Best Friends Animal Society Taps into Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence-Assisted Data Tools to Direct Lifesaving Programs and Services for Homeless Pets

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Best Friends :

KANAB, Utah (February 22, 2024) Best Friends Animal Society, a leading national animal welfare organization dedicated to ending the killing of cats and dogs in America’s shelters by 2025, is launching the most comprehensive and sophisticated data model in animal welfare. Beginning with its 2023 dataset, an annual look at US animal sheltering, the innovative organization will now use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to power a predictive data model that will help determine the best way to reduce the lifesaving gap for dogs and cats in U.S. shelters. This new methodology will help city and county leaders to better prioritize funding and programmatic needs and provide critical insights to the animal welfare community to save more pets in shelters nationwide. 

The sophisticated model uses collected data (obtained directly from shelters, public sources, and FOIA requests) from more than 93% of all known brick & mortar shelters in the country. The information is overlaid with the social vulnerability index, post-pandemic impact information and county populations, among other factors that impact pets entering shelters, enabling the organization to predict outcomes. 

“In 2016, Best Friends put a stake in the ground to take the country no-kill by 2025 knowing animal sheltering could be done differently and gathering and analyzing data seemed like a logical start to make an impact,” said Julie Castle, CEO, Best Friends Animal Society. “At the time, no one even knew how many shelters there were in the country. It’s amazing how we’ve grown from volunteers calling shelters to ask for data, to developing an algorithm that uses state-of-the-art technology to save more pet lives than ever before.”  

With the new predictive data model, Best Friends will be able to use and share regular data insights that will:  

  • Define community and environmental factors that influence shelter programs and operations.  
  • Explore community characteristics and the lingering impacts of the pandemic on cats and dogs. 
  • Call out anticipated changes for shelters in their path toward pet lifesaving and achieving no-kill. 
  • Enable significant progress toward no-kill by identifying clear and direct actionable steps for city leaders and animal welfare professionals to help take their shelters no-kill. 

“Data and insights are critical to how we save lives and empower our shelter partners all across the country,” continued Castle. “The no-kill movement is now powered by machine learning and AI-assisted decision making through our data tools, like our Pet Lifesaving Dashboard, and predictive data modeling. These tools have earned us recognition for our data science expertise—and have given the movement faster, more accurate and more actionable data than ever before — which means we can work even faster together to target lifesaving efforts where they’ll make the biggest impact.” 

Nationally 4.76 million dogs and cats entered shelters in 2023, and over 3.9 million of them were saved. However, around 380,000 cats and dogs died needlessly, a slight increase over 2022. Despite the very real challenges facing most shelters, there were nearly as many shelters which had lifesaving improvements than had setbacks. 

“As we push forward toward ending the killing of homeless pets across the country, real time data will save time, resources, and most of all it will save lives. The incredible additional information now included in our data will enable us to work with partners, animal welfare professionals, advocates, and elected officials to hyper-target the exact right programs and direct the precise needed resources to communities where they will make the greatest impact and help the country achieve no-kill in 2025,” said Castle.  

Next month, Best Friends will begin rolling out localized data looking at both state and local-level numbers including: intake, killed, saved, and save rates, along with highlighting how cat and dog lifesaving patterns have changed since the pandemic. In the coming months, Best Friends will begin releasing deeper analysis and insights to better understand where shelters stand and what help they need on a regular basis. 

Individuals can help save lives by choosing to adopt from a shelter or rescue group instead of purchasing from a breeder or store, spay or neuter their pets, foster, volunteer, donate, and advocate for proven lifesaving programming for pets. 

*A 90 percent save rate is the nationally recognized benchmark to be considered “no-kill,” factoring that approximately 10 percent of pets who enter shelters have medical or behavioral circumstances that warrant humane euthanasia rather than killing for lack of space.  

About Best Friends Animal Society

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to around 400,000 last year. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary. Working collaboratively with a network of more than 4,600 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All®. For more information, visit