USA Cat Shelter Record Keeping

Transporting and transferring cats and dogs
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Are there areas in the USA where a person has to wait before adopting at a cat shelter, while in another area shelters are euthanizing cats because there are not enough adopters? Do we know the answer? Where is the information?

Occasionally, you read on the internet that there are pockets in the USA where the demand for shelter cats outstrips supply. This might be exceptional but as far as I can tell no one knows because record keeping across all shelters in all states is very fragmented and inadequate. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy in the USA collects data from animal shelters. However, the most recent information that they have is dated 1997! Also, it is for 1,000 shelters. That is about a quarter of the total number. The data is very incomplete and old.

The USA therefore does not have accurate and complete information regarding cats in respect of:

  • numbers received
  • reasons for cat being at the shelter
  • numbers reunited with owner
  • numbers euthanised
  • method of euthanasia
  • method of disposal of euthanised cats
  • reasons for euthanasia by category
  • numbers rehomed
  • number of kittens
  • number of adults
  • typical illnesses

If there was a central agency armed with this information, a clear picture of the status of shelter cats could be formed. It is possible that the information may throw up some hidden trends that allow shelters to perform more efficiently and, importantly, work in coordination.

Do any shelters work together to maximize the saving of lives? Perhaps the numbers of unwanted cats is so high that there is no need for coordination and data collection. However, I would doubt that.

Perhaps in one state there may be pockets of excellent TNR programs which means less cats at shelters. If that is the case it would be sensible to ship cats to that area from less well organized areas. That may well be impractical but I think it needs to be looked cat. Does any shelter anywhere ship cats to other shelters as part of their day to day operation?

Well appears that the answer is, Yes. This happened recently. It was decided that every week cats (and dogs) from one shelter in Houston, Texas should be shipped to “nonprofits and adoptive homes in Colorado”.

An example of shelter cat transfers

Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) is overburdened with unwanted cats and dogs while in Colorado, demand exceeds supply. This is a classic example of what I am writing about.

Greg Damianoff who runs BARC says that they have a policy of “live release” as opposed to “adoptions”. What he is saying is that they are finding ways to save lives and one of those ways is to match supply to demand. The shipping-out policy to other shelters is expected to bring the intake rate down by 10%. That translates to 200 animals less and 100 less animals euthanised per month.

The barrier is the cost of the transfer from one shelter to the other. It needs to be funded by the public. BARC has sent out 4,100 to foster and rescue groups in 2013 up to November. It is a big part of their operation. There is an intention to expand the operation.

Why does Colorado have an under-supply problem (not enough shelter cats for people to adopt)? Well, it seems to be because the state has strong nonprofit organisations combined with effective trap-neuter-return programs. Part of the reason for this is because there is  “a program that lets residents donate part of their state income tax refunds to spay/neuter programs.”¹

Is there really a cat overpopulation problem?

I remember an article from years ago when a visitor stated that there was no oversupply of cats. There is no cat overpopulation problem. The problem is a lack of proactive, enlightened and rigorous management at animal shelters.

I don’t know. I reckon no one knows. The only way to find out is to make it obligatory for shelters nationwide to keep a defined amount of data. To keep records.

It is not just the USA.  I am fairly sure that no country makes it obligatory to keep records as prescribed by national government.


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3 thoughts on “USA Cat Shelter Record Keeping”

  1. An accurante account will never happen until the complacent people stand up with us.
    I don’t know if that would get it done. I know it’s hard to understand, but people here are so different from the Brits. Even though I live here, I didn’t grow up with the thinking around me. Most of my neighbors would care less if they ran over and killed one of my cats (and, they have). Cats are, often, considered a nuisance
    and are poisoned, struck with stones, or abused in other ways.
    In the past year, I have had 2 cats succumb to poisoning and had 2 windows broken out from kids throwing rocks at cats on my deck.

    • Your comment, Dee, is quite a revelation to me. I know we are different – Brits and Americans – but I sense we are more different in our attitude towards cats than I had thought. There are malicious people here, of course, who do nasty things to cats but they are very rare in my opinion.

      But there are millions of great American cat caretakers.

  2. Another option is to match individuals in areas where pets are scarce to pets in areas where there is a surplus. My local private no-kill shelter, Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center, has a program where small pets are flown by a corporate sponsor in a private jet to Canada. This shelter also has a good working relationship with the public shelter, and will take in several hundred pets a year from them, and the Canada transfers help them take in more.


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