April 20, 2022
Let's talk a little more about 2019 and 2020 data – last time, I promise. I truly believe we have been given a reset for 2021 and our review of 2022 data should focus on the changes from 2021 alone. So, for this last blog on 2019, 2020 and 2021 data, I wanted to share the regional analysis I did for our presentation at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Animal Care Expo, 2022.
There is quite a bit of data here and there are so many ways to interpret it, so I am just going to share it. To do comparative analysis, I decided to look at the difference from 2019 (the historic year) to 2021 (the reset year). I calculated the percent change at the national level and for each region in the red bars. The percent deviation from national is depicted by the green line so you can easily view the regions with the more unique stories.
The regions presented are the nine census regions determined by the US Census Bureau (see below). As you might have noticed, they do not align well to today's human population so some of the smaller datasets will have some variation of rescues, humane societies, and animal control agencies, which can account for some of the differences. There are some very interesting findings and I hope this helps folks who have been following our national data and wanted to see what is happening in their part of the country.
February 11, 2022
"Our shelter is packed with Pitbulls" is such a familiar comment from individuals working in shelters and rescues throughout the country. When Kristen Hassan from American Pets Alive went on social media asking the question "What percent of dogs entering shelters are Bully breeds?", I was not surprised to see guesses like 70% to 90%. Well, I'm excited to share the actual percentage along with findings from what is one of the largest data sets on shelter dog breeds; including answers to many questions regarding Bully breeds vs. the rest of our dog population.
Before we jump into the data, it is important to know the source of the data and how it's organized. First, we start with 1266 organizations from all 50 US states that have dog intake. The data is broken up into 3 categories:
I examined the data from the last three years but since there are only some modest differences, I am going to focus my observations on this blog to 2021 data.
Now, the answer you've been waiting for, "what percent of dogs entering the shelter are bully breeds?". 17%, based on our data. 12% account for Mix and 71% for Other. At this point, I do want to make clear that the data is only as good as the breed identification is. We can debate if this number is correct, but it is the data available as per each shelter's ability to measure so. One not of critical importance I always try to make clear is that it is exceedingly difficult to fix a problem we can't measure. If we think this is wrong, how do we practically categorize the dogs we believe have a unique path in our shelters? Is it size, weight, additional breed categories? I'd love to hear your ideas.
Now whether the true percent is 17% or 80%, we can still find use for this data by comparing it to the other two categories. The first area I want to look at is intake vs. in-shelter population and foster population. While intake is 17%, our population in-shelter is 22% and in foster it is 13%. This is likely not a surprise to many. It is more difficult to find both temporary and permanent placements for "bullies" causing a higher percent to be in the shelter:
The next comparison that builds on population is length of stay v. days in care. These two numbers are similar but for different animals. Length of stay measures the period of time in care for animals that were outcomed, while days in care measures the same period for animals still in care. As you can see, both the average length of stay and median days in care are significantly longer for Bullies.
The final comparison is to look at both the positive and negative outcomes. It is not surprising that Bullies are much more likely to be euthanized. It is also expected to see Bullies less likely to be adopted or transferred. The surprise for me was to see Bullies having a greater return rate. For those that are interested in the no-labels movement, this data is interesting since mix shows higher adoption rate while also showing a lower return to owner rate. I am conscious not to read too much into this because organizations that have implemented no-labels might not perform lost/found services. But it is definitely something that could warrant further study.
I look forward to feedback on this data. Just like we have seen the divergence of trends between dogs and cats, I believe there is a divergence between the "Easy to Place" vs the "Hard to Place" dogs and finding a way to statistically track the difference is critical to measuring our overall success locally and nationally.
It is through this measurement and tracking that we can work together to dissuade misconceptions, provide the best care for animals in need and see more of those animals find loving homes. I'll continue to dig into the data on topics like this and more, sharing my insights and perspective, and as always, welcoming your feedback and questions.
January 14, 2022
2021, like 2020, was a year unlike any other, making innovation so much more important; not just to do better but to address the fast-changing landscape in which we find ourselves. I am proud that Pethealth has partnered with The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement to create the Diane & Bob Hoover Annual Innovation Award. Last month, at The Association leadership conference, we celebrated the 3rd year of this award with two organizations that demonstrated innovation to produce significant, measurable results. In one case, it meant more revenue and in the other, it showed increased efficiency and transparency
The second-place winner was Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC). Like so many other animal welfare organizations, MCACC was forced to severely limit the number of people allowed in the adoption facility throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Since MCACC moved to scheduled adoption appointments, they knew they needed to make sure potential adopters had greater access to information about each pet before their appointment. MCACC quickly rolled out a new adoptable pet website in April 2020. That site provided adopters much more information than they would normally find on other shelters websites. MCACC was committed to providing folks with a complete view of the animal so they could make an informed decision before coming to the shelter. The new site included behavior notes, medical information, information gathered from the finder or previous owner, and any recommendations from our Behavior Team. In addition, the site included the ability for the adopter to download the pet information as a PDF, or to email the information to themselves or another person.
The improved adoptable pet site has led to more potential adopters coming to the shelter already knowing which pets they would like to meet, reducing their wait time and browsing time while in the shelter. Which, in turn, has allowed the staff to serve more potential pet owners. With the integration of the new website, along with their Lost & Found mapping system, MCACC was able to enhance their adoption self-serve kiosks and improve the pet owner experience onsite as well. What is extra innovative, to me, about this is the willingness to share information that many shelters choose to keep private. By sharing this information, they are saving shelter staff time, not having to go into as much detail about each animal with potential adopters. Yes, there is risk but ultimately, MCACC is trusting the public to make informed decisions with all the necessary info at their fingertips.
The first-place winner was Arizona Humane Society (AHS). I truly love this one because they looked at something that so many non-for-profits do, and in the exact same mannerand realized the potential of shifting away from the status-quo. Organizations that receive vehicle donations, liquidate these assets through third party companies that typically sell these vehicles at auction, and share in the revenue. Not only do the shelters have to share the proceeds with thes third parties, but the vehicles are most often sold far below their retail value. What AHS did was registered themselves as a used car dealership. This way they could make a small investment in repairs to the vehicles and then sell them online for full retail value. Even after taking out the investment, marketing and staffing costs, the program more than doubled their revenue. Since the inception of this program, AHS has sold more than 336 vehicles and earned $686,841 in gross revenue.
Great things are happening in the desert, and I am sure there are more amazing innovations happening throughout the animal welfare movement. I hope these two organizations will challenge you and your organization to look at ways to innovate and I hope you apply for the Diane & Bob Hoover Award next year. One more thing - the winners of this award did so not just for implementing innovative programs but also for measuring their respective successes. Well done! For more information about the award and previous winners, check out Diane and Bob Hoover Innovation Award.
November 2, 2021
I'm starting this blog by introducing a brand-new report I call the "Days in Care" report. It looks, specifically, at the animals in a shelter on the last day of the month and calculates the average number of days these animals have been in the care of that shelter. This report includes animals in foster but eliminates animals that have been in care for over one year. In doing so we can balance between organizations with extralong stays, yet account for the fact that foster animals still need services and placements. As you can see with both cats and dogs, animals are being "warehoused" at an alarming rate. Dogs are now staying 18 days longer than they were at the highest point - the start of the pandemic. Cats are particularly interesting; because of their seasonality, we have short stays when intake is high (Summer) while stays can increase dramatically when intake is low (Winter). For September, shelters are at levels more indicative of December which is extremely concerning.
While looking at the situation across animal welfare organizations we might think there are outside forces creating this situation, but that's just not the case. We hit a particularly important milestone in September where both overall intakes and outcomes dropped below 2020 levels. This would normally be a great thing, but it continues to be driven by the significant drop in Transfers both into and out of shelters. While overall intakes dropped year over year by 8.2% for cats and 0.4% for dogs, the drop for transfers was significant at 8.7% for cats and 11.1% for dogs.
With overall intakes down, it is only obvious that outcomes will follow that same trend. The question is always, "Can we expect a positive outcome for these pets?" Unfortunately, it is not a good situation. While transfer out continues to drop, 14.0% for cats and 7.1% for dogs; adoption numbers year over year are about flat, for both cats and dogs.
In exploring the Euthanasia numbers, surprisingly, after running above 2020 levels since April, cats are just below where they were a year ago. Dogs are not so lucky as they continue to be euthanized at a rate above those of 2020.
This is all to simply highlight some of the significant trends I have noticed but I encourage you to take a deeper dive into the data on our data dashboard at www.petpoint.com/industry_data. This tool is still in beta; however, we are looking forward to officially launching it next month with a new website we can't wait to share.
September 10, 2021
Like many folks, I have a box where I keep items of sentimental value to me. The largest items in that box are these pretty unremarkable shoes that are tightly sealed in a bag. These shoes serve as a reminder of one of the most significant times in my career, and life. As many of you know, I was the IT Director for NYC Animal Care & Control when the tragic events of 9/11 occurred. While I was waiting on equipment to implement our disaster recovery plan, I volunteered to support our field officers.
A few days later we got the call, our team was to provide support to pet owners to retrieve their pets from Battery Park City; a community adjacent to Ground Zero. We were told to assemble our 12 trucks at the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge. We lined up and were given a police escort across the bridge. Those who know Manhattan, know that the Manhattan bridge ends at Canal Street, a wide boulevard that runs across the island. As we pulled onto the street, we saw the crowds of people with signs and banners. And as we approached, we started to hear them cheering us on, as they recognized our vehicles it got so loud it was deafening. While at the same time, amazing!
As quick as it came, it dissipated and we continued on to the Westside Highway, which was converted to a staging area. There, we received our instructions. Each officer would be matched with an owner and escort them back to their apartment where they would grab their pets and nothing else, we would return to this area and the ASPCA would provide veterinary care as needed. This might seem relatively simple, but these were high rise buildings and there was no power.
I ended up doing 3 runs with pet owners, withal of whom lived above the 20th floor. The final run, retrieving an overweight beagle, who was terrified of stairs, from the 32nd floor really did me in. The owner and I took turns carrying the constantly squirming, 40 lb. guy down to safety.
As you have likely guessed, these are the shoes I wore that day but there's a bit more to it. As we trekked to each building, we were walking in about a foot deep of ash and debris. When I got home, I wanted to clean them but realized that this ash is connected to the people lost in the towers. I couldn't bring myself to do it. So, I put them in the plastic bag and I have kept that day and the lives lost in my memory ever since.
My experience might be unique but there are similar stories from so many people in the animal welfare movement. In times of crisis, dedicated people put themselves in harm's way to protect those that can't protect themselves. As true as this was 20 years ago, it is true today. I can't wait to hear the stories that come from those on the ground after Hurricane Ida. But to know we are making a difference; we have tracked 892 animals that were evacuated out of Louisiana shelters going to 76 organizations in 22 states. #Proud
August 16, 2021
We are now aware of numerous reports coming from shelters all over the country that animal welfare facilities are facing unprecedented capacity issues. In my last blog, we looked at some of the trends that were worrying me. Unfortunately, the data from July has definitively confirmed the crisis I was concerned about is now a reality. That said, as real as this is, it is interesting to see that these trends follow previous patterns but because we started 2021 with so few animals the percentage impact is much greater.
Before we jump in – you now have the chance to do your own deep dive into our data set - We are launching a beta version of a new interactive data dashboard. I invite you to go to www.PetPoint.com/industry_data to explore the data yourself.
First, let's quickly talk about cats. It is clear we are back to the normal seasonal pattern. COVID hit right at the start of "kitten season" in 2020 so it seriously disrupted the pattern, but it rebounded to normal levels in the fall of last yer. So for now, I'll leave it at that regarding cats.
The critical situation is currently affecting dogs. We have surpassed 2019 population levels. As you can see in the chart below, dogs in physical shelter buildings have reach about equal levels to previous years, but there are additional animals in foster. The good news is that foster starts are up and that's allowing for foster networks to make room for some of the needed capacity.
Now the question comes back to why are shelters filling up? As we have seen, it is not because of intake. Overall intakes are actually down; this is a great area to explore in the new portal. For example, some intake types are up, but they have been overall balanced by the lack of animals being transferred in.
How is it possible for shelters to reach capacity when intakes are at reasonable levels? The answer is length of stay which has increased by 2 days. The increase of length of stay means that, over time, we are not getting animals placed while a modest increase with intakes is taking place this year . There are those who are blaming adoptions, but the data reflects adoptions were up while intakes were down so the placement average (adoptions divided by total intakes) are reasonable.
The placement issue remains primarily on the continued drop of Transfer, which is now down 13% from 2020 and 31% from 2019. Unfortunately, when length of stay increases and positive outcomes don't keep pace, the result is an increase of Euthanasia. Although significantly less than 2019, Euthanasia has been up 71% since February.
The two big questions to consider: why is length of stay up and why are transfers down. I noted the same thing in my last blog. However, in seeing more data and talking to so many of you, the assumption is that transfer is causing the length of stay increase or is there something about these dogs that make them "untransferable". Pethealth's commitment has always been, and even more so since the start of this pandemic, is to help and we will continue to make data available quickly to provide our partners the ability to take meaningful action to bring vitality to lives, furry and otherwise.
July 22, 2021
Like so many, we have been getting reports that shelters are getting busy again, now that restrictions are lifting and other aspects of life creep closer to the way they were before the pandemic. What's interesting about this notion is that when we looked at the overall intake and outcome stats, our data didn't seem to match this feedback but when you take a deeper dive, we do see some potential markers for what is being experienced. Here's what we are seeing.
First, the number of animals in care is increasing. For the month of June, population of the shelter for both cat and dog are getting closer to 2019 numbers. Shelters are doing better with long-term foster homes but the trend is definitely looking like we are returning to population sizes closer to those of 2019.
Second, Length of Stay for cats, has surpassed June 2019's number while dogs are closely catching up with 2 months of continued increases. So we are definitely caring for more animals and they are staying longer.
The third interesting item is Foster Starts. These are below both the 2019 and 2020 numbers. We do have more animals in foster care but we are not getting them into foster at the same rate as pre and mid pandemic periods. Again, this is especially true for dogs but also for cats.
The last item is the most surprising to me and one I hope everyone looks at. While overall intake and outcomes are above the 2020 numbers, one intake type and one outcome type are not keeping pace. These are transfer in and transfer out. Both are below pandemic levels. If transport is indeed slowing down, this alone could be causing the overwhelming conditions that so many organizations are discussing.
These data points don't specifically identify the issue but do align with what we are hearing in the field. The big question is "what is driving this?" Looking at this data, it doesn't look like it's being driven by extraordinary intake, as many have perceived. We checked in with many folks, including our friends at ASPCA and the Association, and this is some of what they have seen or heard:
This is clearly a critical moment in the history of animal welfare, this transition out of the pandemic will determine if we hold the significant gains of 2020 or return to pre-pandemic levels. At Pethealth, we will continue to make data available for the deeper dives that are needed to address this next phase.
Steve Zeidman and Todd Whittington
May 19, 2021
My last update covered misleading stories from last year indicating that there was an increase in adoptions in 2020. While inaccurate stores about adoptions have quieted, there are new stories hitting national and local news outlets. Their latest updates being that the numbers of animals being returned to shelters and surrendered by owners are spiking. While equally sensational, this narrative is also completely untrue.
Looking at April, last year vs. this year, in a vacuum, you might believe you have all the proof you need. But, this was the start of the pandemic and the numbers show that so many shelters drastically reduced both intakes and outcomes as they navigated how to operate amidst shutdowns. As we have been reporting for months, following the initial impact on animal populations in March and April, shelters began to move to a new "normal" with significantly fewer animals from 2019 but following the annual pattern. Additionally, the data shows a drastic difference between cats and dogs. Cat numbers are much closer to those from2019 while dog numbers remain extremely low. See the intake data below:
Each time these stories break, we end up having many conversations with media outlets, national organizations, and our clients yet the stories persist. How do we as a movement make sure the media, and honestly members within our body, understand the larger data landscape before we let anecdotal data define our progress? We have so much to be proud of and much of the work we did in 2020 continues to hold strong in 2021. Our work, and the public, is doing right by animals in need; doing everything possible to keep them in their loving homes ... we need to tell that story and ensure it stays that way!
Mar 17, 2021
Don't be deceived by the fluffy puppies and cuddly kittens in the news. Animal adoptions are not up since before the COVID crisis began. Here's the real story.
We are now a year into the pandemic, and it is amazing to see the transformation of the animal welfare community. The relatively young movement to support keeping pets with their families went from a worthy secondary program to a critical primary strategy to keeping people (our staff and the public) safe. And it has worked, intakes have dropped (32% for dogs and 23% for cats) in this one-year period. Even as it ticks back up a bit, it doesn't look like it will ever return to the numbers of the previous year. To me, the most important number is this: Euthanasia is down 44% in one year. In any other situation, this would be the news story; but somehow it has gotten lost in this crazy year.
While we are acknowledging these victories within our collective, the media (and some big corporations) are missing it. They are solely focused on adoptions. Our data, along with many other data sources, are being misinterpreted leaving the public believe adoptions are up, year over year… we know better! Adoptions are not up – the direct result of there being fewer animals in care. During this time, adoptions actually dropped by 24%.
I can't help but think that we are partly responsible for this myopic view of our movement; adoptions make for wonderful feel-good news stories. Show up to a tv studio with puppies and the public is enamored. But as we have known for many years, we were never going to adopt our way out of pet overpopulation. Spay/neuter, intake diversion programs, and community services are having the impact we believed they would… now that's a story to tell!
Dec 2, 2020
I first got to meet Bob Hoover as a Chameleon client in 1999. My interaction with Bob and the rest of the Chameleon team challenged my interest in animal welfare technology, propelling me to get a master's degree in information technology and ultimately inspiring me to create PetPoint. I feel so lucky to once again be able to work with the Chameleon team and be part of the organization giving out this award.
It was fitting that the first year's winning organization uses Chameleon, but I am particularly excited that this year's winning organization is a PetPoint user. It is El Paso Animal Services and they won the innovation award for creating this pet finder site: https://gis.elpasotexas.gov/petfinder/index.html. It's a great visual tool that makes finding that lost or found pet so easy. I particularly love that this was built using one of the basic API's available in PetPoint.
The interactive map is an amalgamation of Lost/Found pet reports from 311 dispatch, Lost/Found pet reports submitted online and stray pets in their care. The Pet Finder Map has four sections— "Lost Dogs," "Lost Cats," "Found Dogs," and "Found Cats." Once a report is submitted, it will generate a drop pin on the Pet Finder Map under the appropriate section, when clicked it display the pet's photo and information like age, breed, sex, etc. This map provides a comprehensive and easy to use solution for pet finders and owners to reconnect pets with their pet parents at the neighborhood level. This allows the public to reunite animals with their loving families quicker – as opposed to taking the pet across town to the shelter.
From this initiative El Paso has eased burden on the shelter staff while making it easier for the community at large to unite pets, Its led to a 4.6% decrease in intakes (not including Covid impact). This aligns with their goals of supporting animals in the community, reducing the number of pets entering their shelter.
Along with the entire Pethealth family, I want to congratulate the entire El Paso Animal Services team with a special shout out to Adan Parra, Paula Powell, Michele Anderson, and the city's IT team. It was a huge group effort, and the results are fantastic.
Oct 27, 2020
Both before the COVID Crisis, and especially after, Pethealth was asked to share data on the number of animals entering and leaving shelters altered (spayed or neutered). We have finally been able to produce that data and share it with you. For this blog, we will look at the first 9 months of 2020 and compare those to 2019. We also think it is important to break out species (dog/cat) and age (under/over 5 months) while also covering the key intake and outcome types.
For dogs, 26.4% (14.4% for puppy and 30.1% for adult) entered shelters altered for the first 9 months of the year. It barely moved from the same period in 2019, which was26.2% (14.3% for puppy and 30.8% for adult). Looking at the data based on core intake types:
- Owner Surrender increased from 26.6% in 2019 to 27.6% in 2020
- Stray decreased from 13.7% in 2019 to 13.1% in 2020
- Transfer In was generally the same with 34.3% in 2019 and 34.4% in 2020
For cats, 23.8% (10.3% for kitten and 36.6% for adult) entered shelters altered for the first 9 months of the year. And similarly to the dog population, the rate barely moved from the same period in 2019, which was 24.5% (10.8% for kitten and 36.5% for adult). Looking at the data by the core intake types:
- Owner Surrender decreased from 28% in 2019 to 25.8% in 2020
- Stray increased from 10.1% in 2019 to 11% in 2020
- Transfer In increased from 36.5% in 2019 and 37.2% in 2020
For dogs, 58.8% (57.6% for puppy and 59.3% for adult) with live outcomes were altered in the first 9 months of the year. The rate dropped from 2019, which was 60.3% (60.1% for puppy and 60.4% for adult). Looking at the data by the core outcome types:
- Adoptions stayed the same at 77.5% in 2019 and 77.1% in 2020
- RTO decreased from 32.6% to 29.5%
- Transfer Out decreased from 28.6% in 2019 to 26.7% in 2020
For cats, 72.3% (65.8% for kitten and 78.1% for adult) with live outcomes were altered in the first 9 months of the year. The rate dropped slightly from 2019, which was 73.5% (68% for kitten and 77.6% for adult). Looking at the data by the core outcome types:
- Adoptions decreased from 82.2% in 2019 to 81.8% in 2020
- RTO decreased from 48.1% to 45%
- Transfer Out increased from 35.8% in 2019 to 36.3% in 2020
The chart below shows the trending for this year. As you can see, kitten has a seasonal effect but generally dog, cat, and puppy have remained consistent. Also, what this data tells us that the crisis to date, has not showed a significant impact on the altered state of animals entering shelters.
It will be important to keep an eye on populations to see if the pattern continues or if the impact is simply yet to be seen. It is important to note that this data is specifically for sheltered animals. Many organizations run public clinics – these were likely that impacted by closures - that information is not represented in that dataset.
Many folks would have expected the live outcome percent to be significantly greater but we can see that while the adoption rate is relatively good, most RTOs and Transfers are unaltered animals. What I found surprising was the fact that the percent altered was higher for cats versus dogs. I'm curious to why this is the case, I would love to hear from others on their analysis of the data.
Next year, our plan will be to add this data to our monthly reports so that as an industry we can continue to track our progress.
August 28, 2020
It has been a long time since I've written about our COVID-19 data reports - The 24Pet ShelterWatch Report. This is partly because there are a number of large issues to focus on and, frankly, the latest data simply hasn't been that interesting. We are definitely settling into a new reality. Intakes and adoptions are still down, 27% and 14% respectively, but overall trends are following the typical seasonal patterns. We continue to publish this data at 24PetWatch.com/shelterwatch.
My question is, are you experiencing 20% less work? From all the conversations I've been having with folks in shelters the answer is a resounding ‘heck no'. In fact, most people I hear from are busier; many are trying to operate in difficult environments and with fewer staff members. We are all trying to do more with less time.
If you are looking for how to keep up, I would highly recommend you check out the webinar video below. This webinar created by Renee Wolfgramm, with Pethealth's Client Services team, and Darlene Duggan (Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago); discusses how micro-efficiencies can add up to substantial time savings while also being good to the environment and improving the experience for both staff and customers.
You might be thinking you're as efficient as you can be but if your organizations do any of these things, you have a great opportunity to take your efficiency to the next level:
Whether you are on PetPoint, Chameleon or any software. Taking the steps to fully utilize the technology already in your shelter is an investment that will pay dividends. While so many of our usual practices have been thrown out the window due to this crisis, we have the unique opportunity to reinitiate processes that improve efficiency, better our environment, and improve the customer experience. Let's do it!
July 6, 2020
This three-part blog is the result of a conversation between The Association's Katherine Shenar, Ed Jamison of Dallas Animal Services, and PetHealth's Steve Zeidman. Each offers a unique view on a complex topic that's more relevant than ever—adoption policies, and how they can reflect biases against underserved and marginalized communities. We invite you to dig into this query with them.
"We should talk about this ..." By Katherine Shenar, Executive Vice President, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement
A friend recently asked my opinion because his team had raised concerns around some of the questions on his shelter's adoption application. He admitted that, for a variety of reasons, he simply hadn't reviewed it. As a leader, he is always strategically focused, and his time is taken up with meetings, community relations, and human resources. Having been in his shoes before, I immediately empathized and quickly reviewed the adoption application—and found myself editing, striking, and re-wording most of it.
Along with my edited version, I sent him an email saying simply, "We should talk about this." Then I called him to review the application, and we went over it together, line by line.
I shared my recommendations to eliminate what I considered discriminatory questions, such as home ownership status, numbers and ages of household members, and whether or not the applicant had ever re-homed a pet. None of these questions surprised me, as they remain on thousands of animal adoption applications around the nation. What did surprise me, however, is that these screening tools, designed to discriminate and reflective of a dangerous, ugly societal bias, are based on suppositions, rather than factual data. What do we know about pets in homes in under-served communities? Does the 12-page adoption application send the message that more economic resources means a better, more loving home—or that fee-waived adoption promotions will attract undesirable adopters?
During our Spring 2020 Conference – our first virtual conference – The Association offered a panel discussion with leaders in animal welfare on the topic of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Facilitated by Amanda Arrington of The Humane Society of the United States and Johnny Jenkins of PetSmart Charities, who co-chair The Association's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Committee, this panel was comprised of Jose Sandavol, Commissioner for the Department of Los Angeles Animal Services; Gabrielle Chapman, Pets for Life Social Justice Senior Analyst for The Humane Society of the United States, and Ed Jamison, Director of Dallas Animal Services, City of Dallas. A significant highlight of the panel for me was Jamison's invective about adoption policies needing to change because they perpetuate systemic racism and discrimination. As he put it: "If your adoption practices put up barriers to anyone, you're a part of the problem." I nodded my head affirmatively, but it was Steve Zeidman of Pethealth who started wondering about what the data really tells us.
I asked Ed to elaborate further on his reasons for calling for change, and urged Steve to dig deeper into the data. Like me, you're probably curious about what they discovered.
It's Easier To Buy a Used Car Than to Adopt in Some Places By Ed Jamison, Animal Services Director, City of Dallas
For the more than 15 years I've spent in animal services, I have always tried to remind everyone that people are the main part of the solution if we want to help animals. I haven't always been cognizant of how our policies and protocols are biased against people of many circumstances, but it has never been more clear that many long-accepted practices directly discriminate against people of color. For example, Animal Care and Control systems are rooted in police culture and adhere to punitive actions with financial consequences, even after most in the country have embraced finding responsible positive outcomes for as many animals as possible.
Perhaps even more importantly, socio-economics plays the most significant role in discriminatory practices. Gabrielle Chapman, Pets for Life Social Justice Senior Analyst
for The Humane Society of the United States, recently shared findings with me and others on The Association's Leadership Committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from the Federal Reserve System's study on family wealth. According to the Federal Reserve System's 2017 report on "Recent Trends in Wealth-Holding By Race and Ethnicity," white families have the highest median net worth at $171,000, whereas Black and Hispanic families have considerably less. Hispanic families have median wealth of $20,700, and Black families are at $17,600. These wealth disparities speak to why asking if someone owns or rents their home is discriminatory. The rationale that this question is asked to ascertain landlord approval falls short because most adoption procedures don't also seek formal permission from the home owner – it is just assumed.
One of the many things that attracted me to apply for the City of Dallas Director position was the City Officials' proactive approach. They aimed to equitably find solutions to the high numbers of loose dogs, bolstered by a commitment from private funders to support pet ownership programs in 23 of the neediest zip codes in Dallas. Animal welfare organizations so often miss the fact that they maintain policies that create barriers that will alienate populations within the communities that most need to be embraced. When we erect financial barriers, such as costly return-to-owner fines or exorbitant adoption fees, and judge pet owners or potential adopters by their willingness to pay high fees, we are sending a strong message of exclusion. There is no reason to believe a person living in poverty is unworthy of experiencing the unconditional love of a pet.
When we ask if someone rents or owns their home during the adoption process, we are immediately segregating them from more affluent adopters. When we ask if they ever had to re-home a pet, we are judging them based on the resources they've had available to manage through life challenges. Isn't it hypocritical that we create short-term foster programs like "doggy day out," or "weekend foster," but somehow, we criticize when a pet isn't a good fit for the home and an animal is returned to the shelter after an adoption?
When we hold reduced or fee-waived adoption events, members of our community, donors, volunteers, or others in our tribe question the quality of those homes because they assume the adopter is poor and therefore incapable of being a good pet owner. So too come the inevitable questions from donors, volunteers, and staff about increased adoption return rates from low or fee-waived adoption promotions, even when we know this to be most true: Your net worth is not a barometer for your ability to love a pet.
What Does Your Return Rate Really Say About Your Shelter's Policies? By Steve Zeidman, Senior Vice President, Pethealth, Inc.
In 1999, leaders of animal welfare management at the national level began to question adoption processes. Specifically, they were looking at the strict policies put in place with the intent of identifying the best possible adopters for all animals in need, and organizations that were determined to find ideal adopters for every pet in their charge. As a result, the Adoption Forum saw its first publication introducing the concept of open adoptions. I was lucky that the Executive Director of the shelter where I was working at the time was part of that group of leaders. I had continually wondered how, as a government shelter in New York City, we could possibly expect adopters to live up to a standard that was unattainable for most residents?
While there are other factors that might contribute to one approach being more effective than the other, the impact of restrictive adoptions vs. open adoptions has been and continues to be measured by the return rate of adopted animals.
Based on that knowledge, we decided to look at the return rates over the past 10 years from the data within PetPoint. This includes approximately 1,400 organizations, ranging from small rescues to large government animal control organizations. Since we do not know the adoption policies of individual shelters, we made two assumptions:
Over time, more shelters and rescues have removed barriers to adoption, so if removing barriers negatively impacted return rates we would see the return rates increase over the last 10 years. Different organization types have moved at different speeds to implement more open adoption policies. So, for YTD 2020, we looked separately at rescues, private humane societies, and animal control organizations. For this review, we grouped private humane societies with government contracts and animal control. Assuming Animal Control Organizations have been more aggressive in removing barriers, their return rates should be notably higher than other groupings. The results will not surprise anyone who has studied this.
From 2010 to 2019: The return rate has ranged from a low of 7.8% in 2011, 2012, 2018 to a high of 8.6% in 2016. The data shows there has be no statistical change in return rates over time. Rates by Organization Type (Year to Date 2020):
Similar to the results from the 10-year data analysis, we also saw no statistical difference in return rates based on the type of organization.
Over the last 10 years the data shows no material change in return rates. The industry shift to open adoptions has not resulted in an increase of adopters returning animals. We hope these insights help alleviate concerns for leaders and their boards hesitant to remove restrictive requirements on adoptions.
Thanks, Katherine, Ed and Steve. So now we know: the return rate at rescues and animal shelters across the nation has remained between 7.8 – 8.6% for more than a decade. There is absolutely no statistical difference while the field moves toward open adoptions, and fee-waived and reduced-fee adoption events become the norm.
As a leader in animal welfare, when was the last time you reviewed programs, processes and communications for inherent bias? Are you still asking adopters if they rent or own their home? Do you still ask for a veterinarian referral? When was the last time you questioned and assessed your adoption procedures, volunteer applications, or other daily practices with your team?
Now seems to be the right time to evaluate and self-reflect on what biases and assumptions we make every day and how we are contributing to systemic racism and discrimination.
September 27, 2017 Recent Trends in Wealth-Holding by Race and Ethnicity: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances; Federal Reserve Bank
Katherine Shenar brings 25 years of experience to her role as executive vice president for The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement. She has served as CEO for two animal welfare organizations and held leadership roles with four others. She frequently speaks on topics including leadership development, organization culture, coalition building, marketing communications, fundraising, and emerging trends in animal welfare. She is the author of the book Coalition Building for Animal Care Organizations, a how-to guide for animal advocates to work collaboratively in communities. Dallas has the third largest intake in the United States, with over 39,000 dogs and cats coming into their care in 2019.
Ed Jamison has been tasked with increasing public safety by getting loose animals off the streets, while at the same time increasing positive outcomes. To accomplish that, Jamison is leading a staff of around 220 employees, maximizing relationships with the rescue community, rebuilding the volunteer base and instituting new, progressive programming. Prior to coming to Dallas, Jamison was the Chief Animal Control Officer for the City of Cleveland, Ohio, but he entered the animal care and control world in the mid-2000s while he was the animal warden for the City of Garfield Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. In his time serving Cleveland, Ed made a push to redefine the way animal control functions and re-brand the public's perception of the industry, along with the perception of pit-bull-type dogs.
Steve Zeidman, Senior Vice President, Software Solutions for Pethealth, Inc., was already working in Animal Welfare when he transitioned to his first full time technology role in 2002. It was while working for Animal Care & Control New York City, that he obtained his degree in Information Systems and assumed the Director of IT position. Before this time, he was an operational manager trying to accomplish the organization's mission with a very limited budget. To meet their objectives, Zeidman turned to solutions that involved technology. Moving the New York City sheltering and animal control operations from paper to management software was a 2-year process that involved learning every job in the organization, from adoption to medical, dispatch to euthanasia. Department by department, he moved the organization away from triplicate forms and logbooks to real-time data entry and computer-generated reporting.
May 20, 2020
This week we continue to see shelters moving slowly back to the same volume of animals as before the crisis began. To see this week's data, go to: 24PetWatch.com/shelterwatch. Before they return to business as usual, many organizations are looking for work from home projects for their staff and some are taking this time to clean up the data in their shelter management software. If your organization has not done this for a while, I would highly recommend it. There are so many great benefits like accurate reporting, increase speed of data entry, and better wholistic view of animals/persons.
The most important area to focus on with data clean-up is the inventory of active animals. Active animals refer to those currently in care, whether physically in the shelter or in foster. In an earlier blog, I talked about how we removed animal records showing active for over 2 years. We know there are a few animals that might stay that length of time but if there is a large amount in your system, data clean-up is likely needed. If your organization has not done this in a long time, I would do a physical inventory, marking all the records where the physical animal can't be found and change the outcome of those animals to missing. Use a missing report to continue any investigations to correct the outcome type. In the meantime, start doing daily inventory. This will keep your inventory up to date plus, if animals are missing after that first round, it will be much easier to figure out what happened to them.
The next area I would focus on is to merge records. As most of you know, no matter how diligent the staff is, we still get duplicate animals, people, and agencies. In most software, merging records is a two-step process. First you submit a duplicate and then you commit it. The first place I would start is to look for records that were submitted but not committed. Get those records committed! With persons and agencies, you can be more proactive, running reports that match up potential duplicates. Addressing duplicates really makes a difference in understanding the entire journey.
The last area I would address is incomplete transactions. This is handled differently in other products but in PetPoint, this would include unattached animals, uncompleted tasks, unaccepted applications, and uncommitted transfers. These items might not affect your statistics but will make it harder for users to work in those modules along with making it easier to address new errors quickly. This clean-up, either by deleting or completing, supports faster and more accurate work.
PetPoint users can learn more about these and other opportunities to clean-up data at Pethealth Community
Thanks, and Stay Safe!
May 14, 2020
I started in animal welfare in the 1990's and since then have been witness to many disasters that impacted shelters and animals in the community. In almost every type of disaster, foster care has played a part in the response. Whether for evacuation of shelter animals during a hurricane or for temporary housing for owned animals after a fire or tornado, it has been a key part of adding capacity and providing safety. It is clear that the pandemic has mobilized the largest use foster in our history; we see more than 1/3 of animals in the care of shelters moved into foster homes. That is amazing!
While this has been a huge victory, it required hundreds of organizations and thousands of shelter staff to execute individual plans. There were communities well prepared with a tremendous outpouring of support and more foster homes than animals. But there were also many other communities creating these programs very quickly and they needed to drum up public support.
Over the last several years the topic of a national foster network and the technology to support has come up, usually after a disaster when everyone is reminded of its need. But as we move on, these conversations fade until the next crisis. I truly hope that is not the case this time. Through this unprecedented time, we all hope to not just come out where we started but emerge stronger and more resilient. Creating this national network not only prepares us for future crises but also has huge year-round value. This would be an amazing opportunity for organizations that do not have the resources to support a local program while also allowing foster coordinators of well-established organizations the opportunity to broaden their impact.
As a company that provides shelter management software, you might say "why don't you just build it?" and I'd say we do (like our competitors) provide tools to our individual clients to support foster but that national piece is missing. This initiative needs to be driven at the national animal welfare level; the technology companies can assist but we can't solve it.
I hope there will be an organization to step up and know Pethealth will help anyway we are able.
To see all the data for this week, go to: 24PetWatch.com/shelterwatch.
Thanks, and be well!
May 6, 2020
This week's data shows intakes continuing to rise as the overall population of shelters is also now increasing. What's great to see is that even as populations increase, the euthanasia rate is at a historic low. To see all the data for this week, go to: 24PetWatch.com/shelterwatch.
It is so wonderful to see that last week's blog on the adoption myth received so much attention. I am really excited that national organizations are taking on the challenge of promoting adoptions in this new environment. Both the ASPCA and Best Friends are planning major adoption initiatives in June with many of others looking to redesign their programs to incorporate social distancing guidelines.
For this week's installment I wanted to get tactical. How are shelters going to make adoptions work in their community, with their facilities and with their technology? The Pethealth team has been busy leading, and joining, national calls and talking directly to our clients, identifying many great ideas. Here are a few I thought I'd share:
If you are a PetPoint user, please check out the crisis response page at Pethealth Community for detailed options on how to use PetPoint to implement these initiatives and more. I am absolutely certain that, as a movement, we will rise to this new challenge and pioneer new ways of doing things that will have a lifelong impact. Together we will find permanent, loving homes for the pets in our care.
Thanks, and be well!
April 29, 2020
There are so many new stories being written that say pet adoptions are sky rocketing. These articles are highlighted by images of rows of empty cages and ecstatic staff. The reality is, it just isn't true. In fact, adoptions are still significantly down this week both from before the crisis (at 36%) and year over year (at 29%).
There are indeed fewer animals in the physical buildings of shelters today but that is not because of high adoption rates. The situation is being driven by the combination of reduced intakes and increased foster care. Intakes for this week were down 41% since before the crisis and 51% versus last year. As I covered in last week's blog, 39% of all the shelter animals are in foster care (37% this week) compared to 25% last year.
For this week's installment I wanted to get tactical. How are shelters going to make adoptions work in their community, with their facilities and with their technology? The Pethealth team has been busy leading, and joining, national calls and talking directly to our clients, identifying many great ideas. Here are a few I thought I'd share:
Both the reduction of intakes and increase of foster care are wonderful things; this has created an opportunity for organizations to protect their staff by reducing animals requiring care in their physical buildings. It is important to remember there are still over 72,000 animals currently available for adoption and the best opportunity to keep them and the staff who care for them healthy is to get these animals into permanent, loving homes.
That said, for the first time during this crisis, we have seen our first week over week increase in adoptions with a 13% spike. Other key highlights this week:
Thanks, and be well!
April 23, 2020
Today we publish the 5th addition of the 24Pet ShelterWatch Report. Since Pethealth started putting out aggregated data in 2010, we have always presented the numbers from the shelters as raw data. If there was an anomaly, we just footnoted it and allowed readers to interpret as they see fit. We will continue this practice as well, but to get the truest story on the impact of Covid-19, we made two modifications to the data.
Firstly, up until this report the only data used for determining foster starts and foster population was the data specifically in PetPoint's foster module. Some organizations using PetPoint choose not to use this module, but rather setup a "location" of foster to track the movement. This week, and going forward, we'll include both methods for tracking.
Secondly, in our reporting of population (both in shelter and foster) we removed animals that have been in care for more than 2 years. We are doing so as we believe the vast majority of those animals are not still in care. This removed a significant number of animals; it only shifted the total percent change by 4% week change and 3% Year over Year.
Putting these two changes in place drastically changed the percentage of the total population that is in foster care. The data now shows that 39% of animals are in foster vs the 12% we reported last week. after discussing these changes with national leaders, we believe this better represents what is actually happening throughout the country.
Along with these changes, we have also provided breakouts of the population data by both species and region. Our fifth report is now live at http://www.petpoint.com/industry_data. Key takeaways as follows:
We look forward to keeping these reports coming each week, digging deeper into the data, and making sure we represent the truest story of what is happening in shelters all over the US.
Thanks, and keep well!
April 8, 2020
It's encouraging to see these reports are getting to those who need it. We have met (virtually of course) with all of the national animal welfare organizations and media interest in the plight of animals during this crisis has picked up. We received our first national media mention on today.com and have requests from other major media outlets. Our third report is now live at http://www.petpoint.com/industry_data.
This week the 24Pet® ShelterWatch Report: COVID-19 Impact was expanded to include regional data for intakes and outcomes. We used the US Census Divisions, dividing the country into 9 territories, as illustrated in the map below:
By providing regional data, we hope to empower animal welfare organizations to see where help might be needed while maintaining our clients'confidentiality.
We are thankful that you continue to find this data useful. Next week we plan to present trending data as we gain a large enough data set. And, as usual, if you have ideas please respond to the blog. While our hearts and minds are coping with the human crisis facing us, it is our honor to make sure we address the impact to our 4-legged companions.
April 1, 2020
We are "officially" in week 2 of the pandemic and the news is getting grimmer for us humans. But while we are hearing lots of anecdotal info about the plight of animals in our shelters, it's important to know what is really happening. Our second report is now live at http://www.petpoint.com/industry_data.
This week we added Animal Population data to the report. This gives us a sense of the capacity and scope of the work at hand. We have broken out the data by "In Foster" and "Not Foster". PetPoint has a foster module to specifically manage fostering programs and this is where we are retrieving these numbers. That said, not all shelters choose to use the foster module to manage their foster program, thus the "Not Foster" number will have some fostered animals included as well.
We will continue to refine, and share, this data each week. Next week we will be presenting the data by regions. If there is additional data that you would like to see please continue to comment and we will look to expand the data set to meet the needs of the animal welfare movement.
Wishing you, and the animals in your care, a healthy and safe outcome to this global event.
March 25, 2020
Initially I had planned to roll my blog out slowly over time, building up to more and more important topics, but as you know "the best laid plans..." The world has changed overnight and has forced us all to place immediate attention on addressing critical aspects of running our organizations under very stringent guidelines. While there will likely be much speculation surrounding what will happen in animal shelters, we all need to make informed, data-based decisions as we work through these times. Pethealth has access to the largest set of live data in the industry. Through this blog, we will discuss the trends we are seeing across our 1400+ clients and we'll make that data available at http://www.petpoint.com/industry_data.
To mark the "before" the current crisis (COVID-19 pandemic), we have selected March 13th, the date the US federal government declared a national emergency. We have provided three sets of Data: March 14 to March 20, 2020, March 7 to 13, 2020 (Prior Week) and March 16 to 22, 2019 (Last Year). From this first week of data, we saw the following trends:
While we don't know when this worldwide crisis will end, for the sake of our families, furry or otherwise, we are hoping for a speedy resolution. Until that time, we will be producing these reports weekly. If there is additional data that you would like to see please comment and we will look to expand the data set to meet the needs of the animal welfare movement.
Wishing you, and the animals in your care, a healthy and safe outcome to this global event.
March 6, 2020
I am excited to launch this new blog. Few people know that I was already working in Animal Welfare when I transitioned to my first full time technology role in 2002. It was while working for Animal Care & Control NYC, I got my degree in Information Systems and assumed the Director of IT position. Before this time, I was an operational manager trying to accomplish our organization's important mission with a very limited budget. To meet our objectives, we needed to work more efficiently so I turned to solutions that involved technology.
That led me to the most significant point of my career, moving the New York City sheltering and animal control operations from paper to management software. This was a 2-year process that involved me learning every job in the organization, from adoption to medical, dispatch to euthanasia. Department by department, we moved away from triplicate forms and logbooks to real-time data entry and computer-generated reporting. I had no idea at the time, but this project sent my career in an unexpected direction and I've never looked back.
Ever since, my focus has been the intersection of animal welfare and technology, and my goal for this blog is to empower you to take the next step in your technology journey. I will try to focus on animal welfare topics where data and technology can play a key role in success. I also want to ensure we talk about technology that is already available to you or easy to get.
In this blog, I will regularly cover Pethealth products and services, but also, I'll try to highlight the innovative work happening throughout the movement. Whether or not you are a client, I hope to challenge you and your organization to look to technology to support your mission-driven work.
I will also be ending each blog post with a question that I hope will stimulate dialog. To get things started, I would love to hear what specific topics you would like me to cover, the next few posts are already in the works but I'm trying to address as many as I can.