2016 Animal Sheltering Statistics

Overview of the 2016 Animal Sheltering Statistics from the Shelter Animals Count Database

Shelter Animals Count (SAC) is a collaborative, independent organization formed by a diverse group of stakeholders to create and share the national database of sheltered animal statistics, providing facts, and enabling insights that will improve animal welfare throughout the country. The SAC database follows the Basic Data Matrix specified by the National Federation of Humane Societies. The following paper provides a look at the 2016 data from Shelter Animals Count. The data was limited to organizations that completed a full year of reporting in 2016. The goal of this paper is to give an overview of the current state of the national sheltered animal database developed by SAC and demonstrate progress toward a truly national database that can be used to help understand the state of companion animals in this country. This is the first complete release of the accumulated data to this point; prior to this, the dataset was too sparse to be of any significant use.

It is worth pointing out both the strengths and weaknesses of the dataset. Since there is no national requirement for reporting, all the data is self-reported and contains natural under and over sampling biases in both the geographic and organization type dimensions. In other words, some areas had a greater level of reporting than others. In order to analyze the data, we utilized techniques that would minimize the potential bias effects of the partial dataset. The key methodologies were to aggregate at an appropriate level, which was predominately state, and to utilize ratios to normalize scale. Comparing absolute numbers is difficult because of the incomplete dataset at this point. We hope in the future to have a more complete dataset which will allow far more detailed analysis than we can do today.

Definitions:

The following definitions and abbreviations will be used throughout this paper:

SAC: Shelter Animals Count
OIE: owner intended euthanasia
RBO: relinquished by owner
RTO: return to owner
RTO rate: total RTOs divided by the total of stray intakes
RTF: return to field
Location: unique address for services (organizations may have more than one location)
Adjusted intake: total intake minus transfers in
Adjusted outcome: total outcome minus transfers out
Live outcomes: sum of adoptions, RTOs, RTFs, and transfers
Live outcome rate: live outcomes divided by all outcomes
Euthanasia rate: total euthanasia excluding owner intended euthanasia divided by total outcomes minus owner intended euthanasia

Demographics of Reporting Organizations:

Types of Organizations:

In 2016, a total of 2,255 organizations reported for a full year into the SAC database; additional organizations reported partial data for 2016, but these were excluded from this analysis in order to have a more consistent dataset. The majority of the reporting organizations (56%) described themselves as Rescues without Government Contracts, while 21% described themselves as Shelters without Government Contracts. Shelters with Government Contracts made up 10% of the reports, Government Animal Services made up 9%, and Rescues with Government Contracts made up 1% (Figure 1). The remainder (or remaining 3%) of the organizations did not report their organization type.

Figure 1: Distribution of Organization Type in 2016 SAC Dataset

Distribution of Organization Type in 2016 SAC Dataset

Geographic Distribution:

The 2016 data had organizations reporting from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including 768 different counties, 1,505 cities and 2,065 zip codes (Table 1). However, the data distribution was not uniformly distributed, with some areas lacking organizations reporting into the SAC database. Figure 2 shows the geographic distribution of reporting organizations by county. The lack of reporting organizations and data was especially apparent in the Midwest and the South. The West appeared to have better reporting coverage; however, it must be noted that counties in the West are large and one reporting organization will be displayed as covering a large land area.

Table 1: Summary of Jurisdiction Coverage by Organizational Type

Summary of Jurisdiction Coverage by Organizational Type
 
There are clear differences across states in the number of agencies that are reporting into SAC. California, Florida and Texas had the most reporting organizations and were dominated by groups that classify themselves as Rescue. There may be several reasons for this, including greater marketing of SAC in these states, greater population density, active statewide organizations, and a highly activated community of shelters and rescues. Figure 3 highlights the top 20 states with the highest number of reporting organizations.

Figure 2: Reporting Organizations by County for 2016

Reporting Organizations by County for 2016

Figure 3: States with the Highest Number of Animals Reported

States with the Highest Number of Animals Reported

Organizational Size:

The distribution of organizational size as measured by total intake is shown in Figure 4 The majority of the reporting organizations (30.5%) were small (Greater than 50 animals per year). Of the organizations that report less than 50 animals per year, 23.1% classified themselves as Rescues. California, Texas, and Florida had more reported intakes than any other states.

Figure 4: Distribution of Organizations by Annual Intake Numbers

Distribution of Organizations by Annual Intake Numbers
 
Intake Trends:
 
The total intake reported to SAC for 2016 was 2,681,052 animals. Table 2 summarizes the intake data by intake method and type of organization. Organizations that were either Government Animal Services or Shelters/Rescues with Government Contracts made up 62.7% of the total animal intake (33.9% from Government Animal Services, 28.1% from Shelters with Government Contracts and 0.7% from Rescues with Government Contracts). Shelters without Government Contracts brought in 23.8% of the total intake and Rescues without Government Contracts brought in 12.4%. 1.1% of the intake was reported by organizations whose organization type was Unspecified.

There was a substantial difference in the size of the organization based on its type. Government Animal Services were the largest intake facilities (mean 4,019, median 1,803, max 44,278) followed by Shelters with Government Contracts (mean 3,356, median 1,769, max 28,843), Shelters without Government Contracts (mean 3,100, median 556, max 21,984), Rescues with Government Contracts (mean 557, median 180, max 5,186), organizations with an Unspecified organization type (mean 527, median 139, max 5,080) and finally Rescues without Government Contracts (mean 245, median 180, max 6,881).

In general, organizations that were involved in governmental operations handled significantly more animals than organizations that do not, probably highlighting that many of these organizations are required by statute or contract to be open admission or perform animal control services.

The most common source of intake was from strays at 1,345,557, which made up 50.2% of the total intake. Owner relinquishments at 660,807 made up 24.6% and transfers in at 435,810 made up 24.6%. There were 72,067 owner intended euthanasias representing 2.7% of the intake. There were 166,811 intakes, or 6.2%, that were classified as “other.”

Table 2: Summary of 2016 Intake Data

Summary of 2016 Intake Data

Species and Age Distribution:

The Basic Data Matrix requires the reporting of data by species and age. In 2016, there were 1,422,671 dog intakes and 1,258,381 cat intakes. Adjusting these numbers by removing transfers in to the shelter they are 1,139,871 and 1,105,371 respectively. It is interesting that cat and dog intake was nearly equal in total, but Government Animal Services brought in more dogs than cats by a substantial margin. In contrast, Shelters without Government Contracts brought in far more cats than dogs. Figure 5 shows the intake numbers by species and organization type.

Figure 5: Adjusted Intake by Species and Organization Type

Adjusted Intake by Species and Organization Type

Community Need Indicator:

Although the sample set is currently too sparse and organizationally biased to make highly specific assessments of community need, one important indicator of need is the number of juvenile animals that are entering the system. It can be assumed that the higher percentage of juvenile animals entering the system reflects a much higher overall need in the community because: (a) it suggests that the overall fertility of the animal population in that community is higher, resulting in more uncontrolled breeding and a higher percentage of juvenile animals and (b) the ability for that community to absorb homeless animals is low as indicated by the high percentage of highly placeable animals entering the system. The specific nature of the need cannot be determined from the current dataset. Table 3 shows the breakdown of intakes by cat, kitten, dog, and puppy by organization type. For the purposes of this analysis, we decided to include all of the “age unknown” animals into the adult category. We also adjusted the overall intake by removing any intakes from transfer into the organization. A kitten, puppy, and juvenile ratio was calculated by dividing the juvenile intake by the total intake for that group. In other words, the kitten ratio is the total reported kittens divided by the total of all reported cats; the juvenile ratio was the combination of all the kitten and puppies divided by the total intake.

The overall kitten ratio was 39.8%, the puppy ratio was 16.3% and the juvenile ratio was 27.9%. These ratios are lower than what would be calculated without adjusting for transfers, suggesting that a higher percentage of juvenile animals are transferred than are coming in from the community. This illogical conclusion indicates that the dataset is most likely under-sampled in facilities that take in animals directly from the community.

The highest kitten intake ratios were in the Rescues, while Shelters with Government Contracts and Government Animal Services have the lowest. This may be a reflection that many municipalities no longer actively provide animal control services for cats, while many of the rescue groups have now branched into TNR and community-based cat programs that generate a significant number of kitten intakes from the field.

Table 2: Summary of 2016 Intake Data

Summary of 2016 Intake Data
 
Figure 6 shows the average puppy ratio for each state. The hotter colors represent a much higher puppy intake ratio while the cooler colors represent areas with a much lower puppy intake ratio. The southern US, Appalachia, and parts of the Southwest had very high puppy intake ratios suggesting that these areas had a high level of community need. Texas sits in the middle of the distribution, while areas in the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Northeast are on the low end of the spectrum.

Figure 6: Map of Average Puppy Intake Ratio by State

Map of Average Puppy Intake Ratio by State
 
Figure 7 is a map of the average kitten intake ratio for each state. The kitten intake ratio rates were substantially higher than those seen for puppies. It is important to note that many of the new trends in sheltering and cat management have led to decreased intake simply due to the fact that many cats are not ever brought to the shelter. This could potentially distort the results in two ways: (a) it could lower the adult cat intake and artificially inflate the kitten intake ratio and (b) it may obscure our knowledge around cats in the community. This really highlights the challenges that we face with assessing cat outcomes simply through animals coming into the sheltering and rescue system.

Figure 7: Map of Average Kitten Intake Ratio by State

Map of Average Kitten Intake Ratio by State

Seasonality:

Shelter Animals Count data reporting captures monthly data which allows for an evaluation of seasonality. Figure 8 shows the adjusted intake for both cats and dogs across the country. Interestingly, there was very little seasonality in the dog intake with only a 19% variability form the high and low of the seasons, whereas cats had a seasonal variability of over 115%. This variability highlights the seasonal fertility of cats.

Figure 8: Adjusted Intake by Month for Cats and Dogs

Adjusted Intake by Month for Cats and Dogs

Transfers In:

The 435,810 transfers into the shelter and rescue system made up 16.2% of the total intake across the county. It is important to note that transfers in might be in-state or out-of-state as SAC does not currently track the origin of the animals. For Rescues without Government Contracts, 43.1% of intake was from transfers. For Shelters without Government Contracts 32.0% of intake was from transfers. On the other hand, transfers made up only 9.4% of intakes for Shelters with Government Contracts and less than 1% of intake for Government Animal Services. Cats made up 12.1 % of the total cat intakes.

Table 4: Top 15 States for Receiving Animal Transfers

Top 15 States for Receiving Animal Transfers

Relinquishments:

The second most common form of intake was owner relinquishment, making up almost 25% of the total intake in the country. In order to normalize the issues with the incomplete dataset, we examined relinquishment as a percent of total intake by species. Figure 9 plots relinquishments as a percent of total intake by organization type.

Figure 9: Relinquishment as a Percentage of Total Intake by Species and Organization Type

Relinquishment as a Percentage of Total Intake by Species and Organization Type Shelters without Government Contracts had the highest relinquishment rates for both cats and dogs. Government Animal Services had low relinquishment intake for both dogs and cats. Rescues without Government Contracts had higher relinquishments for dogs and lower relinquishment intake for cats. Although it is not 100% clear why these trends exist, it can be speculated that the public felt more comfortable relinquishing to a private shelter/rescues than a government animal service facility. Rescues and some Government Animal Services may be low on cats because many of these groups don’t offer relinquishment services.

Outcome Trends:
 
Total outcomes of 2,664,918 animals were reported to SAC for 2016. Although the Basic Data Matrix asks for starting and ending inventory, the reporting was inconsistent and makes a direct measurement of animal inventory impossible. However, it can be inferred. There was a 16,134 animal difference between the intake and outcome totals, which represents the number of animals still in the care of the reporting organizations. Table 5 shows the outcome data by organization type and outcome type. Adoptions represented 54.5% of the outcomes, followed by transfers out at 14.2%, euthanasia at 12.8%, RTO at 9.9%, RTF at 2.9%, OIE at 2.6%, died at 1.8% and lost at 0.3%. Government Animal Services accounted for 33.9% of the outcomes, Shelters with Government Contracts made up 27.7% and Shelters without Government Contracts were at 24.1%. Rescues without Governmental Contracts made up 12.5% of the total outcomes.

Species and Age Distribution:

There were 1,415,708 dogs (53%) and 1,249,210 cats (47%) with reported outcomes. Based on the total intake this implies that there were 6,963 dogs and 9,171 cats remaining in shelter and rescue organizations.

Adoptions made up 52.4% of all outcomes for dogs and 56.9% for all cats. RTOs were at 16.5% for dogs and only 2.5% for cats and transfers were 16.9% and 11.1% respectively (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Percent of Total Outcome by Outcome Method

Percent of Total Outcome by Outcome Method Euthanasia, died and other were all higher in cats. The advent of RTF was apparent in the data and represented 6.2% of the total outcomes for cats. OIE for dogs was 45,733 (or 3.2%) and was substantially higher than seen in cats at 23,587 (or 1.9%).

Table 5: Summary of Outcome Data From the 2016 Reporting Organization by Type

Summary of Outcome Data From the 2016 Reporting Organization by Type

Live Outcomes:

For the purposes of this paper, we considered a live outcome to be either an adoption, an RTO, a transfer out, or an RTF. Total live outcomes were 2,172,305 and represented an overall live outcome rate of 83.7%. Rescues without Government Contracts had a rate of 94.1% followed by Shelters without Government Contracts at 91.1%. The organizations that were either Government Animal Services or Shelters/Rescues with Government Contracts were unsurprisingly lower with Rescues with Government Contracts at 83.8%, Shelters with Government Contracts at 81.2%, and Government Animal Services at 76.6%. As mentioned above, organizations that are either mandated or contracted to do municipal animal services had a lower live outcome rate most likely due to the nature of their operations which tended to be more open admission and/or have broader animal services such as cruelty and hoarding cases.

Table 6 shows a summary of live outcomes by organization type and species. Of the live outcomes, 1,214,532 were canine and 957,777 were feline. The live outcome rate was 85.8% for canines and 76.7% for felines.

Table 6: Summary of Live Outcomes and Rates by Organization Type

Summary of Live Outcomes and Rates by Organization Type
 
Figure 11 shows the live outcome rate by state. The hotter colors represent the lowest live outcome rates. States in the South and Appalachia had the lowest overall rates. As mentioned in the beginning of this paper, the current dataset is incomplete and has both spatial and organization type sampling biases. It is important to note that because of these sampling biases, understanding the true live outcome rate from this dataset was difficult. However, by looking at it as a ratio, the effects of non-uniform and under sampling is normalized across states.

Figure 11: Live Outcome Rates by State. Hotter colors represent lower live outcome rates.

Live Outcome Rates by State. Hotter colors represent lower live outcome rates.

Transfers Out:

There were a total of 377,125 animals that were transferred out of organizations. Dogs accounted for 63.3% (238,889) of the transfers while cats made up 36.7% (138,236). Government Animal Services had the largest number of transfers out at 184,902 followed by Shelters with Government Contracts at 105,230.

An important measurement of transfers out is as a percent of intakes. Table 7 shows the transfer rates by organization type. Government Animal Services had an overall transfer rate of 20.3%, followed by Rescues with Government Contracts, Shelters with Government Contracts, and Rescues. The transfer rates were 16.8% for canines and 11.0% for felines and an overall of 14.1%. These high rates of transfer highlight the growing importance of transfer as a mechanism to help animals.

Table 7: Transfer Out Rates by Organization Type. (Transfer rate is number of transfers divided by the total intake.)

Transfer Out Rates by Organization Type. (Transfer rate is number of transfers divided by the total intake.
 
Figures 12 and 13 show the maps of the canine and feline transfer out rates for the country. The hotter colors represent states that had the highest transfer out rates. Mississippi had the highest rate of canine transfers out at 39.3%. Many of the Southern and Appalachian states also had high transfer out rates that ranged from 22% to 35%. The Dakotas also had relatively high rates.

Figure 12: Transfer Out Rates by State for Canines. (Hotter colors represent higher transfer out rates.)

Transfer Out Rates by State for Canines.

Figure 13: Transfer Out Rates by State for Felines. (Hotter colors represent higher transfer out rates.)

Transfer Out Rates by State for Felines.
 
There was a substantially different pattern in feline transfers. The highest transfer rate states were New York, Nevada, and South Dakota. It is unclear why this was the case, but possibly represented a shortcoming in the current dataset and/or active intra-state transfer partnerships within these states.

Return to Owner:

Table 8 shows the return to owner rates by organization type and species. The RTO rate for dogs was 33.9% while the RTO rate for cats was 4.7%. Shelters, both with and without government contracts, along with Government Animal Services had the highest rates for RTOs for dogs. Rescues had the lowest RTO rates for both dogs and cats which was probably an indication that not many Rescues picked up stray animals.

Table 8: RTO Rates by Organization and Species

RTO Rates by Organization and Species

Return to Field:

There were 77,585 RTF outcomes reported for felines and 866 RTF outcomes for dogs. The relatively large number of RTF outcomes was an indication of the growth of RTF programs around the country.

Figure 14: Feline RTF Rates by State

Feline RTF Rates by State
 
Figure 14 shows the feline RTF rate by state. The highest rates were found in New Mexico, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, and Rhode Island. These are states in which there were known and active large-scale RTF programs operating. There were 866 dog RTFs in California, New Mexico, Virginia, Missouri, and Colorado. The nature of these canine RTF programs is unknown and it is possible these are misclassified RTOs.

Euthanasia Rate:

The euthanasia rate was calculated by taking the total number of euthanasias and dividing by the total outcomes. We felt that this method of calculation was a more appropriate measurement for this dataset. There were a total of 341,514 euthanasias reported: 130,795 canines and 210,719 felines. This represents a total euthanasia rate of 12.8%. The euthanasia rate was 9.2% for dogs and 16.9% for cats, reflecting that cats are still behind dogs in terms of live outcomes.

Figure 15: Euthanasia Rates by State

Euthanasia Rates by State
 
Figure 15 shows the euthanasia rate for each state. Louisiana and Alabama have the highest rates at 27% and 33%, respectively. As has been shown in many of the other attributes related to community need, the South and Appalachia stand out. Euthanasia rates were also higher than average in Texas, California, Nevada, and Idaho.

Table 9 shows the euthanasia rates by type of organization, species, and age. Organizations that are either Government Animal Services or Shelters/Rescues with Government Contracts had the highest euthanasia rates, which likely reflects of the nature of their operations which tend to be more open admission and/or have broader animal services such as cruelty and hoarding cases.

Table 9: Euthanasia Rates by Species and Age

Euthanasia Rates by Species and Age

Summary:

The 2016 Shelter Animals Count dataset highlights the importance and significance of continuing to build a national animal sheltering database. The current dataset has both an organization type and geographic bias which is evidenced from the distribution of size and number of organizations.

A key point to make about the dataset and its use is that it has limitations in analysis as it is not comprehensive of all animal sheltering organizations. Its primary value comes from seeing the macro and geographic trends in things like juvenile intake ratio and transfer volumes.

Although the dataset is still incomplete, there are some important trends that can be seen throughout the country ranging from species differences to geographic differences. As the database continues to grow, we anticipate being able to do much more detailed analysis and assessments to key community trends across the country.

Appendix:

Shelter Animals Count: https://www.shelteranimalscount.org
Basic Data Matrix: https://www.shelteranimalscount.org/data/basic-data-matrix
Explore the Data: https://www.shelteranimalscount.org/data/explore-the-data
Request the Data: https://www.shelteranimalscount.org/data/request-the-data
Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.shelteranimalscount.org/who-we-are/about
Contact Us: info@shelteranimalscount.org

Credits:

Roger Haston, Marie Abbondanza, Jodi Buckman, Susan Cosby-Jennings, Janelle Dixon, Inga Fricke, David Haworth, Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Nikki Kelley, Julie Levy, Sara Kent, Vicki Kilmer, Jan McHugh-Smith, Lisa Pedersen, Jyothi Robertson, Anne Reed, Jim Tedford, Shelly Thompson, Diane Webber, Sara White, Steve Zeidman