Best Friends Blog

Shelter Animals Count launches national database effort

Litter of black and white puppiesEvery animal organization or shelter should be accountable for the work that it does, and the progress that it is making toward achieving its mission. Reliable data is an incredibly important component to what we do. At Best Friends, in our local programs, and around the country, using data to shape our work allows us to not only track progress, but also understand where the problem areas are, and where to put our resources to drive maximum impact. It keeps us accountable, not only to ourselves, but to our shelter and rescue partners, and our donors. We can give you very specific numbers with regard to shelter statistics in communities where we work, such as Los Angeles and the state of Utah. But not all numbers around the nation are being gathered quite as meticulously.

In fact, the entire nation’s tally of animals killed in shelters has always been a bit of a best guess, based on samples of representative shelters. At Best Friends we believe the number to be over 9,000 healthy and adoptable dogs and cats killed in shelters every single day, while other organizations feel that number is lower and others still believe it to be higher. Efforts to gather statistics nationally have tried and failed in the past, to the detriment of the animal welfare movement at large. There has to be a better way, and I believe that with many of us organizations working together, we have found it.

I am very proud to announce the launch of Shelter Animals Count (SAC), a first of its kind initiative.

An understanding of the importance of accurate data is the driving force behind Shelter Animals Count. The group, itself a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded by a diverse set of organizations that includes Best Friends. The goal of SAC is to host and maintain a national database. Recruiting shelters and animal rescue organizations to join and enter their statistics, kept within a set of common reporting guidelines will help Best Friends, other organizations, donors and the public measure our progress toward no-kill. There have been other efforts like this in the past, but they have all unfortunately failed. We believe the unbiased, committed nature of SAC’s national database project will help it to succeed, and we’re excited to see the results of this effort.

Right now the group is in the gathering stage – reaching out to shelters and groups who are willing to provide their data. If you are with an organization, I strongly urge you to visit the website and take part in this monumental effort. Once the baseline of data has been gathered, reports will be available not only to those involved in animal rescue, but also to any member of the public who wishes to see the data. There will be the ability to see the data from many different perspectives, including demographics, climate, geography and other variables.

The other vital part of this project aims to standardize the collection and reporting of data. Right now there are many different ways to classify animals that enter a shelter. Some organizations use one system, while others use a totally different one. As an example, at what age is a dog no longer considered a puppy? Or when a family drops an animal at a shelter to be euthanized – right now shelters across the country track those animals very differently. We need to create a national standard, and the goal of SAC is to make that happen.

In the future I’m looking forward to sharing results from this critical effort with you. The group hopes to have some comparative reports available in mid-2016. Until then, if you are with a shelter or rescue group, I again urge you to visit the website and take part. If you’re a supporter of animal welfare efforts, I hope you can see the urgency and importance of this project. If you volunteer with an organization, please pass this post on to them and ask them to check out the website and consider being a part of this herculean effort.

Together, we can Save them All®.

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Gregory Castle
CEO Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Beth

    I’m not convinced that doing this on a voluntary basis will give you even a “best guess” number of animals killed. I believe this number will be considerably lower than the actual number. Those shelters that put down a high percentage of their animals will not be willing to participate. The only way to do this would be to make this a Federal law that requires all shelters and rescue centers to report to a national database.