The whole idea of keeping and sharing statistics can be daunting and even a little frightening. It takes valuable staff time to collect and record all that information, and we all know that numbers taken out of context can be used against us.
But the truth is, without accurate data about which animals are coming into your shelter and why, which animals are making it out alive and which are not, you have no way of knowing how to improve your performance.
Who's Coming In, and Why?
You need to know how many animals are coming in, who they are (dogs, cats, kittens, or puppies, breed, gender, etc.), and where they are coming from. You also need to keep track of why they are coming to you.
From this data alone you can learn several things, such as:
The breeds of adult dogs most commonly brought in as strays and the communities or neighborhoods where these dogs are found
Neighborhoods in your community that are the major source of ferals cats
Reasons owners give when they relinquish a pet
The percentage of dogs and cats you take in who are spayed or neutered
Who's Going Home, Who's Not Leaving, and Why?
Being able to look at adoption and RTO numbers, especially compared to intake and euthanasia numbers, helps you identify where your agency is succeeding and where you may need some different strategies. For example, you can use this data to find out:
Do puppies get adopted while adolescent dogs languish?
Are cats in your shelter dying from URI and other diseases?
What is the average length of stay for adult cats and dogs?
What Can You Do with the Data?
Good data will enable you to maximize your human and financial resources. Using your data, you can identify animal populations within your shelter and community who are critically at risk of euthanasia and then pinpoint programs that have a direct impact on these animals. Your data is also valuable in measuring the success of the programs you implement.
The Community's Animals
Be aware that good data, even when it shows that too many animals are dying, is also your best defense against public criticism. Of course, you have an obligation to account for every animal in your care—but it goes much farther than that. These are, after all, the community's animals. If you can explain which animals are dying and why—and outline plans to target your most at-risk populations—you'll have a much better chance of engaging the public in your efforts.
Don't Be Daunted by Data
If you don't think of yourself as a "numbers person," and are wondering how to get a handle on your agency's statistics, help is close at hand:
First, have a look at How to Collect Animal Data for a step-by-step process for how to implement a solid data collection system in your organization.
If your agency already uses shelter software, you can use the reporting features in the software to find out what you need to know. Just be sure that you are collecting meaningful data in order to obtain useful results. To find out what you need to collect, see What Animal Data Do You Need?.
If your agency still uses paper records, now is the time to go electronic. Don't let funding be a roadblock. Some products are free, including PetPoint, the most widely used shelter management software in North America. Because PetPoint is web-based, one computer with an internet connection is all you'll need.