Year of Publication

2013

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

It is estimated that shelters spend $1 billion annually dealing with unwanted animals (Frank & Carlisle-Frank, 2007). Approximately six to eight million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters each year, and three to four million of these animals are then euthanized (HSUS, 2009). These are staggering statistics, yet in the early nineties, euthanasia estimates ranged from seven to seventeen million dogs/cats annually (Frank & Carlisle-Frank, 2011). Such improvements have resulted from a greater understanding of, and resources being dedicated to, the issue. Unfortunately, the rate of decline for euthanasia has slowed because programs have not been accurately targeted toward animal populations that remain at greater risk (Marsh, 2010).

One hindrance to addressing the problem and focusing on specific programs has been data generation and measurement. “Few mechanism exist today to inform such [activities], and data, if it exists at all, is often fragmented and difficult to get” (Wenstrup & Dowidchuk, 1999, p. 311). In 2004, the Live Release Rate (LRR) formula was created in an attempt to address this problem. The purpose was to enable shelters to analyze their performance and target aid/educational programs as needed based on an agreed-upon set of definitions and practices pertaining to the treatment/care of companion animals.

Nevertheless, the management by Maddie’s Fund of the program in which the LRR forms are formatted/archived, erodes the comparability of the data. In some cases, the raw data did not match the statistics reported to Maddie’s Fund, or the data archived by Maddie’s Fund did not match the statistics reported on the LRR form. Other examples of data incomparability were found while exploring the implementation, use, and maintenance of the LRR forms/data.

An example Difference-in-Differences analysis was conducted, using the LRR data, in order to determine whether there is a relationship between mandatory spay/neuter laws and

Traditional Shelters/Animal Control Facilities’ intake levels. For Dallas, TX, the results were split: for the Traditional Shelter, the law appeared to decrease intake levels by a statistically meaningful amount, but the same findings did not appear for the Animal Control center. However, the results are significantly limited by a small data set, and should be pursued further when more LRR statistics become available for areas with mandatory spay/neuter laws. This same statistically significant dichotomy between the two shelters was also seen in terms of the law’s relationship with an individual animal’s chances of successfully leaving the shelter alive.

Overall the LRR is an appropriate outcome measurement and, ultimately, the program could be extremely informative; however, multiple improvements are recommended. First, the LRR form could include more specific intake categories (ie. stray, owner give-up, and the like) so that organizations can determine the segment of the population from which they are obtaining a majority of their animals, and target programs accordingly. Additionally, a means of ensuring accuracy/comparability among the data is imperative if this program it to have any real basis for informing policy development. Perhaps, Maddie’s Fund could create its own shelter software with portal access, to track animal statistics that could be implemented as part of the grants the non-profit disseminates. This measure could streamline data generation and improve accuracy/consistency.

Based on the above statements, it seems apparent that a shelter should not spend resources lobbying its local government to pass a mandatory spay/neuter law due to the numerous limitations/inconsistencies of the study. With that said, the findings are strong enough to justify a shelter funding a study of its own or in collaboration with other organizations, which is significant because nonprofits are often resistant to exhausting resources on activities that are not considered to be direct services (Smith, Bucklin & Associates, Inc., 2000).

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