An At-Risk Dog By Any Other Name
To best target and focus spay/neuter resources in a community, it is vital to gather and analyze data that represents at least 85% of the intake in the community – because what enters a single facility may not tell the full story. The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland, Oregon, has been working together for several years with this community-focused model.
Recently, we have been working with several of the partners in the Alliance, to map their animal data into our GIS tools. The Alliance will use GIS as another tool to better analyze where intake for at-risk populations is highest, so that S/N services can be most accurately applied.
After a few months of training, cleaning, and developing reports to best pull the needed data, we were able to geocode the Alliance’s data and load it into our GIS viewer. When I began to analyze the data, I focused on both cats and one of the most at-risk breeds of dogs – the pit-type dog. It quickly became apparent that we had a bit of a dirty data issue to clean up for the community. When I searched the tool for “American Pit Bull Terrier,” I found all the data points on the north side of the river – curious, eh? When I searched “Pit bull, American,” all of the data points were located on the south side of the river! Running a frequency count of all breeds, we found that pit bull-type dogs were represented by more than 7 different names, including mastiff.
Why does the name matter? Take a look at these two map images…
A community risk is hard to analyze with data points like these – and it is possible that there are even more! “Mastiff,” for example, was the fifth largest intake, though few remembered many actual mastiffs entering their facilities. Certainly I understand the urge for creative coding to help the public look past breed to see the dog inside… however, what gets coded into the shelter software should go in under the philosophy of “I need this data to help me better focus my limited resources toward the animals most at risk…”
While it is very likely that some of the dogs labeled under the pit-type label may have little or no American pit heritage, based on looks they are often most at risk in shelters. If an agreement is made to code them all the same in the shelter software, we can be assured to be better able to support them and help get more home and keep them out of the shelter. The Portland shelters are working to clean up their breed categories, and I suspect you may want to as well.
Can we start here by agreeing on a category? What should we call this group of dogs?