Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tracking Animal Transfer Placements

One of the many benefits that has emerged from the growing cooperation of humane societies and animal welfare organizations in the past decade is the concept of transferring animals from one organization to another.  Many open admissions and municipal facilities depend on transfer programs to increase live release rates, and most smaller rescue and limited admissions shelters only pull animals from other facilities.  For everyone involved—large and small organizations, municipal shelters, rescue organizations, and of course, the animals—it is a win-win situation.  Additionally, a transfer program also addresses pet distribution inequities.  In Chicago, we are lucky to have a network of hundreds of breed and specialty rescue organizations all working to save more lives; if an adopter is unable find what they are looking for at one shelter, they can readily open the latest addition of Chicagoland Tails to browse the vast rescue list and check out other organizations to find their new family member.  Some shelters have relationships with organizations in other states and even other countries.  Click here to read about a creative transfer program to get island pets to the mainland.   

Photo from Boggs Mountain Humane Shelter: boggshumaneshelter.com
Now that the transfer concept is established and working well in most communities, it is time to add sophistication to the data analysis for transfer programs.  Most shelters will calculate transfers as a variable in their live release data—which is good, but at this point, not enough.  How does a shelter know what actually happens to the animal once it is transferred?  From personal experience and anecdotal data, I know that many shelters keep in touch with their transfer partners and share photos and updates on the animal, but so far, not many have been recording actual data on placement rates, lengths of stay, or any other information.  I know, I know, one more thing to add to the shelter’s ever growing list of important things to do.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. This could be a great volunteer job—from your shelter software, print out the current list of transfers to other organizations, give the lucky volunteer a telephone, and let the calling begin.   
  2. Be proactive about the process—add a clause in your transfer contract that puts the responsibility on the end of the transfer-receiving group to notify you when an animal is dispositioned. 
  3. Of course, use your already existing shelter software to manage the data—if there is not a field or page in the software to add details to outcomed animals, talk to your software administrator to work on a solution to make this easy for you!  (You can even point them to this post to convince them of its necessity!)

And, here is a list of possible data to track:

  1. Length of stay at transfer receiving organization—like length of stay within your own organization, this will give you a good overview of that organization’s overall health and adequacy at placing animals. 
  2.  Final outcome percentages—are all animals adopted?  Some may be transferred yet again, some may be euthanized, some may become permanent residents of the receiving organization (sanctuary-type situations). 
  3. Disease rates—did said animal get sick?  On what date of care did it break with symptoms?  What are the symptoms/diagnosis?  This will be helpful in determining your own shelter’s disease rates—if the animal broke with symptoms within the first few days of transfer, you can make the assumption it contracted disease while in your care and subsequently, you can add the data to your own disease calculations.  If it broke with symptoms well after transfer, then the disease transmission likely occurred while in the receiving transfer organization’s care.
  4. Behavior Notes—was there unexpected behavior training/modification necessary?  If so, of what nature?  Did the behavior issues prohibit or increase the time to adoption? 

Following these numbers will give your organization a better understanding of its transfer program, and also strengthen the relationship with your transfer partners.  After all, in its broadest scope, the goal of a transfer program is to initiate more and more appropriate animal placements, so knowing your data (ie, your transfer partner relationships) more intimately will assist in successfully arriving at this goal.  You will have a clearer understanding of which animals to place with which groups, which groups to work with on a regular basis and those to work with on an episodic time frame, and you can also justify pulling away from certain groups if the data does not support the relationship any longer.  Further, if you notice lengths of stay increasing for one group or all transfer partners, you may look more closely at your own data to find out what is causing the swell.  Perhaps, your husbandry practices are slipping, and the animals transferred out are requiring unexpected or additional medical interventions thus increasing lengths of stay at the receiving transfer organization.  Or, maybe the issue is not with your group, but with the receiving transfer organization, and you may then consider advertising those animals on your own shelter’s website to boost exposure to potential adopters.  (Word of caution: *so as to not confuse or frustrate adopters, clearly label transferred animals as not being in residence at your shelter).  Whatever you decide to do with your transfer program data, I encourage all shelters to take this next step in enhancing the animal transfer concept and overall adding to the benefits for the animals.  Hats off to The ASPCA, whom in their $100K Shelter Challenge began requiring transfer affidavits in order for any transferred animals to count as a successful live release during the challenge period!  Click here to read their transfer rules (scroll down to “Challenge Rules” heading, point #9).    

1 comment:

  1. Love the idea to use volunteers for transfer follow-up. Brilliant - as usual. =)