan and Colorado are currently the leaders in the shelter statistics movement. We reached out to hundreds of shelters in other states who happily provided us with their annual reports that are made possible thanks to the following two organizations.
Asilomar Accords were created in 2004 by a group of animal welfare leaders. They provide hundreds of participating shelters with the resources that take them one step closer to their ultimate goal: to produce an organized system of nationwide life-saving progress through statistical data gathering.
Maddie's Fund's extended version of the Asilomar Accords statistics table has collected annual data for over 600 shelters
in the U.S. They've also developed a searchable database
with the data they've collected and made it available for anyone to compare the lifesaving efforts of the community.
Since it's virtually impossible to create a true visual using thousands of reports from individual shelters, one special organization decided to bring them all together.
The National Database Project
The most recent efforts have been made by Shelter Animals Count
, a non-profit organization chartered in 2012 with the hopes of serving as the headquarters for all animal shelters. As of Spring 2015, they've been collecting data using their Basic Animal Data Matrix
; it's a fill-out form with the most basic data points a shelter should gather.
Shelters are encouraged to sign up
and help "finally solve the puzzle." By getting involved in the National Database Project, shelters are giving their animals a second, third and fourth chance at life.
All of these breakthrough endeavors propose to put an end on unnecessary euthanasia beyond recall. With the collaboration of animal shelters nationwide, this aspiration doesn't seem so far-fetched after all.
Featured image via: One Green Planet
Sources: ASPCA, Asilomar Accords, ASPCA, OJPHI, Shelter Animals Count