Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is an exciting new tool for mapping, literally, the geographic location of animals coming into shelters. These maps allow you to see where at-risk animals — cats and dogs living in areas that are sending the most animals into shelters — are coming from and target those hot spots with intervention programs.
Learn about the possibilities and find out how to organize a GIS program in your community.
Top Tips from this Webinar
Get Started by Getting Help
Look for GIS analysts/experts in your area. Enlisting volunteers from your local universities' GIS programs would be a great starting point.
Close Enough Isn't Good Enough
When collecting data on found animals, make sure you get a specific address. Locations like "backyard" or "route 41" aren't helpful, but "The Old Navy on route 41" is. Allison emphasizes that it's crucial to get the address where the animal was found, not just the home address of the person bringing him in.
Easy Peasy Paperwork
Make sure your intake form is simple for the public bringing in found animals. Have the most important fields up top, so they won't be skipped, like: type of animal, address found, zip code.
Visuals and Analogies
Miller offers a couple of great visuals that you can use to explain the function of GIS to the staff/volunteers who manage your data, as well as to your stakeholders.
Weather map analogy: A hot spot map shows the density of intake similar to a weather radar map where red areas are the most dense and blue areas are the least dense.Tree analogy: Instead of picking lowest-hanging fruit from all the orchards in your community (i.e. offering services to those who already know the benefits of spay/neuter), pick all the fruit from one tree at a time (spay/neuter all the animals in a target area).
Get the Big Picture
To get the most accurate picture of at-risk areas, you'll need to look beyond your agency and analyze the data of at least 85% of your community. This means working with other shelters and rescues. Yes, it's a big project, but it's a fantastic way to strengthen relationships within your community!
Greg Miller has more than 15 years of experience utilizing geographic analysis to explore a wide range of topics, from the most at-risk shelter animals and community medicine clients to area demographics. In his current role, he analyzes relevant datasets in support of ASPCA programs and partner communities seeking to maximize the impact of limited resources. Miller has been a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners since 2008, and also became certified as a Geographic Information Systems Professional that year.