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Michael Hamilton By Michael Hamilton • March 20, 2017

Data driven ways to get pets out of shelters

Data drives the decisions that can help save companion animals’ lives and prevent homelessness. Many shelters collect and report important data. But the time has come for ALL shelters to collect and report critical data on a national level. To resolve the missing pet epidemic a better system of data organization is needed.

Ramsey Jacobs.jpgI recently had the opportunity to attend a talk by Dr. Christy Hoffman at Canisius College in Buffalo to learn the findings of a recent shelter-related research project she and her team conducted.

"Thinking outside the Kennel: Data-Driven Ways of Getting Pets out of the Shelter… And Keeping Them Out.” 

Dr. Hoffman's research primarily focuses on factors that contribute to successful human-dog relationships. The results of which have made her nationally renowned as they are often cited in various blogs and other publications. 

Unfortunately, her presentation was interrupted by an issue with her laptop, which on the flip side gave us a first hand sneak peak into 2 other studies she's currently working on and that I am super excited to learn more about.

Data should drive decisions that can help save companion animals’ lives and prevent homelessness. Shelters do NOT collect and report important data and having the most accurate data is essential to ending the killing of cats and dogs that are put in shelters. That is what I really wanted to see.

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Although, Dr. Hoffman wasn't able to present the results of her study in their entirety, she did make 2 points. The first was relinquishment- when a pet owner takes his pet to a shelter voluntarily (becuase he's a ___________). I do not doubt Dr. Hoffman's numbers are accurate; however, there is an obvious disconnect.  

When searching for hard data regarding euthanasia stats in shelters- for example - there is nothing that can be found of the sort. I have been going back and forth on this topic with Mark Branden (founder of pawraiser) for like a year now. Mark was also in attendance.

  • 1in 3 pet’s are reported missing in their lifetime and nearly 80% are NEVER found.
  • The number of dogs and cats people have as pets in the U.S.
  • The percentage of pet owners that consider their pets part of their families
  • The annual American spend on pet’s which is significantly greater year after year (substantially more than both economic and population inflation)
  • Americans love their pets!

While many shelters know the value of keeping statistics, no national reporting structure exists to make compiling national statistics on these figures possible. All stats are prefaced with “not accounting for strays.” This because the information available has been limited. 

So... then what is a stray? Aren’t all pets that wind up in shelters that were not relinquished strays?

Another take away fact from Dr. Hoffman’s presentation was the extent of the inefficiency and almost negligent shelter intake and discharge procedures at shelters. I was not aware exactly how disturbing and inadequate the classification systems are that pet shelters currently have in place. 

A more sufficient cataloging system and workflows associated with by leveraging different technology together - has a lot of potential.

This makes way for problems that need solutions…


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