How our progress maps are developed

Sources for shelter data include Shelter Animals Count (self-reported and opted in to a Best Friends–led coalition), public websites, government-provided data and voluntary data submissions. Where information is derived from data supplied by Shelter Animals Count, Shelter Animals Count specifically disclaims all responsibility for any analysis, interpretations, conclusions and opinions contained in the information presented. While Best Friends attempts to validate data sources, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of these sources.

Owner-requested euthanasia

After considering feedback from our partners, Best Friends recently removed owner-requested euthanasia (ORE) from our save rate calculations to avoid penalizing shelters offering this service. Shelters that offer pet euthanasia as a service to the public may be more affordable than local veterinary clinics, thus ensuring access to a humane solution in terminal situations where resources may be limited.

The Best Friends’ standard for qualifying an ORE as true euthanasia is as follows:

  • A veterinarian has assessed that there is no chance of the pet recovering an acceptable quality of life, or
  • It would be clearly inhumane or unsafe not to do so immediately, or
  • It’s a case of extreme aggression in which (1) a veterinarian has eliminated medical treatment as a solution; (2) rehabilitation by a qualified behaviorist has failed; and (3) staff and public safety cannot be reasonably assured, or other management protocols seriously compromise quality of life

Best Friends recognizes the complexity of this issue and is dedicated to continuing this sensitive conversation with our nation’s shelters. We may eventually reach a national consensus on the definition and categorization of OREs and conclude that they should be included in the save rate formula. Currently, we understand that we still need time to communicate and normalize best practices. However, if it is determined that a shelter is purposefully categorizing animals as OREs who have not been legally turned over by their owners for euthanasia, that will be considered by Best Friends to be a gross misrepresentation and could result in a shelter and/or a no-kill designation being removed from the no-kill communities list.

How save rates are calculated

For all individual shelters and communities with data for only one shelter, a gross save rate calculation is used:

[(Live Intakes) - (Died in Care) - (Lost in Care) - (Shelter Euthanasia)] divided by (Live Intakes - Owner Requested Euthanisia)

For aggregating more than one shelter’s data, a net save rate calculation is used to remove transfers between agencies and avoid double-counting of animals:

[(Live Intakes) - (Transfers In) - (Died in Care) - (Lost in Care) - (Shelter Euthanasia)] divided by (Live Intakes - Owner Requested Euthanisia - Transfers In)

Methodology for no-kill communities map

A community is generally a city, town, village, borough or other area designated as a “place” by the U.S. Census Bureau. In some cases, government structures, unincorporated communities and other census-designated places are included in order to be consistent with census bureau data. The map represents the total number of U.S. communities that have their own shelter or are serviced by a shelter. If you don't see your community on the map and you think it should be there, please contact us.

A community is considered no-kill when the brick-and-mortar shelters are working collectively to save at least 90 percent of their animals. In cases where the save rate is 89.95 percent or greater, Best Friends rounds up to 90 percent. Save rates reflect the community effort of all shelters located in or providing animal sheltering services to each community. A community is recognized as no-kill when it meets the following criteria:

  1. Best Friends has access to data for all known brick-and-mortar shelters located in or providing municipal shelter services to the community.
  2. The municipal shelter providing services to the community is no-kill (has a 90 percent save rate).
  3. All shelters located in or serving the same jurisdiction aggregate at a save rate of 90 percent or higher for dogs and cats together. The save rates of individual shelters may vary.

In some instances, a community may not meet the aforementioned qualifications, but is operating its shelters consistent with the no-kill philosophy. (See our no-kill position statement for how Best Friends defines no-kill.) In these cases, the shelters in the community that don’t meet the statistical benchmark have two options for their community to be considered no-kill:

  1. Each shelter under the 90 percent benchmark can request an independent review by a panel made up of Best Friends experts and outside parties, and/or
  2. They can display on their website the following statement:
    Our shelter has committed to saving all savable pets entering our care. We do not euthanize healthy or treatable pets even at a pet owner’s request. We only euthanize a pet if:
    a.) A veterinarian has assessed that there is no chance of the pet recovering an acceptable quality of life, or
    b.) It would be clearly inhumane or unsafe not to do so immediately, or
    c.) It’s a case of extreme aggression in which (1) a veterinarian has eliminated medical treatment as a solution; (2) rehabilitation by a qualified behaviorist has failed; and (3) staff and public safety cannot be reasonably assured, or other management protocols seriously compromise quality of life

The map is based on calendar-year data with the data source year noted on the list view. Communities that have been added to the map since our last publish appear in orange text on the list view.

Special exception for net aggregation

For all communities that are aggregated net (data for more than one shelter) where either (1) the gross community save rate is 90 percent or greater and the net community save rate is below 90 percent or (2) the difference between the gross and net community save rates is 5 percent or greater, we will work with the shelter to identify the source of transfers. Based on that data:

  • The community will be aggregated gross if less than 50 percent of the community’s total transfers in are from inside the community.
  • The community will be aggregated net if more than 50 percent of the community’s total transfers in are from inside of the community.

This rule will ensure that a community’s save rate is accurately calculated. If a shelter transfers in animals mostly from outside of their own community, there is no need to remove transfers from the save rate calculation to avoid double-counting.

Methodology for national lifesaving map

Data set: Each data set represents a geographical area, usually an area circumscribed by the county/FIPS code (the unique official code given to each county by the U.S. Census Bureau). In this map, a data set percentage that is listed as “Percent Known” represents areas from which data was collected. This data was collected or reported through the Shelter Animals Count national database and Best Friends–led coalitions, or from any recent viable and authorized data sources (which may or may not have included 100 percent of shelters reporting). The data was then accumulated into a statewide view. (Note that the most recent reporting year of collected data spans 2016-17.)  

Known data: “Percent Known” does not mean there is reported data from every organization within that county. A data set percentage that is listed as “Percent Estimated” represents an area from which no data has been collected from a municipal or contracted organization or where partial estimates were required for missing shelter data. The known data percentage represents collected intake as a percentage of total intake.

Estimated data: Known/collected data for brick-and-mortar groups in complete counties was used to develop a regional per-capita rate for intakes, number of deaths and number killed. A broad conservative increase was then applied to minimize the probability of underestimating the national death rate. Using our new master shelter list,* this rate was then applied to areas lacking known/collected data as follows:

  • If no brick-and-mortar groups are in the master shelter list, it is a non-service area and no estimation is applied.
  • If none of the shelters in a county have known data, the estimation factor was used.
  • If some (but not all) shelter data is known for a county, the collected data plus a 15 percent estimation factor was used.

The estimated data percentage represents estimated intake as a percentage of total intake.

The estimation methodology was formulated by the Best Friends business intelligence team in consultation with an outside research advisor and economist. These estimates, when combined with known/collected data from 2016 or 2017 sources, totaled 5.831 million intakes and 796,000 animals killed. Using a combination of our known and estimated data, we are reporting a total of 800,000 killed as a national estimate.

----------------------

* The master shelter list is an evolving list since shelters open and close all the time. It was compiled through manual research, state by state and county by county, to find all organizations with a physical location that take in and house animals. After that was complete, research was conducted to identify the service area coverage for all organizations. During this process, comparisons were made by community population to ensure that communities with significant population (everything over 50,000 population was verified) had coverage.