Trends in Intake and Outcome Data for Colorado Animal Shelters and Rescues

February 1, 2019

Audience: Executive Leadership, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: University of Denver
Investigator(s): Sloane M. Hawes, Bridget A. Camacho, Philip Tedeschi and Kevin N. Morris
Grant Amount: n/a
Project Type: Basic Research
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

This cross-sectional study from the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, at University of Denver, aimed to measure data trends in cat and dog intake, euthanasia, adoption, return to owner, transfers, deaths and live releases in 76 animal shelter and rescue facilities in Colorado from 2000 through 2015. Findings suggest substantial improvements that reflected changes in unhoused animal populations, the impact of resource allocation to spay-neuter programs, adoption marketing, inter-shelter transfers, and evidence-based improvements in operations.

Objective(s)

To measure temporal trends in animal shelter and rescue intakes and outcomes for dogs and cats in Colorado from 2000 through 2015 and compare trends from 2008 through 2015 with previously reported trends from 2000 through 2007.

Methods

This was a serial cross-sectional study from 76 animal shelter and rescue facilities with annual intake and outcome data consistently reported to the state of Colorado from 2000 through 2015. Data was collected for dogs and cats each year during the study period on 5 annual scales: number of animals taken in, number of animals taken in/1,000 state residents, animal outcomes as a percentage of intakes (species-specific scales) and annual live release rate as a function of intakes and outcomes.

Results

Cats:

  • Intake: Trend lines for cats showed an increase in cat intake from 2000 to 2007, followed by a decrease from 2008 to 2015; thus no significant rate change (intake rate for cats: 46,500/year or 11.6/1,000 state residents/year).
  • Euthanasia: From 2000 to 2015, annual number of cats euthanized decreased by > 50% (euthanasia rate for cats: 4,700/year, 1.2/1,000 state residents/year, or 11.6% of cat intakes/year).
  • Adoption: Annual number of cats adopted from 2000 to 2015 increased by 15.9% (adoption rate for cats: 27,800/year, 5.8/1,000 state residents/year, or 59.6% of cat intakes/year).
  • Return to Owner (RTO): No significant trends were identified in any RTO scale for cats across the entire 16-year period (RTO rate for cats was approximately 2,800/year, 0.6/1,000 state residents/year, or 4.5% of cat intakes).
  • Transfers: Annual number of cats transferred to other facilities increased by 149% from 2000 to 2015. By the end of the study period, the transfer rate for cats was approximately 4,400/year, 1.0/1,000 state residents/year, or 7.0% of cat intakes.
  • Live Release Rate (LRR): For cats, trend lines for LRR as a function of intakes increased by 32.2% from 2000 to 2015. By the end of the period from 2008 to 2015, the LRRs for cats as a function of intakes and outcomes had increased to 76.1% and 77.7%, respectively.

Dogs

  • Intake: From 2000 to 2015, annual number of dogs taken in decreased by 12.4% (intake rate for dogs: 66,000/year or 20.1/1,000 state residents/year).
  • Euthanasia: Annual number of dogs euthanized decreased by > 60% from 2000 to 2015 (euthanasia rate for dogs: 4,800/year, 1.4/1,000 state residents/year, or 7.5% of dog intakes/year)
  • Adoption: Annual number of dogs adopted from 2000 to 2015 remained unchanged; however, when adjusted for human population growth, the trend line indicated a 24% increase (adoption rate for dogs: 36,800/year, 9.4/1,000 state residents/year, or 50.2% of dog intakes/year).
  • Return to Owner (RTO): Annual number of dogs returned to their owners remained constant; however, an overall decrease of 19.3% was observed when accounting for human population growth (RTO rate for dogs: 22,500/year, 5.9/1,000 state residents/year or 29.3% of dog intakes).
  • Transfers: Annual number of dogs transferred from 1 of the 76 shelter and rescue facilities to other facilities increased by 77.1% (transfer rate for dogs: 5,600/year, 1.4/1,000 state residents/year, or 6.5% of dog intakes).
  • Live Release Rate (LRR): LRR for dogs as a function of intakes increased by 12.1% from 2000 to 2015. By the end of the period from 2008 through 2015, the LRRs for dogs as a function of intakes and outcomes had increased to 87.7% and 88.4%, respectively.

Conclusions

These temporal trends suggested substantial improvements in intake and outcome data for sheltered cats and dogs across Colorado that reflected changes in unhoused animal populations, along with the impact of resource allocation to spay-neuter programs, adoption marketing, inter-shelter transfers, and evidence-based improvements in operations. The findings indicated that consistent data collection and interorganizational collaboration can be used to optimize animal shelter capacity and outcomes across a statewide shelter system.

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