What should your community’s animal shelter be sharing publicly?

September 6th, 2019

In the old ‘pound’ model of animal sheltering, the truth about life and death was hidden from the public. Most people didn’t know how many lives were ended in their local shelter, even when tens of thousands of pets were being killed every year. Imagine how many lives could have been saved if people had only known the truth.

Today, a dramatic shift is underway. Transparency in animal sheltering is rapidly becoming a national best practice, and there are more shelters sharing their statistics than ever before. The public has the expectation and right to know about the intake and outcome of every pet that enters the shelter system. Gone are the old days of indiscriminate shelter killings. Today, shelter employees, volunteers, and community advocates are insisting that every homeless pet is accounted for and that efforts are made to save their lives.

As we move towards a more transparent model of sheltering, data sharing is essential; not only to preserving one’s reputation, but also ensuring that as many lives as possible are being saved. Of course data sharing doesn’t come without its challenges, including answering the question of, “What should we be sharing?”


Shelter start and end counts | The number of animals in the shelter’s custody on the first and last day of every month, and the first and last day of every year.

All animal intake | Every animal that enters into the shelter’s custody should be counted. Intake categories should include stray, owner surrender, field intake, and confiscate/custody.

All live outcomes | Every live outcome should be counted. Live outcome categories should include adoption, transfer out, return to owner, and shelter-neuter-return.

All lost or missing animals | Any animal who has gone missing or was stolen while in your custody. When you calculate live release, animals who are lost or missing must be included in non-live outcomes.

ALL death and euthanasia | Every animal who came into the shelter alive but died or was euthanized should be counted. These deaths should include all animals regardless of whether the animal died in a kennel, in a foster home, or was euthanized. No animals should be left out of this count regardless of their age, medical condition, or how they entered the system.

Live release rate | Use the following calculation to calculate live release rate and provide the percentage. The method of calculations should always be shared publicly along with the live release rate percentage.

Here’s the bottom line: You can’t save more lives if you don’t know what animals are dying, why they are dying, and how many are dying. For staff and volunteers, as well as community advocates, reviewing the data points listed here is critical to identifying gaps and building lifesaving programs to end the needless euthanasia of at-risk animals.

If you’re a no-kill advocate, remember your shelter is funded by taxpayers, and you therefore have a right to know this information. If your shelter is not publicly sharing this data on a monthly basis, read this blog about how to do a public records request to get the information. You have a right to know what is happening to homeless pets in your community. You are their voice!

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