Michael Hamilton By Michael Hamilton • December 6, 2018

Shelter Animals Count

Eight of the nation’s largest and most influential animal welfare organizations and foundations recently convened to create a position statement on the importance of transparency and sharing key data as defined by Shelter Animals Count.  

These organizations have now come to realize that the time has come for all shelters to collect and report this critical data on a national level and the ultimate goal is 100 percent shelter participation.  

I am ecstatic to learn this! 

Nevertheless, this really is only the first step in identifying the extent of the problem without offering a solution to fix it. 


What we already know for certain is one-third of all dogs and cats in the US are reported missing in their lifetimes and over 80% are NEVER found. That is an epidemic. 

To resolve the problem over missing pets, a better system of data organization is needed.  The actual number of these pets that wind up in shelters, however, is unknown. It's estimated that millions of dogs and cats enter America’s shelters each year, and more than half of them will never leave.  

Peeva shelter animals count

Startups have been springing up to resolve the lack of transparency associated with these data problems and with limited budgets. Pawlytics in Lincoln Nebraska, which raised a little over $100,000 dollars over the past six months has been developing a shelter data management tool and they have already signed on close to 80 foster groups as beta testers, whereas the ASPCA has no problem spending 50 million per year on advertising campaigns to solicit donations without showing any innovation or creative problem solving to streamline their own operations.

The cost of the campaign to solicit more donations with zero transparency.


Why it has taken them until Q4 of 2018, however, to realize this is a key metric and how an epidemic that generates hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable donations every year can show little improvement over the past 30 years, I have my own theories about both.  

According to the website Activists Facts, the ASPCA gives less than 5 million to support animal shelters, a mere 4% of their $129 million dollars annual budget. The independent watchdog Charity Watch finds that the ASPCA spends up to 35 percent of its budget on overhead, and 38 cents to raise every dollar, giving the organization a middling “C+” rating. Despite having $115 million in contributions in 2013, the ASPCA only found homes for 3,400 dogs and cats, according to its annual report. That’s a cost of $34,000 per animal adopted.

Why hasn’t there been any monitoring or transparency in their reporting? How are they spending their money and what are they been spending it on?

The simple solution would be to make it mandatory that all shelters be transparent with their reporting or perhaps risk losing their privileges to operate under not for profit status.

I am not saying all shelters are bad and disingenuous. Nothing could be farther from the truth; however, many of them have been hiding behind the overall industry fragmentation to slip through the cracks and be lackluster with their reporting transparency affording the disingenuous ones to operate with strategic inefficiency.  Bottom line, those days are numbered. 

So if you are a shelter and you have never shared data before, now is the perfect time to begin.