September 13, 2023
The new year always brings new opportunities to reflect, reevaluate, and reset – and with the new year ahead, we are reflecting on some of the often well-intentioned, but inaccurate data practices we heard about in 2022 to provide a list of Data Don’ts for you to reevaluate so you can reset in 2023. The insights our industry can gain from animal sheltering data are only as valuable as the data being entered. Inconsistent and inaccurate data practices inhibit life-changing programs, delay funding, and erode public trust.
Leave these Data Don’ts behind in 2023:
1. DON’T count cats from Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) as intakes/outcomes. Cats that are trapped with the intent of providing a medical service and to then be returned to their capture location should be counted as a service, not intake.
In contrast, community cats who entered the shelter as a stray and whose found location is known would qualify as a Stray intake and Return to Field (RTF) outcome. These cats were not trapped for the intent of a service, they entered with the intent of an intake and the best outcome was then determined to be a RTF candidate.
2. DON’T count animal movement within an organization as a transfer in/out (or another intake/outcome category). Animals that move within your organization from one area of a shelter to another, from one building to another, or any other movement where the animal remains under the legal control of the same organization should be counted as a location or status change, not an intake/outcome. The intake should only occur when the animal physically arrives at the organization and the outcome should only occurs when the final disposition for that animal occurs (adoption, return to owner, etc.)
This includes moving animals between satellite locations, animals going out to or returning from foster homes, PetSmart & other retail adoption centers, treatment at private practice veterinarians, etc. Even if your shelter software labels these functions as intakes/outcomes, make sure they’re being excluded from your final intakes/outcomes on reports.
3. DON’T count animals received from another agency’s cruelty/disaster case as anything other than a Transfer In. The joint research between Shelter Animals Count (SAC) and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on HSUS’s beagle rescue in 2022 shined a light on a troubling theme: nearly 1/10 of organizations who received dogs from this rescue counted the intake as an Owner Surrender, Impound/Seizure, or other intake category, however, the only category that should have been used is Transfer In since HSUS was the agency that led the impound/seizure and were granted ownership. The agencies that then received dogs were receiving them as a Transfer In from HSUS.
Unless ownership is being transferred to your organization directly from the owner or you are awarded ownership directly by law enforcement, any animals you receive as a transfer of ownership from another agency should be a Transfer In. Remember, you can (and are encouraged to) differentiate Transfer Ins in your data as either in-state, out-of-state, or out-of-country to allow for even better insights on animal movement among organizations.
4. DON’T count “intake prevention”, “crisis foster/temporary boarding”, or other services as an intake/outcome. Tracking Community Services data is tricky and limited to your software solution, we get it! But tracking services as an intake/outcome over-inflates the animals in need of sheltering and undervalues the services you’re providing your community.
Even if your shelter software labels these services as intakes/outcomes, make sure they’re being excluded from your final intakes/outcomes on reports. ShelterLuv has a free tool to track Community Services that aligns with the Shelter Animal Counts definitions and many other shelter softwares are expanding their solutions to fill this need as well. Have a process that’s working well for you? Let us know!
5. DON’T count Good Samaritan “found pets” as intakes unless you are taking ownership and possession. Many organizations are asking Good Samaritans if they’re willing to house the stray pets they find in lieu of bringing into the shelter. Unless the shelter takes legal responsibility of the pet and will determine the pet’s final outcome, facilitating a peer-to-peer lost/found service is just that – a service; it is not an intake.
6. DON’T reinvent the wheel. We’ve taken the guess work out of data definitions and which data goes where. Our Animal Welfare Glossary, Intake-Outcome Database Definitions, and Community Services Database Definitions are all great resources to use to train new staff, use as a reminder for existing staff, and settle those occasional questions and debates on how data should be counted. We will be expanding this a lot more in 2023, too!
September 13, 2023
September 12, 2023