Module 7: Get to Know a Shelter

Taking It Community-Wide

Shelters, rescue groups, and other animal welfare organizations each have their own missions and operating policies, but they also play a role in their larger communities. Spay-neuter programs help reduce overpopulation, foster families provide a real-life home experience for animals, breed-specific rescues specialize in certain types of animals, safety net programs keep animals in their homes, trap-neuter-return programs manage community cats humanely, limited-admission shelters focus on high live-release rates, and open-admission shelters make sure that no pets are left behind. No one organization’s contribution is necessarily more important than another, but together they can shape a community safe haven that assures there is a safety net for each animal’s needs.

A community-wide compilation of statistics provides a much more comprehensive snapshot of progress than the data from any single organization. It also allows communities to benchmark their progress compared to other communities. A community save rate of 90% or a population-based euthanasia rate of 2 animals/1000 residents indicates a strong life-saving capacity. Transparency of shelter data is essential for communities to develop data-driven policy to maximize animal protection. Shelter Animals Count is a national organization in which shelters voluntarily submit monthly data for public review. Transparency is best served when shelters publish their data at least once a year using the standardized format of Shelter Animal Count’s Basic Data Matrix. Best practices also include sharing of annual income and expense information via budget reports or copies of non-profit tax filings known as IRS 990 reports.

Best Friends Animal Society published the first interactive national map of shelter statistics in 2019. This enabled residents across the country to access information about their own communities and to benchmark local statistics against state and national trends. The map also ignited a national discussion about shelter transparency, how shelter statistics should be interpreted, and the language used to define shelter metrics, especially euthanasia. The Best Friends map was compiled as the foundation of a campaign to drive the country to become No Kill by 2025, which they define as all shelters saving 90% or more of the animals taken in. Communities are defined as No Kill if every shelter in the area has achieved 90% lifesaving. Best Friends reserves the term “euthanasia” to mean “ending the life of an animal only to end irremediable suffering or ending the life of an animal when the animal is too dangerous to rehabilitate and place in the community safely” and all other deaths as “killing.”


Map of US shelter statistics
This interactive map lists shelter intake and outcome data for approximately 3,000 animal shelters in the United States


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Integrating Veterinary Medicine with Shelter Systems Copyright © 2020 by University of Florida is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.