Shelter Profiles and Transparency
We will also be publishing shelter data we collect starting sometime in the spring of 2020.
Sometimes, a request for data from a shelter is not necessary because the shelter is already publishing comprehensive outcome data (current and historical) on its website, along with its Form 990 tax filings.
In other cases, not only does the shelter not publish any outcome data on its website, but its press shop will say that the organization “doesn’t have it” or “doesn’t keep track of that” which is almost impossible because any every grant or license application for an animal shelter requires the same data TCR is requesting.
As I worked with different reporters in different cities and towns across the country this summer on our early shelter profiles, I was surprised to find so much tap dancing around data. I thought the range of responses was interesting but, ultimately, a reflection of the organization’s health and competence of its executive leadership.
Therefore, now that TCR is up and running, we have added four new fields of information to our profile pages, which our reporters will post in real time, and those are the shelter’s transparency indicators:
Publishes Outcome Data On its Website: Yes or No
Publishes Historical Outcome Data On its Website: Yes or No
Makes Data Available On Request: Yes or No
Publishes Form 990’s On its Website: Yes or No
Rather than wait until we publish our profiles, we will bring our readers updates from our reporters in the field. The good and the bad.
Having said that: One thing that makes reporting about shelter data more challenging is that, oddly, there is no official language of data in the animal shelter world. A lot of progress has been made to bring all animal shelters under one set of rules, definitions, and formulae for collecting and evaluating data, but important discrepancies persist in how animal shelters collect, evaluate, and report data, as well as how terms are defined. For example, some shelters do not account for owner-requested euthanasias while others do.
The closest the shelter world has come to standardizing its numbers, rules and creating a universal language of statistics to measure the outcomes of the animals who enter was in 2004, when leaders from animal shelters across the country met in California and discussed the need for standardizing the ways in which they recorded data, calculated the data, and defined the points of data collection. They signed what was known as the Asilomar Accords.
Most shelters today are signatories to the Asilomar Accords. Some stick more closely to that agreement than others. Some cherry pick data. Others report monthly and annual data but do not provide historical data. Some publish all data on their websites. Some publish no data on their websites. Some shelters do not include owner-requested euthanasias in their euthanasia numbers. Some do. Etc. Etc.
All data can be manipulated, and all data depends heavily on how terms are defined.
The Canine Review is still in the process of coming up with a format for analyzing and reporting shelter data. In the interim, our profiles take care to explain any data we discuss.
Here is the best summary of what each Live Release Rate tells us and what it does not tell us:
Here are a few terrific resources:
The Asilomar Accords (2004) https://www.shelteranimalscount.org/docs/default-source/DataResources/2004aaccords5.pdf?sfvrsn=31c1ff76_0
“What Is Your Rate?” http://www.aspcapro.org/sites/pro/files/What%20is%20your%20Rate%2010_2013.pdf
ABCs of Calculating the Live Release Rate https://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/uploads/4/8/6/2/48624081/lrr2019.pdf