Counting in Florida

No, not the counting of ballots, chads, hanging chads or any rare species of chad! We’re talking shelter animals.

Florida recently passed a new law requiring all animal shelters in the state – public and private – to compile shelter statistics and keep them available for public requests for three years. All the data for intake and outcomes must be tracked, including “Released in field/Trapped, Neutered, Released (TNR).” Best Friends worked with the bill’s sponsors to get this TNR language into the final draft, along with having “Feral Cats” stricken from the books as a separate category of animal. That’s good news for community cats and the people who love them.

The big picture is this: Mandating the keeping of shelter statistics according to a “noses in, noses out” formulation is an important step in transparency and the ability to compare apples to apples from shelter to shelter within the state. Squishy terms like “adoptable,” which are entirely subjective, are not part of the calculus. Knowing how many animals are entering a given shelter system and how many of those are getting out alive is the only way to get a fix on the effectiveness of animal services and the only way to track a community’s progress toward no-kill. This type of transparency translates to accountability on the part of municipalities and shelter operators. Not insignificantly, it will also generate a comprehensive list of animal shelters in the state for the first time.

It’s not all roses, however. The new law doesn’t mandate central reporting, so stats will have to be requested from individual shelters; nor does it conform to other national reporting standards, such as those kept by Maddie’s Fund, so comparisons of Florida shelters with those in other states will not be as seamless as they might otherwise be. However, these are minor flaws compared with the sea change that the keeping of shelter statistics represents.

These changes to Florida state law will provide a powerful boost to no-kill efforts across the state.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society