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Counting the Contributions: Benchmarking for Your Organization and Your State

An analysis of per-capita donations can help shelters assess their effectiveness in raising funds and awareness in their communities

An analysis of per-capita donations can help shelters assess their effectiveness in raising funds and awareness in their communities

In the 20 years that I’ve been collecting data on shelter demographics, the animal welfare field has witnessed dramatic declines in the number of unwanted pets. By now most shelter workers have seen the statistics: 13.5 million dogs and cats, or about 22 percent of those in U.S. homes, were euthanized in shelters in 1973, compared with 3 to 4 million—or less than 3 percent of the nation’s household pet population—today. But despite the success in measuring the effectiveness of the ’70s-era “LES” (legislation, education, sterilization) approach to addressing animal homelessness, attempts to gather other basic data have lagged far behind. I continue to be amazed that no one (not even the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy) has developed an accurate count of the number of shelters in this country. To date, we still rely on the flawed lists kept by American Humane and my own organization, The Humane Society of the United States.

About three years ago, former HSUS Vice President Martha Armstrong and I tasked two graduates of Tufts University’s Center for Animals and Public Policy—Colin Berry and Bryn Conklin—with developing a comprehensive shelter list. Thanks to their hard work, The HSUS now has a nationwide list of animal organizations, including shelters.

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