Franklin Township Animal Shelter Illegally Kills Animals and Breaks State Law

In my last Franklin Township Animal Shelter blog, I detailed the facility frequently killing healthy and treatable animals. Additionally, I documented the shelter taking too long to safely place animals. In this blog, I’ll examine whether Franklin Township Animal Shelter complies with state law and discuss some of the reasons why it needlessly kills animals.

Illegal Killing During Seven Day Protection Period

Under state law, shelters cannot kill either owner surrendered or stray animals until seven days pass. The purpose of this law is to provide owners a chance to reclaim their lost pets and prevent shelters from immediately killing animals. In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during this seven day period if facilities meet both of the following conditions:

  1. If a veterinarian deems euthanasia necessary for humane reasons to prevent excessive suffering when illness and injury is severe and the prognosis for recovery is extremely poor
  2. Only a licensed veterinarian should perform euthanasia in the above situation and they must clearly document the rationale in the animal’s medical record

Overall, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s intake and disposition records revealed it killed six dogs and six cats during the state’s seven day protection period. All six dogs were owner surrenders. Four of the six cats were strays and the other two cats were surrendered by their owners. Based on my review of the paperwork the shelter provided to me, several of these animals did not appear to be hopelessly suffering. Even when the shelter wrote some notes suggesting the animals might have serious medical issues, the intake and disposition records, except for possibly one, and supporting paperwork did not indicate a veterinarian made a diagnosis and euthanized the animal during the seven day hold period as required by the above regulations. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter violated state law when it killed each of these animals.

Mink or Dog ID# 76 was a three year old Shar-Pei-Cane Corso mix that was surrendered to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on February 14, 2018. On the only supporting document Franklin Township Animal Shelter provided me, the shelter stated “very aggressive”, “owner request” and “E&D.” According to the shelter’s intake and disposition log as well as its euthanasia drug log, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed Mink on the very day he arrived at the facility. Under state law, a shelter cannot kill a dog before seven days unless its hopelessly suffering. Clearly, aggression does not meet that standard. Furthermore, the euthanasia record indicates the shelter’s head animal control officer, Katie Nordhous (abbreviation: KN), and another shelter staff member (abbreviation: RH) killed Mink. Thus, Franklin Township illegally killed Mink before seven days since Mink was not hopelessly suffering and a veterinarian did not kill the animal during this period.

Mink Illegally Killed FTAS

Mink Illegally Killed FTAS 2.jpg

Mink Illegally Killed FTAS 3

Nevada or Dog ID# 155 was a 12 year old pit bull like dog surrendered to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on March 27, 2018. According to the shelter’s paperwork, the owner surrendered the dog due to cancer (unclear if the owner or dog had it), a divorce and the owner moving. The owner also stated they could not afford a surgery that the dog apparently needed. As an example of Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s terrible record keeping, the intake and disposition record stated the shelter killed Nevada the day before he arrived at the shelter. However, the euthanasia record showed Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed Nevada on the day she came in on March 27, 2018.

Once again, Franklin Township Animal Shelter illegally killed an animal before seven days. The shelter did not have a veterinarian document Nevada was hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, the animal apparently required a surgery which suggests Nevada had a reasonable chance for treatment. Second, the euthanasia record indicates the shelter’s head animal control officer, Katie Nordhous (abbreviation: KN), and not a veterinarian killed Nevada on the day she came into the shelter. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter violated state law since the shelter did not have a veterinarian document Nevada was hopelessly suffering and did not have a veterinarian euthanize the animal even if she was hopelessly suffering.

Nevada Illegally Killed FTAS 1

Nevada Illegally Killed FTAS 2.jpg

Nevada Illegally Killed FTAS 3

Cat ID# 429 was surrendered to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on June 27, 2018. According to paperwork the shelter provided me, the shelter stated the cat was “very old + sick” and this was an “Elective Euthanasia.” Per the shelter’s euthanasia record, the facility killed Cat ID# 429 on the day the shelter took the animal in.

While its possible this cat was hopelessly suffering, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s records do not indicate a veterinarian made that determination as required by state law. Furthermore, the euthanasia record lists “RH” as the individual killing the animal who has the same initials as a shelter employee. Under state law, even if an animal can be humanely euthanized before seven days, a veterinarian must be the person who euthanizes the animal. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter violated state law by killing Cat ID# 429 before seven days and not having a veterinarian be the person conducting the procedure.

Cat ID 429 Illegally Killed FTAS 1.jpg

Cat ID 429 Illegally Killed FTAS 2.jpg

Cat ID 429 Illegally Killed FTAS 3.jpg

Potential Inhumane Killing 

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s Telazol log shows the shelter used too little of this sedative when killing large dogs. According to the Humane Society of the United State Euthanasia Reference Manual, shelters should use 0.3-0.5 milliliters for each 10 pounds of an animal’s body weight. However, the manual recommends using 0.5 milliliters per 10 pounds of an animal body weight. As you can see in the shelter’s Telazol log below, the shelter did not provide enough Telazol to the following dogs:

  • Dog ID# 669 weighed 89 pounds and received 1.5 milliliters when it should have received 4.5 milliliters
  • Dog ID# 928 weighed 62 pounds and received 1.5 milliliters when it should have received 3.1 milliliters
  • Dog ID# 76 weighed 82 pounds and received 2.0 milliliters when it should have received 4.1 milliliters
  • Dog ID# 112 weighed 27 pounds and received 0.5 milliliters when it should have received 1.4 milliliters

Clearly, Franklin Township Animal Shelter did not provide enough Telazol to calm dogs, who required a sedative, before killing them.

FTAS Uses Too Little Sedatives for Some Dogs.jpg

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s euthanasia records do not specify how the shelter killed or euthanized animals. Specifically, the records do not state whether the shelter euthanized/killed each animal by an intravenous (preferred method), intraperitoneal or intracardiac (i.e. heart sticking) injection. Per New Jersey law, N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11(f)4 and N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.13A, shelters must document the method they use to kill animals. According to N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.11(c) shelters can only use intraperitoneal injections on comatose animals and neonatal kittens. Under this method, animals are injected in the abdominal cavity and can take up to 30 minutes to die. Heart sticking, as the name implies, involves stabbing an animal in the heart with Fatal Plus poison and New Jersey shelters can only use this method on heavily sedated, anesthetized or comatose animals. Thus, Franklin Animal Shelter’s euthanasia records do not comply with state law and do not indicate whether animals are in fact humanely euthanized in accordance with state law.

Additionally, the shelter’s Telazol log does not indicate what individual administered this controlled substance to each animal. Per the New Jersey Department of Health July 16, 2018 inspection report on Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, shelters must have individuals certified to euthanize animals sign off on both the euthanasia drug and sedatives amounts used when killing an animal to comply with New Jersey’s controlled dangerous substance laws. While Franklin Township Animal Shelter personnel did sign off in the euthanasia drug logs, they did not do so in their sedative logs. Thus, the shelter violated state law.

If this was not bad enough, Franklin Township Animal Shelter violated New Jersey’s controlled dangerous substance law by having Telazol at the shelter. As you can see here, Telazol is a Schedule III Controlled Substance. Per the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs, animal shelters cannot have Telazol at their shelters unless the controlled substance is the property of the veterinarian. As the invoice below shows, Easton Animal Clinic sold Telazol to Franklin Township Animal Shelter. Furthermore, Franklin Township Animal Shelter does not have an in-house veterinarian. Therefore, the shelter illegally kept Telazol in the facility.

Animal Shelters Holding of Controlled Dangerous Substances

FTAS Purchase of Telazol

Inadequate Disease Control Program

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program does not vaccinate all animals entering the shelter. Specifically, the shelter only vaccinates animals that are available for adoption. Given the shelter kills large numbers of dogs and cats, it is not vaccinating a substantial portion of the shelter population. The UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program clearly explains why shelters must immediately vaccinate animals to control diseases in their facilities:

When should the vaccine be given?

Immediately upon intake, if not sooner! In almost all cases, shelter animals should be vaccinated immediately upon intake. A delay of even a day or two will significantly compromise the vaccine’s ability to provide protection. In a cost saving effort, some shelters delay vaccination until the animal is made available for adoption, or even until it is adopted. While this does provide a service to adopters, the protective effect of the vaccine within the shelter is greatly reduced or eliminated. (In some cases, the chance of the vaccine preventing disease may be 90% or better if given the day before exposure, but will drop to less than 1% if given the day after exposure.) When possible, vaccination prior to intake is ideal (e.g. for owner surrendered animals or those returning from foster care).

Furthermore, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program does not mandate all necessary vaccines. While the disease control program states the shelter vaccinates animals available for adoption for rabies, distemper and bordatella or kennel cough (dogs only), the UC David Koret Shelter Medicine program also recommends shelters vaccinate dogs for adenovirus-2, parvovirus and parainfluenza and cats for feline herpesvirus-1 (feline viral rhinotracheitis/FHV-1) and feline calicivirus.

Therefore, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s vaccination program is ineffective and this may partially explain why the facility killed so many cats for illnesses and had so many other cats die.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter also “screens” all cats for FIV and FeLV prior to spay/neuter. Shelter medicine experts recommend facilities not test healthy cats for these two diseases based on the following reasons:

  1. The tests are often inaccurate
  2. Tests are expensive and prolong animals’ length of stay at shelters
  3. Tests are used to kill cats who are not sick or treatable

Based on the shelter’s policy of routinely testing cats for FIV and FeLV, its unsurprising the shelter’s records revealed it killing cats who tested positive for these illnesses. As mentioned in my earlier Franklin Township Animal Shelter blog, many shelters adopt out cats who actually have these diseases as well. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program may be causing the shelter to needlessly kill cats for simply testing positive for FIV or FeLV.

FTAS Vaccination and FeLV and FIV Protocol.jpg

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program is not compliant with state law. Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.9(a)1., the disease control program must address both the “physical and psychological well-being of animals.” However, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program does not address the psychological well-being of animals. Given the shelter killed 80 cats for being feral, aggressive and having certain behavior issues or nearly 20% of all the cats impounded, the shelter’s inadequate disease control program is costing many cats their lives. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program violates state law and is leading to unnecessary killing at the shelter.

§ 8:23A-1.9 Disease control

(a) Facilities subject to this subchapter as provided in N.J.A.C. 8:23A-1.2 shall establish and maintain a program of disease control and adequate health care (program) under the supervision and assistance of a doctor of veterinary medicine.

1. The program shall address the physical and psychological well-being of animals at the facility, including stress-induced behaviors, such as repetitious behavior or vocalizations, from auditory, visual, and olfactory stimuli.

Finally, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program does not have other important provisions. As the New Jersey Department of Health mentioned in its October 21, 2015 inspection report on Gloucester County Animal Shelter, shelters must have written protocols to properly feed animals and have workers avoid passing pathogens throughout the facility (e.g. procedures on employees dealing with sick animals in an isolation area and then moving to parts of the facility with healthy animals). While the disease control program mentions employees should not be in contact with healthy animals after entering the isolation area, it has no protocols for staff to do that (i.e. protective clothing in isolation area and discarding after dealing with sick animals, etc.). Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s disease control program violates state law by not addressing these key areas of disease control.

Shelter Makes Little Effort to Save Animals

Franklin Township Animal Shelter hardly is ever open for people to save animals. The shelter’s hours are as follows:

  • Tuesday-Friday: 12 pm to 3 pm
  • Saturday: 12 pm to 6 pm
  • Sunday and Monday: Closed

While the shelter has decent hours on Saturdays, the facility is virtually never open for most working people on other days. Most people cannot go to the shelter in the early afternoon on weekdays. If that was not bad enough, the shelter is closed to the public on two days, including Sundays when many people adopt or reclaim lost pets. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter makes it extremely difficult for the public to save the shelter’s animals.

Given shelters already incur costs to feed and care for animals on days the shelter is closed, it makes complete sense to allow the public to adopt and reclaim animals on those days. Based on the shelter’s high kill rate, long lengths of stay and large shelter population, this facility should be open many more hours.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter violates state law since its not open on Mondays. Under N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.10(b)1., shelters must be open to the public at least two hours a day on weekdays and one weekend day. As a result, Franklin Township Animal Shelter breaks state law by not being open on Mondays.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter has no active Facebook page. While a Franklin Township Animal Shelter Facebook page exists, its “unofficial” and just has information about the facility and reviews (i.e. animals up for adoption are not posted). In this day and age, its shocking any shelter would not have an active Facebook page. While Second Chance for Animals, which is a volunteer group supporting the shelter, has a Facebook page it uses to promote Franklin Township Animal Shelter pets, most people would not know to look there for the shelter’s animals. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter needs its own active Facebook and other social media pages.

The shelter’s web site hardly has any useful information. Even though the shelter has a Petfinder page, it currently only has 21 pets listed for adoption while its September 9, 2019 inspection report had 135 animals at the facility. While Second Chance for Animals does have a web site about the shelter, most people would not know to look there. Additionally, the web site does not contain enough information about the shelter. As a result, Franklin Township Animal Shelter must create its own web site and make it useful to the public.

Second Chance for Animals plays a key role at the shelter. This group has helped Franklin Township Animal Shelter since 1998. On its web site, Second Chance for Animals states it pays for spay/neuter, microchips, emergency and senior pet veterinary care, pet food, cat litter and other things. According to the Second Chance for Animals 2018 Form 990, the organization spent $51,544 on food, cat litter, veterinary care and FIV and FeLV testing on Franklin Township Animal Shelter pets. Additionally, the Form 990 states Second Chance for Animals paid $20,390 to spay/neuter 255 animals, which I presume most if not all were from Franklin Township Animal Shelter. Second Chance for Animals’ web site also states the organization takes Franklin Township Animal Shelter pets to adoption events. Its also possible the organization contributed more funds to the shelter since Second Chance for Animals had another $17,732 of reported expenses in its 2018 Form 990. Finally, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s web site mentions Second Chance for Animals administers the shelter’s volunteer program. Thus, Second Chance for Animals is an integral part of Franklin Township Animal Shelter.

While Second Chance for Animals assistance to Franklin Township Animal Shelter is admirable, it has not resulted in the shelter becoming no kill. I’ve seen other long term arrangements between shelter-based rescue groups and regressive shelters not serve the animals well. For example, Friends of Shelter Animals at Clifton Animal Shelter has had a similar long-term relationship with Clifton Animal Shelter and that shelter still performs poorly. Similarly, Hamilton Township Animal Shelter also had an exclusive relationship with Animal Friends for Education and Welfare (AFEW). AFEW defended Hamilton Township Animal Shelter despite that facility violating state law, being high kill and wasting taxpayer dollars. Thus, I’m concerned when rescue groups are closely connected to regressive shelters for long periods of time and those facilities remain high kill.

Franklin Township provided me no documented animal shelter policies and procedures other than the disease control program. In other words, the shelter apparently has no written procedures concerning interactions with the public, marketing animals, recruiting and retaining volunteers, reclaiming lost pets and various other shelter activities.

Worthless County Inspections

Somerset County Health Department inspected Franklin Township Animal Shelter on August 29, 2017 and reported the shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23-1.3 for having food and/or bedding unprotected and having buildings and grounds dirty or hazardous. To support, these findings the county health department wrote a few one sentence notes. The inspector noted the shelter used inadequate eye wash bottles and had a vet trailer with a door that didn’t close properly. The shelter’s head animal control officer also did not sign the inspection report. Despite this, Somerset County Health Department gave Franklin Township Animal Shelter a “Satisfactory” grade.

Somerset County Health Department 8.29.17 Inspection Report on Franklin Township Animal Shelter

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Somerset County Health Dept. 8.29.17 Inspection of FTAS Page 3

Somerset County Animal Shelter inspected Franklin Township Animal Shelter on November 14, 2018 and reported the shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 for not having a certificate of an annual fire inspection and N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.3 for having food and/or bedding unprotected. The county health department provided no details on these violations. As in the prior year, the shelter’s head animal control officer did not sign the inspection form.

Remarkably, Somerset County Health Department did not cite the shelter’s blatant violations of state law. Specifically, the county health department missed the shelter illegally killing animals before seven days, the lack of an adequate disease control program, improper keeping of intake and disposition and euthanasia records and not being open when it should be. Also, the county health department did not catch the shelter violating controlled dangerous substance laws by having Telazol at the facility and employees not signing off on the Telazol usage logs. Despite all these violations of state law, and two violations the inspection report did note, Somerset County Health Department gave Franklin Township Animal Shelter a “Satisfactory” grade.

Somerset County Health Department 11.14.18 Inspection Report on Franklin Township Animal Shelter.jpg

Somerset County Health Department also inspected Franklin Township Animal Shelter on September 9, 2019. Once again, the shelter violated N.J.A.C. 8.23-1.2 by not having a certificate of annual fire inspection. As in the 2018 inspection, Somerset County Health Department provided no comments on how it conducted its inspection or its findings. Also, the shelter’s head animal control officer did not sign the inspection report.

Somerset County Health Department 9.9.19 Inspection Report on Franklin Township Animal Shelter.jpg

Franklin Township Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for around two months in 2017, four and half months in 2018 and over two months in 2019. Under N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8(b), a shelter’s license expires on June 30th each year. N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 requires a shelter to comply with state law and receive a Certificate of Inspection for the current licensing year. As you can see above, Somerset County Animal Shelter inspected Franklin Township Animal Shelter on 8/29/17, 11/14/18 and 9/9/19. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for substantial parts of the last three years.

Finally, the inspection reports confirm the shelter’s excessive average lengths of stay documented in my last blog lead to the facility holding too many animals. While I’m a strong supporter of shelters using their full capacity, they must also maintain short average lengths of stay to save lives, treat animals humanely, reduce disease and save costs. Despite Franklin Township Animal Shelter having enough capacity for dogs and cats to the extent it could have rescued 388 cats and 117 dogs in addition to the animals it took in during 2018, the shelter exceeded its 24 dog capacity in all three years’ inspection reports and also went over its 107 cat capacity in two of the three years’ inspection reports. As a result, Franklin Township Animal Shelter must enact progressive programs to reduce its average length of stay by developing a proactive adoption program, decrease intake (such as through TNR and SNR) and expand its capacity by implementing a large scale foster program.

Franklin Township Fails to Use Money to Fund Shelter

Franklin Township had plenty of money to fund its shelter in 2018. Per the town’s 2018 Annual Financial Statements, the town’s Current Fund paid animal control and shelter salaries and wages of $124,354. However, the town spent another net $106,526 from its Animal Control Fund on animal control and sheltering. While I can’s find anything explicitly stating the up to $12,025 donation Second Chance for Animal contractually agreed to provide the shelter is included in the Animal Control Fund, I suspect it is. However, I cannot tell if the additional amounts Second Chance for Animals spent on the shelter are included in these figures. Therefore, the shelter received at least $230,880 of total funding in 2018 or approximately $361 per dog and cat impounded.

Franklin Township failed to use large amounts of its Animal Control Fund to help animals. As you can see in the following table, which excludes license fees the town must send to the state of New Jersey, Franklin Township had $266,675 in this fund at the start of 2018 and collected another $140,731 for licenses, Current Fund budget appropriations and donations and shelter fees charged to the public during the year. Therefore, the town had an astounding $407,406 to fund its shelter in addition to the $124,354 it spent out of its Current Fund on shelter staff salaries and wages. However, the town only gave the shelter $106,526 of the $407,406 in the Animal Control Fund during 2018. Even worse, the town took $29,657 of this funding to use for other government functions since it failed to spend enough money (shelters must use these funds within three years under state law or the funds go to general government use). In other words, the town could have given the shelter an additional $300,880 in 2018. Even if the shelter only used half of this in 2018, and reserved the rest for use in 2019, Franklin Township could have nearly doubled the shelter’s funding and had at least $596 of funding per dog and cat. Based on the performance of many successful no kill animal control shelters, Franklin Township Animal Shelter has plenty of funding to do right by its animals.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter is not serving the city’s homeless animals and residents well. In 2018, Franklin Township Animal Shelter impounded just 9.7 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and should have received funding of at least $596 per dog and cat. As a comparison, Michigan’s Chippewa County Animal Shelter took in 21.0 dogs and cats per 1,000 people and received $551 of revenue per dog and cat impounded. Franklin Township Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed animal death rates of 26% for dogs and 45% for cats in 2018 while Chippewa County Animal Shelter had nonreclaimed death rates of 2% for dogs and 1% for cats in 2018. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s nonreclaimed dogs and cats lost their lives at 18 times and 45 times the rate as an animal control shelter receiving far more animals on a per capita basis (and in total too) and having less funding on a per animal basis.

Franklin Township 2018 Animal Control Fund Activity.jpg

2018 Franklin Township Animal Control Fund Activity Part 2

In reality, Franklin Township Animal Shelter can significantly reduce its sheltering costs and increase its funding per animal by implementing TNR. The town’s municipal code actually requires property owners to trap so-called feral cats, which are “destructive or an annoyance”:

If feral (wild) cats become destructive or an annoyance, it shall be the responsibility of property owners to set and maintain traps for the removal of such feral (wild) cats inhabiting their private property. Once trapped, the Township Division of Animal Control will accept the animals for disposal. For purposes of this section, the term “private property” shall include common areas owned by homeowners’ associations, regardless of whether or not the homeowners’ association has granted permission to the Township to enter upon said common areas for the purpose of enforcing owners regarding dogs and/or cats running at large.

Clearly, the town spends exorbitant amounts of money rounding up and killing these cats. Instead, Franklin can implement TNR to drastically reduce cat intake and killing. If the town did this, it would significantly reduce costs to taxpayers.

Franklin Township Residents Must Demand Better

As discussed in my last Franklin Township Animal Shelter blog, this facility kills large percentages of the animals it takes in. For example, the shelter killed 26% and 56% of all dogs and pit bulls not reclaimed by an owner in 2018. Similarly, 45% of all cats and 69% of adult cats not reclaimed by an owner lost their lives last year. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter is failing many of the animals it takes in.

To add insult to injury, Franklin Township Animal Shelter blatantly violated various laws as follows:

  1. Killed animals during the seven day protection period
  2. Euthanasia records did not indicate the method of killing to determine if it was a humane way
  3. Euthanasia records did not indicate what individuals administered the sedative Telazol to animals
  4. Held Telazol at the facility in violation of the state’s controlled dangerous substance laws
  5. Shelter did not have an adequate disease control program meeting state law requirements
  6. Shelter was not open at the times required by state law
  7. Shelter was not inspected as required by June 30th in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and should not have had licenses to operate for parts of those three years

Additionally, Franklin Township and its animal shelter did/does the following things:

  1. Used inadequate sedative doses to calm some dogs before killing them
  2. Fails to adequately vaccinate large numbers of animals and therefore increases risk of disease at the facility
  3. Shelter hardly is open when working people can adopt animals and reclaim lost pets
  4. Had excessively long lengths of stay and large shelter populations that likely raise disease rates and increase costs
  5. Has no documented procedures for many of the shelter’s activities
  6. Failed to use large sums of money from the Animal Control Fund (i.e. includes dog license fees)
  7. Needlessly raises taxpayer costs by mandating residents round up so-called feral cats for the shelter to kill

Franklin Township residents and people who shop in the town should contact the elected officials below and demand the following:

  1. The shelter stop illegally killing animals during the seven day protection period
  2. The shelter follow all state laws
  3. The shelter fully and comprehensively implement the No Kill Equation
  4. The city pass the Companion Animal Protection Act and require the shelter to save at least 90% of its animals
  5. The city replace the ACO in charge with an effective and compassionate shelter manager
  6. Eliminate Second Chance for Animals’ monopoly over the volunteer program and allow the effective and compassionate leader to build such a program based on best practices across the country

The contact information for these officials is as follows:

Mayor Phillip Kramer: 732-675-7912; Mayor.Kramer@franklinnj.gov

Deputy Mayor and Council Member James Vassanella: 732-873-2500 ext. 6328; Councilman.Vassanella@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Rajiv Prasad: 732-873-2500, ext. 6319; Councilman.Prasad@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Kimberly Francois: 732-873-2500 ext. 6395; Councilwoman.Francois@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Crystal Pruitt: 732-873-2500 ext. 6329; Councilwoman.Pruitt@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Theodore Chase: 732-873-2500 ext. 6318; Councilman.Chase@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Charles Onyejiaka: 732-873-2500 ext. 6396; Councilman.Onyejiaka@franklinnj.gov

Council Member Carl R.A. Wright: 732-873-2500 ext. 6397; Councilman.Wright@franklinnj.gov

Township Manager Robert G. Vornlocker: 732-873-2500 ext. 6201; Robert.Vornlocker@franklinnj.gov

2018 Dog Report Cards for New Jersey Animal Shelters

In a blog from earlier this year, I disclosed New Jersey’s depressing animal shelter statistics. This blog explains why so many dogs are losing their lives in the state’s animal shelters and whether these facilities can end the killing.

Successful organizations set measurable goals and regularly monitor their performance. Examples include financial budgets, customer and employee satisfaction surveys, and product reliability metrics. Unfortunately, many animal shelters for far too long have failed to set lifesaving goals and standards. Municipalities, donors and volunteers need to know where their resources will be best utilized. Time and money are scarce resources and people should allocate these assets to organizations who will best utilize them. As a result, animal shelters need to set goals and hold their leadership and staff accountable for achieving these objectives.

Model Assesses New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Life Saving Performance

In order to assess how good of a job New Jersey animal shelters are doing, I’ve developed an analysis I call the “Life Saving Model.” While shelter performance is dependent on many variables, such as finances, facility design, local laws, etc., the most critical factor impacting potential life saving is animal holding capacity. Without having enough physical space and foster homes, a shelter might not have enough time to find loving homes for its animals. Shelters can overcome financial limitations through creative fundraising or recruiting more volunteers. Similarly, organizations can save their dogs despite having run down facilities if these groups enthusiastically implement policies to get animals into loving homes quickly. As a result, my analysis focuses on making the best use of space to save the maximum number of New Jersey and nearby states dogs.

The Life Saving Model measures the number of local animals a shelter should adopt out, rescue from other facilities, send to rescues or other shelters, and euthanize. The targeted outcomes take into account each facility’s physical capacity plus the amount of foster homes it should use and the number and types of dogs the organization receives from its community (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, cruelty/bite cases). I assume a target euthanasia rate, take the number of dogs actually returned to owners and then estimate how many community dogs a shelter should adopt out. To the extent space runs out, I then calculate how many dogs the shelter must send to rescues. If the shelter has excess space after properly serving its local community, the facility uses that room to rescue and adopt out dogs from nearby areas. The targeted results calculated from this model are compared to the actual or estimated actual results from each shelter below.

This year I expanded shelter capacity to include the number of foster homes shelters should use. Based on a target American Pets Alive and other progressive shelter directors communicated at this year’s American Pets Alive Conference, shelters should have 3% of their annual dog intake in foster homes at any one time. These estimates are based on what several no kill animal control shelters already accomplish. Given fostering increases capacity and provides more humane care to animals, it is critical shelters have large scale foster programs. Therefore, I added 3% of each shelter’s annual dog intake to the shelter’s physical capacity.

For shelters with animal control contracts, I place 10% of all dogs that are not reclaimed by owners into the targeted sent to rescue category. Austin Pets Alive used data from Austin Animal Center, which is the local municipal shelter, to determine large dogs with behavioral challenges are part of the last 10% of animals losing their lives. While shelters can save most of these dogs through behavioral rehabilitation and/or foster programs, I decided to put an estimate of these dogs into the sent to rescue category since that is another good outcome for these dogs.

My analysis puts a cap on the targeted numbers of dogs rescued from other shelters and adoptions. While my unmodified targeted numbers of rescued and adopted animals are quite achievable, I want to provide very conservative goals for New Jersey animals shelters. For example, the unmodified model resulted in a statewide per capita dog adoption rate of around 25% to 70% of the level found at some of the nation’s best animal control shelters. Similarly, the unmodified model yielded a statewide pit bull per capita adoption rate (2.3 pit bulls per 1,000 people) that is not much more than the pit bull per capita adoption rate at one of the best animal control shelters in the country. In my opinion, New Jersey shelters could more easily achieve that per capita pit bull adoption rate given my model includes far fewer dogs from competing breeds than those in this role model animal control shelter.

My modified analysis capped pit bull adoptions at 2 pit bulls per 1,000 people within each New Jersey county. In other words, the targeted numbers of dogs rescued from other shelters and adopted below are the lesser of

  1. Number predicted by model
  2. Number determined by capping pit bull adoptions at 2 pit bulls per 1,000 people in the county

In simple terms, a shelter is expected to achieve this per capita adoption rate unless the facility lacks enough space. If a shelter does not have sufficient room, it won’t have the time to reach all the potential adopters and requires assistance from rescues and/or other facilities. Given my model assumes 80% of rescued dogs are pit bull like dogs, my targeted numbers of dogs rescued and adopted are quite low as detailed in the section below. For example, shelters in counties where dog adoptions are capped have extra space that they do not use to adopt out other dog breeds.

To read specific details and assumptions used in the model, please see the Appendix at the end of this blog.

New Jersey Animal Shelters Contain Enough Space to Save All of New Jersey’s Dogs and Many More from Other States

New Jersey’s animal shelter system has enough space to save all of the state’s healthy and treatable dogs. The table below details the targeted numbers of dog outcomes the New Jersey animal shelter system should achieve. Out of the 21,614 New Jersey dogs coming into the state’s animal shelters in 2018, 10,684 and 1,619 dogs should have been adopted out and sent to other shelters/rescues by the facilities originally taking the dogs in. However, other New Jersey animal shelters had more than enough capacity to rescue the 1,619 dogs from space constrained facilities. Thus, New Jersey animal shelters should be able to able to adopt out every single healthy and treatable dog taken in from the state and not require any support from rescue organizations without physical facilities from a space perspective.

New Jersey animal shelters have enough excess space to save many dogs from out of state as well. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters had enough physical capacity to rescue and adopt out 11,394 dogs from out of state after achieving a 95% live release rate for New Jersey dogs. To put this number into perspective, New Jersey animal shelters could make both New York City and Philadelphia no kill cities for dogs and increase those cities’ dog live release rates to 95% in 2018 as follows:

  • New York City – 1,288 additional dogs need saving
  • Philadelphia – 856 additional dogs need saving

Additionally, New Jersey animal shelters could save another 9,250 dogs from other locations outside of the state. Of course, some New Jersey animal shelters do pull some dogs from New York City and Philadelphia animal control shelters. However, most of these dogs are likely easy to adopt and therefore have short lengths of stay. As a result, the additional number of dogs New Jersey animal shelters could save from New York City, Philadelphia and elsewhere is probably not much lower than the figures above. Thus, New Jersey animal shelters could make New Jersey a no kill state for dogs as well as many other places.

These adoption goals are quite achievable when comparing the performance of well-run animal control shelters across the country. New Jersey animal shelters would only need to adopt out 2.7 dogs per 1,000 people in the state (1.4 dogs if no dogs rescued from out of state). As a comparison, recent per capita dog adoption numbers from several high performing no kill open admission shelters are as follows:

  • Lynchburg Humane Society (Lynchburg, Virginia) – 15.3 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Longmont Humane Society (Longmont, Colorado area) – 9.4 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Lake County Animal Shelter (Lake County, Florida) – 5.2 dogs per 1,000 people
  • Williamson County Animal Shelter (Williamson County, Texas) – 5.0 dogs per 1,000 people

Thus, many communities are already adopting out around two to six times as many dogs as the goal set for New Jersey animal shelters.

Some naysayers may claim New Jersey would have a more difficult time due to the state’s shelters taking in many pit bulls. However, this is a myth. My model estimates New Jersey animal shelters would need to adopt out roughly 0.5 pit bulls per 1,000 people to save 95% of New Jersey’s dogs. Our shelters would only need to adopt out around 1.5 pit bulls per 1,000 people if New Jersey shelters also rescued and adopted out the targeted number of pit bulls from other states. As a comparison, I estimate Longmont Humane Society adopts out 2.0 pit bulls per 1,000 people based on the number of pit bulls impounded in 2014 as a percentage of total dogs impounded in 2014 and multiplying that number by the 9.4 dogs per 1,000 people adoption rate in 2018. Furthermore, the pit bull adoption targets are even more reasonable given the model assumes there are roughly 1/6 of the number of dogs from other breeds to compete with in the New Jersey adoption market compared to the Longmont, Colorado area.

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Animal Deaths Vary Widely at New Jersey Animal Shelters

The goal of any properly managed animal shelter is to save all of its healthy and treatable animals. In some cases, such as selective admission rescue oriented shelters, it is pretty easy to not kill animals. In addition, other animal shelters with easy to service animal control contracts (i.e. few animals impounded, most strays quickly returned to owners) can avoid unnecessary killing due to having lots of extra space. As a result, some shelters may have an easier time than others in preventing killing at their shelters.

The tables below detail how many dogs should lose their lives at each state animal shelter per my model and the actual numbers of dogs that did. All missing or lost dogs are assumed “dead” based on the assumption they died or went to a very bad place. Based on my review of a number of shelters’ underlying documents, virtually all of the dogs in the “Other” outcome category died or went missing. Shelters having the number of dogs losing their lives at or below my targets and above my targets are highlighted in green and red in the tables below.

The largest number of dogs unnecessarily dying occurred at a relatively small number of shelters. Overall, 1,108 dogs needlessly lost their lives at New Jersey animal shelters in 2018 (i.e. the sum of all shelters killing too many dogs). 13 out of 92 or 14% of the shelters accounted for 83% of the dogs unnecessarily losing their lives under the model’s assumptions. Associated Humane Societies’ three shelters needlessly killed 219 dogs per the model or 20% of the total dogs unnecessarily dying in the state’s shelters. Trenton Animal Shelter, Gloucester County Animal Shelter, Bergen County Animal Shelter and Paterson Animal Control, which all broke state law in recent years, needlessly killed 335 dogs per the model or 30% of the total dogs unnecessarily dying in the state’s shelters. Shelters with the greatest number of unnecessary dog deaths (assuming all dogs killed were local animals) are as follows:

  • Associated Humane Societies – Newark (158)
  • Trenton Animal Shelter (142)
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter (121)
  • St. Hubert’s – Madison (116)
  • Humane Society of Atlantic County (69)
  • South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter (58)
  • Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center (53)
  • Atlantic County Animal Shelter (39)
  • Paterson Animal Control (38)
  • Bergen County Animal Shelter (34)

Thus, the bulk of the dogs unnecessarily dying at New Jersey animals shelters occurs at a small number of facilities.

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Most New Jersey Animal Shelters Require Little Rescue Assistance

Some animal shelters will require more support from rescues and animal shelters with excess space than others. If a shelter has relatively high intake, very limited space, and few stray dogs returned to owners, it will need more help than other shelters. In an ideal world, rescues would take all shelter animals. However, due to limited numbers of foster homes, lesser ability to find foster homes due to many rescue organizations’ small sizes, and most rescues’ restrictive adoption policies, all shelters cannot heavily rely on rescues. The tables below compare the number of dogs a shelter should transfer to other organizations per the model and the number of dogs actually sent to other animal welfare groups. Shelters marked in green are receiving less than the expected rescue support while facilities marked in red are receiving too much rescue help.

Overall, most New Jersey animal shelters require little rescue support if space-constrained facilities fast-track their most highly adoptable dogs. Shelter medicine experts advocate prioritizing the processing of highly adoptable animals to make the best use of space and reduce disease. For example, making sure these animals are the first to get spayed/neutered and vaccinated and receive microchips to ensure they can leave as soon as the shelter finds a good home.

51 shelters received too much help, 17 facilities received just enough assistance and 24 shelters received too little help from other animal welfare organizations. However, the excess dogs rescued (1,940 dogs) at shelters receiving too much assistance was far higher than the rescue deficits at other shelters (237 dogs) resulting in the state’s shelters sending 1,703 more dogs than needed to rescues and other animal welfare organizations. Some shelters, such as Elizabeth Animal Shelter and Paterson Animal Control, report transfers to rescues and other shelters as adoptions. While I made adjustments for these facilities based on my reviews of these facilities underlying records in past years, its certainly possible other shelters incorrectly reported their data (i.e. counting animals sent to rescues as adoptions). Nonetheless, the New Jersey shelter system as a whole is receiving enough rescue assistance, but some shelters are hurt by rescues pulling animals from less needy facilities.

Rescue groups and shelters with extra space should pull dogs from kill shelters with the highest rescue “target” numbers and deficits in the tables below. If shelters not needing rescue support get that extra help, these shelters will not take the steps necessary to properly run their facilities. As a result of enabling poorly performing shelters and not pulling dogs from truly space constrained facilities, rescuing dogs from shelters with enough space leads to less lifesaving.

Shelters receiving less than needed rescue support should also examine their own policies and performance. Are the shelter’s operating processes allowing too many animals to get sick and therefore discouraging organizations to rescue their animals due to subsequent medical costs? Does the shelter actively reach out to rescues/other shelters and treat them with respect? Does the shelter make it convenient for other organizations to pull their animals?

Given killing animals for space is intolerable, the space-constrained shelters need to expand their effective dog capacity. These facilities could use extra space in their buildings to house dogs on a short-term basis. These shelters can enter into arrangements with local veterinarians to house and adopt out some dogs. Additionally, creating a pet owner surrender prevention program, implementing a proper managed intake policy (i.e. where animals are impounded when in danger and waiting periods for owner surrenders are relatively short) and making serious efforts to return lost dogs to owners could free up space in these shelters. Finally, space-constrained shelters with multiple animal control contracts should terminate some of these arrangements to bring their capacity for care in line with the number of dogs they take in. As a result, space constrained shelters still need to take active steps to reduce killing rather than simply solely relying on rescue support.

In certain circumstances, it may make sense for shelters with excess space to send dogs to rescues. For example, a unique breed or a dog needing very specialized behavioral or medical rehabilitation. However, these cases are accounted for in my targeted sent to rescue figures for animal control shelters.

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Most New Jersey Animal Shelters Fail to Come Close to Reaching Their Local Dog Adoption Potential

We can assess each shelter’s contribution to making New Jersey and nearby areas no kill. While a shelter may be able to avoid killing healthy and treatable animals, it still may not live up to its potential for adopting out local dogs. On the other hand, a space constrained shelter may kill healthy and treatable dogs, but still do a good job adopting animals out.

The tables below compare the number of dogs from New Jersey and nearby states each animal shelter should adopt out with the estimated number of local dogs actually adopted out.

Many rescue oriented shelters likely pull much easier to adopt dogs than the bulk of dogs needing to get rescued from local facilities. Thus, the results from rescue oriented shelters may look better than they actually are.

Few organizations reached or exceeded their adoption targets. Specifically, only 4 out of 92 shelters met the adoption goals computed by the Life Saving Model. Thus, the overwhelming number of New Jersey animal shelters need to step up their adoption efforts.

A number of other rescue oriented shelters exceeded their adoption targets, but this may at least partially be due to inaccurate records and the types of dogs they impounded. Common Sense for Animals operates more like a rescue oriented than an animal control shelter. While this organization exceeded its adoption targets, the shelter’s figures were off by 128 dogs using the methodology outlined in another blog. Beacon Animal Rescue also exceeded its adoption target, but this is likely due to this organization rescuing easier to adopt dogs from New Jersey shelters. Thus, I believe these rescue oriented shelters’ high local dog adoption numbers were due to inaccurate records or these organizations selecting easier to adopt local dogs.

Tri-Boro Animal Welfare’s and St. Hubert’s-Noah’s Ark’s higher than targeted local dog adoption results are a bit misleading. These facilities benefited from the method I used to cap adoptions in the county and reduce the adoption targets for these two shelters. For example, Tri-Boro Animal Welfare only reached 52% of its adoption target using my unadjusted model only taking the shelter’s physical space and targeted number of foster homes into account. Similarly, St. Hubert’s Noah’s Ark’s actual adoptions percentage of its targeted adoptions figure dropped from 271% to 111% when I looked at the unadjusted model. Since Morris County has many shelters that collectively have a very large capacity (i.e. very high adoption potential), my model reduces all Morris County animal shelters’ target adoptions to my county adoption cap. Therefore, these two shelters have relatively low dog adoption targets. Additionally, St. Hubert’s-Noah’s Ark may rescue a number of dogs from other St. Hubert’s facilities and those dogs may come from out of state. Thus, these shelters really didn’t do an excellent job adopting out local dogs.

Shelters adopting out the fewest animals in total relative to their targets were as follows:

  • Associated Humane Societies-Newark – 1,222 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Monmouth SPCA – 757 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Associated Humane Societies-Popcorn Park – 579 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Plainfield Area Humane Society – 532 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Tyco Animal Control – Paramus – 442 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Burlington County Animal Shelter – 441 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Trenton Animal Shelter – 396 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Gloucester County Animal Shelter – 388 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Paterson Animal Control – 387 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Bergen County Animal Shelter – 384 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • St. Hubert’s – Madison – 281 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Shake a Paw-Union – 281 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Greyhound Angels – – 278 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • Montclair Township Animal Shelter – 273 fewer dogs adopted than targeted
  • New Jersey Humane Society – 250 fewer dogs adopted than targeted

Several shelters’ poor performance is quite predictable. Associated Humane Societies-Newark, Trenton Animal Shelter, Paterson Animal Shelter, Shake a Paw-Union, New Jersey Humane Society, Gloucester County Animal Shelter, Monmouth SPCA and Bergen County Animal Shelter had troublesome stories involving the shelters and/or prominent people affiliated with these organizations over the last several years. Tyco Animal Control-Paramus performed poorly due to this for profit company having a regressive view of animal sheltering. Shake a Paw-Union’s low local adoption numbers are also not surprising since it also operates a for profit pet store and transports almost all of its dogs it rescues from out of state. Similarly, St. Hubert’s-Madison, Monmouth SPCA, Greyhound Angels (due to it being a greyhound rescue oriented shelter) and Montclair Township Animal Shelter all transported in many dogs from outside of New Jersey during 2018. Burlington County Animal Shelter had a 200 local dog adoption decrease in 2018 due primarily to the facility sending more dogs to rescues and other shelters. Finally, Plainfield Area Humane Society’s local dog adoption deficit is quite disturbing since this organization could easily take on Plainfield’s dogs who currently go to the horrific and high kill Associated Humane Societies-Newark.

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Shelters Fail to Use Excess Space to Save Local Dogs

To further examine New Jersey animal shelters’ performance in saving the state’s homeless dogs, I compared the targeted number of dogs each shelter should pull from nearby shelters and compared it to the number actually rescued from local facilities. I assume all reported out of state rescued dogs came from southern states or other far away places. While some of the out of state rescued dogs may have comes from nearby areas, I believe this is a small number and does not significantly impact the results.

Virtually all New Jersey animal shelters are failing to rescue the number of local dogs they should. 89 of the 92 shelters should rescue some dogs from other local shelters. In fact, 45 of the 89 shelters with targeted excess capacity failed to rescue even a single dog from a New Jersey animal shelter. Of the 89 shelters that should have rescued dogs, only four shelters met or exceeded their local dog rescue targets. However, three of those shelters, Beacon Animal Rescue, St. Hubert’s-Noah’s Ark and Tri-Boro Animal Welfare, may not have truly helped the number of medium to large size local dogs they should based on these shelters taking easier to adopt animals and possibly out of state animals (i.e. St. Hubert’s-Noah’s Ark may have rescued out of state transported dogs from other St. Hubert’s facilities that originally came from the south).

As mentioned above, many shelters local rescue numbers are inflated due to these organizations cherry picking highly adoptable animals to rescue. Thus, nearly all New Jersey animal shelters with targeted excess capacity are failing to do their share in ending the killing of local healthy and treatable dogs.

Shelters can overcome challenges in rescuing dogs from outside their service area. In some cases, municipalities may frown on government run shelters using taxpayer funds to rescue dogs from elsewhere. However, shelter directors at these facilities can encourage individuals to form a non-profit or raise money on their own to pay for these rescued dogs. Additionally, shelters with limited capacity or even some of the well-off private shelters could contribute funding for each dog rescued. For example, Maddie’s Fund paid an approximate $160 subsidy to rescues pulling dogs from New York Animal Care & Control. Similarly, private shelters with excess space, but limited financial resources, could expand their fundraising efforts to save more local dogs. Thus, perceived obstacles to rescuing local dogs can and should be overcome.

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New Jersey Animal Shelters Need to Form Life-Saving Coalitions

The improper allocation of space within the state’s animal shelter system requires organizations to form coalitions. While putting a competent and compassionate director in every shelter would likely be even more effective, that will likely take time to do. No kill coalitions between animal control facilities and selective admission shelters have been used in places, such as Portland, Oregon, Reno, Nevada, Jacksonville, Florida and Austin, Texas to radically increase life saving. Maddie’s Fund, which has supported using coalitions for over a decade, has many resources for organizations seeking to collaborate with each other. Thus, New Jersey animal shelters need to formally work together, develop quantifiable and measurable goals (such as the targeted outcomes in this blog), and hold each organization accountable for meeting these benchmarks.

Sobering Results Require Shelter Leaders to Critically Examine Themselves

Shelters should examine the reasons why their adoption numbers fall far short of these benchmarks. In some cases, shelters need to expand the hours they are open for adoptions. Many shelters should switch from an overly judgmental adoption process based on black and white rules to a conversational one focused on educating the adopter. Organizations will need to radically increase their off-site events and do same day adoptions. Similarly, many shelters must reduce adoption fees and run frequent promotions. Executive Directors should monitor the latest life-saving programs on Maddie’s Fund’s, American Pets Alive Conference’s, and the Best Friends National Conference’s web sites and put some of these policies into place. Shelter management teams will need to ensure their facilities are clean and customers are treated with respect (this can be measured by encouraging the public to complete surveys). Thus, poorly performing shelters need to stop making excuses and do what it takes to reach their adoption potential.

We can turn New Jersey, New York City and Philadelphia into no kill communities. It is time we give our money and volunteer efforts to organizations who raise their performance to help us reach that goal. To do otherwise, would betray all the animals whose lives are on the line.

Appendix – Life Saving Model Assumptions

The Life Saving Model utilizes the following basic animal shelter population equations to calculate the targeted dog outcomes for each facility:

Daily capacity or population = Daily animal intake x average length of stay

Average length of stay = Daily capacity or population/daily intake

Each shelter’s community dog intake (i.e. owner surrenders, strays, cruelty bite cases), number of dogs returned to owners, and maximum dog capacity were taken from its 2018 “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” submitted to the New Jersey Department of Health. Additionally, I added 3% of each shelter’s annual dog intake to account for foster capacity shelters should use based on American Pets Alive guidelines. Thus, total dog capacity equaled the shelter’s capacity plus foster capacity.

This data was then used as follows:

  • Community dog intake and dogs returned to owners were initially estimated for each month by dividing the annual figures by 12. In order to take into account the extra space in low intake months and reduced space in high intake months, we multiply that number by each month’s percentage of the average month. For example, assume 240 dogs were taken in during the year and the average month equals 20 dogs (240/12). In July, the dog intake is 120% higher than the average month and we therefore multiply 20 dogs by 1.2 to equal 24 dogs. If 120 dogs were returned to owners during the year, the estimated number of dogs returned to owners in July would equal 12 dogs (120/12 = 10; 10*1.2). The monthly intake percentages were based off the average of the 2018 dog intake data on New York Animal Care & Control’s and ACCT Philly’s web sites.
  • The estimated number of community dogs returned to owners each month are then assumed to stay 5 days on average at shelters based on data from other shelters across the country. If anything, this estimate is conservative (i.e. average length of stay for dogs returned to owners may be less than 5 days and therefore frees up more shelter space for adoptions) based on some shelters returning the bulk of their dogs to owners within 3 days.
  • The number of community dogs euthanized (including animals who died or are missing) is set to equal 5% of intake. 5% is a reasonable standard euthanasia rate for shelters in New Jersey to meet given few vulnerable stray puppies (i.e. who could die or require euthanasia) arrive in the state’s animal shelters. The average length of stay for euthanized dogs is assumed to equal 14.5 days. Half of dogs are assumed euthanized for untreatable aggression towards people and 21 days is the time estimated to make that determination. The other half of dogs are assumed euthanized for severe and untreatable health issues and I estimate these dogs are euthanized after 8 days (subsequent to the end of the stray hold and owner surrender protection periods).
  • Adopted dogs are assumed to stay at shelters for varying lengths of time. Adoption length of stay was based on data from a study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare and the figures used (except for space-constrained shelters) are located in a prior blog on pit bull adoption. The data primarily comes from Tompkins County SPCA during a time it saved over 90% of its dogs. This was a fairly conservative data set to use as other no kill open admission shelters’ average length of stay are substantially shorter. Specifically, the following assumptions were made:
    1. 80% and 20% of each communities dogs (including pit bulls) were adults 1 year and older and under 1 year.
    2. Pit bulls were assumed to comprise 50%, 35% and 25% of community dog intake at poor, middle/upper middle class, and wealthy area animal control shelters. While some shelters may have pit bulls comprising more than 50% of their shelter dog population at a given time, this is due to pit bulls longer average length of stay. For example, a shelter with pit bulls making up 50% of their dog intake and pit bulls having an average length of stay three times longer than other dogs will have pit bulls constituting 75% of the dog population. Shelters without animal control contracts were assumed to only have pit bulls make up 10% of their community dogs (i.e. strays and owner surrenders) based on most of these shelters’ highly selective admission practices.
    3. Pit bull adoption length of stay was taken directly from the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare study. The average adoption lengths of stay for other breeds from this study were averaged and used for dogs other than pit bulls in the analysis
  • Space constrained shelters were assumed to adopt out their easiest to adopt animals first until they ran out of space. To estimate the average adoption length of stay, I used pit bull adoption length of stay data from Greenhill Humane Society from March 2013 through May 2015. I broke the adoption length of stay data into 5 groups that each made up 20% of the data. The average adoption length of stay for each of these 5 groups was calculated. The average adoption length of stay of each group was divided by the average length of stay for all of the adopted pit bulls in the Greenhill Humane Society data set. Those percentages were then multiplied by the average dog adoption length of stay determined in the previous bullet and used to determine the adoption lengths of stay used for space-constrained shelters.
  • Dogs transferred to rescue or other facilities are assumed to stay at shelters 8 days on average based on the assumption strays can’t be released until the 7 day hold period elapses.
  • Community dogs not returned to owners or euthanized are initially assumed as adopted for each month. However, if the calculated length of stay exceeds the shelter’s required length of stay, dogs are moved from adoption (i.e. longer length of stay) to rescue (i.e. shorter length of stay) until the calculated length of stay each month approximately equals the required length of stay.
  • Animal control shelters have a minimum of 10% of unclaimed dogs go to rescues. To the extent shelters transfer 10% of unclaimed dogs to rescues despite having space (i.e. reclassifying dogs from adoptions with a longer length of stay to rescues with a shorter length of stay), I do not require these facilities to use that space to rescue additional dogs.
  • Required length of stay = Shelter’s total capacity/adjusted daily intake for the month. Adjusted daily intake for month = Adjusted monthly intake per first bullet above/the number of days in the month.
  • Shelters with excess capacity are assumed to use the extra space to rescue and adopt out dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. To the extent all healthy and treatable New Jersey animal shelter dogs are saved, I assume additional dogs are pulled from nearby states with similar types of dogs. I assume all rescued dogs will not be killed since the transferring and receiving shelters should evaluate these dogs’ behavior. Based on pit bull type dogs having longer lengths of stay at shelters, I assume 80% of dogs rescued from local animal shelters are pit bulls and 20% are non-pit bulls. 80% and 20% of pit bull and non-pit bull type dogs are considered 1 year and older and under 1 year. The average length of stay for rescued pit bulls and other dogs are the same as the adoption length of stay figures above.
  • Each month’s targeted outcomes are added to determine how many local dogs New Jersey animal shelters should adopt out, send to rescue, rescue from other nearby animal shelters and euthanize.
  • The targeted number of dogs rescued and adopted were capped at 2 pit bulls per 1,000 people in each county. If the model yielded a higher result than this cap, the targeted numbers of dogs adopted were set to equal to this cap using the pit bull percentage assumptions above. For shelters in these counties (except Passaic County), I calculated the cap at the county level and then reduced the number of cats adopted for the county to equal the cap. I excluded West Milford from Passaic County due the town’s large distance from the population centers in the rest of the county. Each shelter’s percentage of total targeted adoptions in the county from the unmodified model were applied to the the total reduction in the number of adoptions in the county to yield the targeted numbers of dogs adopted in the modified model. If the shelter also rescued animals from other shelters, the rescued numbers were also reduced since I assume rescued animals are adopted.

Franklin Township’s Frightening Animal Shelter

Franklin Township Animal Shelter routinely ranks as one of the higher kill shelters in New Jersey based on the summary statistics it reports. However, this Somerset County shelter’s underlying records should reveal whether the animals it kills are healthy and treatable and whether certain types of animals are more likely to lose their lives.

Does Franklin Township Animal Shelter kill healthy and treatable animals when lifesaving alternatives exist? Is the shelter complying with state law?

Deadly Dog Data

In order to get a better understanding of the job Franklin Township Animal Shelter did in 2018, I obtained the intake and disposition records for each individual dog and cat the shelter took in during the year. You can find those records here. In addition, I obtained all supporting records for each dog and cat the shelter killed. You can find those records here.

Overall, the shelter’s summary statistics were a mess. As you can see in the first linked file above, the shelter used a manual spreadsheet to input animals and I noticed numerous errors. For example, animals who had outcomes before the date they came in. As such, I had to correct a number of typos. Additionally, the shelter did not list specific ages of animals. Frankly, its shocking that Franklin Township Animal Shelter, like a number of facilities I’ve reviewed, fails to use readily available shelter software systems that make it easier for the facility to track its animals.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed too many dogs in 2018. While the overall dog kill rate of 11% was not extremely high, it was still much greater than kill rates at elite municipal shelters. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its dogs in 2018. Thus, Franklin Animal Shelter killed dogs at 11 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

Pit bulls fared far worse at the Franklin Township Animal Shelter in 2018. The shelter killed 20% of pit bulls. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of its pit bulls in 2018. As a result, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed pit bulls at 20 times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter also killed too many small dogs and other medium to large size breeds in 2018. Overall, the shelter killed 8% of both small dogs and other medium to large size dogs. Frankly, shelters should be able to save nearly all small dogs due to the fact such animals cannot seriously injure dog savvy adult owners. Even the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive facility, only euthanized 1% of small dogs in 2017. Austin Animal Center only euthanized 1% of small dogs and 1% of other medium to large size breeds last year. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed both small dogs and other medium to large size dogs at eight times Austin Animal Center’s rate.

While Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s overall dog kill rates were bad, the shelter’s kill rates for dogs not reclaimed by their owners were far worse. Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs who were not reclaimed by owners. When we just look at dogs not reclaimed by owners, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed 26% of all dogs, 56% of pit bulls, 16% of small dogs and 23% of other medium to large size breeds. In other words, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed around 1 out of 4 dogs, 1 out of 2 pit bulls, 1 out of 6 small dogs and 1 out of 4 other medium to large size breeds not reclaimed by owners. As a comparison, only 2% of all dogs, pit bulls and small dogs not reclaimed by owners and 1% of other medium to large size dogs not reclaimed by owners at Austin Animal Center lost their lives in 2018. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds not reclaimed by owners at 13 times, 28 times, 8 times and 23 times Austin Animal Center’s rates.

2018 Franklin Township Animal Shelter Dog Statistics

Too Many Cats Lose Their Lives

Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s statistics reveal the shelter killed too many cats in 2018. Since Franklin Township did not list specific ages of animals, I could only break down cats into adults and kittens rather than the more expansive age categories I typically use (i.e. 1 year and older cats, kittens from 6 weeks to just under 1 year and kittens under 6 weeks). Overall, 43% of cats lost their lives at Franklin Township Animal Shelter in 2018 or about ten times the percentage at Austin Animal Center last year. Both adult cats and kittens lost their lives at higher rates, 64% and 25%. As a comparison, only 6% of adult cats and 3% of kittens lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018. Therefore, adult cats and neonatal kittens were eleven times and eight times more likely to lose their lives at Franklin Township Animal Shelter than at Austin Animal Center in 2018.

2018 Franklin Township Animal Shelter Cat Statistics

Franklin Township Animal Shelter Takes Too Long to Place Animals

Length of stay is the most critical metric impacting a shelter’s ability to achieve no kill and provide humane care to its animals. If a shelter takes three times as long to place an animal as it should, the shelter would require three times as much space to avoid overcrowding. Additionally, as the UC Davis Koret School of Shelter Medicine states, multiple studies show longer lengths of stay significantly increase disease risks. Therefore, increased lengths of stay result in higher animal care and veterinary costs. Thus, shelters must minimize average length of stay to achieve no kill and treat animals humanely.

Franklin Township Shelter’s dog length of stay data revealed the shelter took way too long to safely place dogs. Overall, all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other medium to large size breeds stayed on average 52 days, 46, days, 67 days and 38 days (note these figures reflect my adjustments to obvious typos in the shelter’s data). As a comparison, Kansas City’s KC Pet Project saved 94% of its dogs in 2016 and had an overall dog average length of stay of 18 days. Similarly, Williamson County Animal Shelter in Texas saved 98% of its dogs in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018 and its dogs stayed at the shelter only 9 days on average.

Even more shocking, all dogs, pit bulls, small dogs and other dogs at Franklin Township Animal Shelter took on average 85 days, 84 days, 92 days and 69 days to get adopted. As a comparison, well-run no kill animal control shelters adopt out their dogs on average in three weeks or less and even their pit bulls in around 40-50 days. In fact, Hound Manor reported adult pit bulls took around one month to get adopted out at Austin Animal Center from October 2015 to September 2016. Given these facilities adopt out more challenging dogs than Franklin Township Animal Shelter due to their much higher live release rates, this makes Franklin Township Animal Shelter’s performance even more abysmal.

If that was not bad enough, Franklin Township Animal Shelter reported only transferring out one dog during the entire year to rescues/other shelters. Since transfers are often a quick way shelters save animals, the facility barely used this approach that could have reduced the time dogs spend in the shelter. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter allowed dogs to stay too long at the facility.

2018 Franklin Township Animal Shelter Dogs Length of Stay

Franklin Township Shelter’s cat length of stay data revealed the shelter took way too long to safely place cats. Overall, all cats, adult cats and kittens stayed 84 days, 80 days and 87 days at the shelter (note this includes my adjustments for obvious typos in the shelter’s data). As a comparison, the average length of stay for cats in recent years was 12 days at Texas’s Williamson County Animal Shelter, less than two weeks at Nevada Humane Society, 15 days at Montana’s Flathead County Animal Shelter, 24 days at Colorado’s Longmont Humane Society (all these facilities save 90% or more of their cats). Thus, cats stay four to seven times longer at Franklin Township Animal Shelter than many well-run no kill animal control facilities despite Franklin Township frequently killing cats.

2018 Franklin County Animal Shelter Cat Length of Stay

Dogs Killed for Absurd Reasons

Franklin Township Animal Shelter most commonly killed dogs for alleged aggression problems. When we look at all dogs, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed 4% of all dogs for aggression related reasons. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.1% of the dogs it took in during 2018 for aggression and behavior related reasons. In other words, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed dogs for aggression related reasons at 40 times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter erroneously labeled dogs aggressive and did not do enough to rehabilitate those that had some issues.

The shelter also killed too many dogs for medical reasons. During 2018, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed 2% of all dogs for medical reasons and another 2% for being “old.” However, Austin Animal Center only euthanized 0.6% of all dogs for medical reasons (they killed none for just being “old”). Therefore, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed dogs for medical related reasons at seven times Austin Animal Center’s rate. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed treatable dogs.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed a very high percentage of pit bulls for aggression. As you can see in the table below, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed 16% of all the pit bulls it took in for so-called aggression. As a comparison, Austin Animal Center only euthanized, 0.05% of the pit bulls it took in during 2018 for aggression. Amazingly, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed pit bulls for aggression at 320 times the rate as Austin Animal Center in 2018.

To put this into perspective, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed 8 of the 23 non-reclaimed pit bulls it took in for aggression. In other words, Franklin Township stated 35% or more than 1 in 3 of the pit bulls it had to find new homes for were aggressive.

Mr. Boz was a six year old pit bull like dog surrendered to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on August 31, 2018 due to a landlord issue. In March 2018, the owner’s veterinarian stated Mr. Boz was good with kids and the dog lived with a nine year old child. Despite this, Franklin Township Animal Shelter claimed Mr. Boz was “Not good w/ other animals!” and killed him on February 23, 2019. The shelter provided no documents as to how it reached this conclusion and if it made any efforts to rehabilitate the animal. As many owners of dogs with high prey drives and/or dog aggression know, this is a very manageable issue.

Dolly was an eleven year old Shih Tzu surrendered by her owner to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on April 6, 2018 due to an inability to handle the dog’s medical problems. On the shelter’s intake record, the facility made sure to highlight Dolly’s age. According to the shelter, the owner couldn’t handle the dog’s “severe skin issues.” As far as I could tell, the shelter’s paperwork did not indicate the facility provided any veterinary care to Dolly. Furthermore, I found no effort to reach out to rescues or the public in general to save this animal. Instead, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed Dolly on August 29, 2018. Given even small dogs like Dolly are highly sought after, even with medical and behavior issues, its shocking how the shelter apparently made no effort to save this animal.

Cats Killed for Crazy Reasons

Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed massive numbers of cats for being “feral” and many treatable conditions. As you can see in the table below, the shelter killed 17% of all cats for being “feral” and another 2% of all cats for aggression/behavior. In other words, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed nearly 1 out of 5 cats for behavior the facility did not like. As a comparison Austin Animal Center did not kill a single cat in 2018 for being feral, aggressive or other behaviors. Thus, Franklin Township Animal Shelter needlessly killed 1 out of 5 cats.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter had too many cats with feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). FIP is a mutation of the more common feline coronavirus and can be deadly for kittens. Feline coronavirus is shed from infected cat feces. Feline corona virus mutates in certain cats and becomes FIP. Typically, this occurs subsequent to a stressful event and and the disease symptoms occur after a few weeks to 18 months. Overall, the shelter reported killing 16 cats or 4% of all the cats it took in for having FIP (note some cats killed for other reasons, such as being feral, also had FIP). However, its possible this number was higher if cats the shelter did not kill also had FIP. According to research cited by the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, only 0.6% of cats in an open intake shelter had FIP and rates over rates over 1% are a concern. In fact, the UC David Koret Shelter Medicine Program noted length of stay is a key risk factor and cats staying on average over 60 days in a shelter are over five times more likely to contract feline coronavirus (and likely FIP) than shelters where cats stay on average a few weeks. Given cats stayed on average 84 days at the Franklin Township Animal Shelter last year, its highly likely this was a key factor causing so many cats to have FIP.

Alternatively, its possible Franklin Township Animal Shelter classified some cats with feline coronavirus as having FIP. 12 of the 16 cats Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed for having FIP were adults. Given this disease mostly occurs in cats under 18 months and over 12 years, its quite possible many of these adult cats had feline coronavirus and not the mutated version known as FIP. Since feline coronavirus is highly treatable, its quite possible Franklin Township Animal Shelter needlessly killed at least some of these cats.

Franklin Township Animal Shelter also killed several cats for having Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus or FeLV. Progressive shelters adopt out both FIV and FeLV positive cats as many cats with these diseases can live good lives. As American Pets Alive discussed in their recent blog, FeLV cats can be adopted out to people who take a few extra precautions, such as not having cats without FeLV in the home and seeking veterinary treatment quickly when the cats get sick. Similarly cats with the less serious FIV disease generally can live in homes with other cats, if they are compatible, since cats spread the disease through deep bites.

Finally, Franklin Township Animal Shelter killed a number of cats for no documented reasons. As a result, Franklin Township Animal Shelter did not even try to justify why it killed these cats.

Cat ID# 500 was a stray cat brought to the Franklin Township Animal Shelter on July 20, 2019. Despite the cat having an ear tip, which is the universal sign that a TNR caregiver has spent time and effort neutering, vaccinating and releasing the cat, the shelter labeled the cat feral and killed the animal on September 5, 2018.

Ginger, Cinnamon and Chino were surrendered by their owner to Franklin Township Animal Shelter on June 13, 2018. As of the time I received the shelter’s intake and disposition records in March 2019, Ginger, who was described by the shelter as “very friendly”, did not have an outcome. The shelter noted Cinnamon was diabetic and killed her on August 31, 2018. No records provided to me indicate any effort to treat her or find a live outcome for her. Franklin Township Animal Shelter described Chino as “Mean Aggressive”, even though he lived in a home, and killed him on June 28, 2018 just 15 days after he arrived at the shelter. Once again, the shelter made no attempts to socialize Chino or find a live outcome.

Clearly, Franklin Township Animal Shelter kills many animals for absurd reasons and does not adopt out nearly enough animals. As a result, the shelter kills too many animals.

In my next blog, I’ll examine whether Franklin Township Animal Shelter violates state law.

Bergen County Animal Shelter Keeps on Killing Pets in 2018

Over the last several years, I wrote numerous blogs about the high kill Bergen County Animal Shelter. You can view my blog from last year here. That blog also includes links to my prior Bergen County Animal Shelter blogs.

These blogs revealed Bergen County Animal Shelter killed huge numbers of animals for absurd reasons. Additionally, the shelter illegally killed animals during the state’s seven day protection period.

Was Bergen County Animal Shelter still a high kill facility in 2018? Does the shelter comply with state law?

Shelter Kills Dogs at a High Rate

Bergen County Animal Shelter continued to kill many dogs in 2018. You can view all the shelter’s dog and cat intake and disposition records here. Overall, 10% of all dogs, 24% of pit bulls, 4% of small dogs and 10% of other medium to large sized breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter during the year. As a comparison, only 1% of all dogs, 1% of pit bulls, 2% of small dogs and 1% of other breeds lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018 despite that shelter taking in many more dogs in total and on a per capita basis. If we just count dogs who Bergen County Animal Shelter had to find new homes for (i.e. excluding dogs reclaimed by their owners), 18% of all dogs, 36% of pit bulls, 8% of small dogs and 18% of other medium to large sized breeds were killed or died at the shelter. To put it another way, around 1 in 5 nonreclaimed dogs, more than 1 in 3 nonreclaimed pit bulls and around 1 in 5 nonreclaimed other medium to large size breeds lost their lives at the Bergen County Animal Shelter. Thus, all types of medium to larger size dogs entering the Bergen County Animal Shelter had a significant chance of losing their life.

Bergen County Animal Shelter hardly adopted out any dogs. Despite being a well-known county shelter in a high traffic area, the facility only adopted out 279 dogs during the year or less than one dog per day. Furthermore, 74 of those adoptions were small dogs, which shelters have to do little work to adopt out. Bergen County Animal Shelter only adopted out 131 medium to large size dogs, which included just 57 pit bulls and 74 other medium to large size breeds. This works out to less than five pit bull adoptions and around six other medium to large size breed adoptions a month.

The shelter also sent very few medium to large size dogs to rescues. While my recent dog report card blog on the state’s shelters showed Bergen County Animal Shelter had plenty of space to adopt out all of its nonreclaimed dogs, one would think the facility would at least try to send dogs it was going to kill to rescues instead. In fact, Bergen County Animal Shelter only sent 26 out of 360 medium-large size dogs to rescues and other shelters in 2018. Even worse, Bergen County Animal Shelter only transferred 3 out of 141 pit bulls to rescues and other shelters during the year. In fact, Bergen County Animal Shelter killed 11 times more pit bulls than it sent to rescues and other shelters. As a comparison, Elizabeth Animal Shelter sent 29 pit bulls to rescues in 2017 or 10 times as many as Bergen County Animal Shelter. Despite the shelter’s policy of contacting rescues prior to killing, I’ve personally never seen Bergen County Animal Shelter ever make a public plea to rescues to save dogs the shelter was going to kill. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter would rather kill medium to large size dogs than actually ask for help to save these animals.

Too Many Cats Lose Their Lives

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat statistics in 2018 were also not good. Overall, 29% of cats lost their lives or went missing. If we just count cats the shelter had to find new homes for (i.e. excluding owner reclaims and cats “released” through TNR and other programs), 34% of these cats lost their lives. These death rates were 28% and 32% for cats one year and older and 11% and 11% for kittens that were 6 weeks to just under one year old. Thus, cats were not safe at Bergen County Animal Shelter.

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s neonatal kitten statistics were far worse than the overall cat kill rate. Specifically, 62% of kittens under 6 weeks old lost their lives. If we only count animals that were not reclaimed or released, 94% of kittens under six weeks old lost their lives. Furthermore, if the 158 under 6 week old kittens listed under “released” went through the shelter’s TNR program, that raises serious ethical questions as young kittens have high mortality rates on the streets.

While I tabulated the cat statistics by age, I note the shelter’s cat age statistics were grossly inaccurate last year. Therefore, the shelter may have provided incorrect age information this year.

Most troubling, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat death rates were significantly higher in 2018 than in 2017. The cat death rate increased from 16% to 29% while the nonreclaimed cat death rate rose from 20% to 34%. While Bergen County Animal Shelter’s dog statistics improved marginally, the shelter’s sharp increase in cat killing is alarming. Specifically, the number of cats killed increased from 277 cats to 420 cats while the number of cats who died or went missing increased from 17 cats to 149 cats.

Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat statistics were also much worse than Austin Animal Center. While 28% of cats and 34% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at Bergen County Animal Shelter in 2017, only 4% of cats and 5% of nonreclaimed cats lost their lives at Austin Animal Center in 2018. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cats were seven times more likely to lose their lives than cats at Austin Animal Center.

Remarkably, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s underlying records revealed many differences from what it reported in the statistics it submitted to the New Jersey Department of Health. While the shelter likely complied with the state health department’s rules in counting cats who were brought in for TNR, these numbers significantly skew the shelter’s numbers. Based on the Shelter Animals Count methodology and common sense, shelters should not count cats they bring in only for purposes of neutering and releasing. The 2,525 cat difference between total outcomes on the New Jersey Department of Health report and the underlying records likely relate to the TNR program. Similarly, the 2,446 more cat adoptions on the state health department report also likely represent cats who were neutered and released. As a result, the state health department report significantly increased the denominator in kill and death rate calculations and therefore understated the shelter’s real kill and death rates.

Interestingly, the shelter’s state health department report had 71 killed cats in the “Other” outcomes category. However, the total cats killed and died/escaped were the same in the report sent to the state health department and the shelter’s underlying records. As a result, the kill rate statistics based on the state health department report understated the real kill rate.

Inability to Produce Critical Data

Unfortunately, I could not conduct a length of stay analysis as I did in the past due to the shelter’s new software system. Instead of using a well-known shelter software system, Bergen County Animal Shelter uses a program few people have heard of. When I requested intake and disposition records with intake dates and outcome dates, the shelter only provided me a small portion of the animals it took in. When I questioned this data, the shelter stated the software could only provide disposition dates for animals impounded within the last month. While I strongly believe the shelter must legally provide a custom report prepared by the software provider under the Open Public Records Act of New Jersey, I did not wish to delay this blog due to a protracted legal case.

Frankly, I’m shocked Bergen County Animal Shelter uses software that can’t produce key length of stay data. Length of stay, broken out by key animal populations, intake categories and outcomes, is essential for shelters to monitor performance and plan for the future. For example, increased average lengths of stay can lead to overcrowding and increased disease rates as well as higher costs. The fact Bergen County Animal Shelter switched from a shelter software that easily produced this data to a new program that can’t speaks volumes about the incompetence of the shelter’s leadership.

Illegal Killing of Animals Before Seven Days

While Bergen County Animal Shelter could not provide length of stay data for all animals, it could produce length of stay data for animals who had an outcome within a month after they arrived at the facility. Therefore, I was able to identify animals the shelter killed before state’s seven day protection period ended. You can see a list of the animals here.

New Jersey animal shelter law clearly states shelters must not kill animals, whether they are strays or owner surrenders, for at least seven days. Furthermore, the New Jersey Department of Health issued guidance summarizing the law’s requirements:

Pursuant to State law (N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.16 a. through l.) all municipalities must have a licensed animal impoundment facility (pound) designated where stray and potentially vicious animals can be safely impounded. Impounded stray animals shall be held at the pound for at least seven days (i.e., 168 hours) from the time impounded before the animal is offered for adoption or euthanized, relocated or sterilized, regardless of the animal’s temperament or medical condition.

Animals that are voluntarily surrendered by their owners to licensed pounds or shelters shall be offered for adoption for at least seven days prior to euthanasia or shelter/pound management may transfer the animal to an animal rescue organization facility or a foster home prior to offering it for adoption if such a transfer is determined to be in the best interest of the animal.

In practice, the New Jersey Department of Health allows shelters to euthanize animals during the seven day hold period if both of the following conditions are met as discussed in this section of the New Jersey Department of Health’s July 30, 2009 inspection report on Associated Humane Societies-Newark.

  1. If a veterinarian deems euthanasia necessary for humane reasons to prevent excessive suffering when illness and injury is severe and the prognosis for recovery is extremely poor
  2. Only a licensed veterinarian should perform euthanasia in the above situation and they must clearly document the humane rationale in the animal’s medical record

Bergen County Animal Shelter killed large numbers of animals before seven days. Overall, the shelter killed 134 dogs and cats prior to seven days. 129 of the 134 animals killed during the seven day protection period were cats. While some cats may have been hopelessly suffering, its highly unlikely most of these animals were. For example, my blog for 2017, my blog for 2016 and my blog for 2015 uncovered numerous animals the shelter illegally killed before seven days and the animals were not hopelessly suffering. Furthermore, several animals in the 2018 list of killed animals before seven days had reasons for surrender, such as as allergy, aggression and losing home, that indicated the animals were not hopelessly suffering.

Bergen County Health Department’s Bogus Inspections of Itself

The Bergen County Health Department runs the Bergen County Animal Shelter and inspects itself. As expected, the Bergen County Health Department gave itself a “Satisfactory” grade in 2017. The inspection report, which contained illegible handwriting, looked like someone spent two minutes preparing it. Similarly, the Bergen County Health Department did the same thing in its December 27, 2018 inspection report. Most noteworthy, the inspector completely missed the animals Bergen County Animal Shelter illegally killed before seven days in both 2017 and 2018. As of August 28, 2019, the Bergen County Health Department has not inspected Bergen County Animal Shelter in 2019.

Bergen County Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for nearly six months in 2018 and around two months and counting in 2019. Under N.J.S.A. 4:19-15.8(b), a shelter’s license expires on June 30th each year. N.J.A.C. 8.23A-1.2 requires a shelter to comply with state law and receive a Certificate of Inspection for the current licensing year. In other words, a shelter must be inspected and found to comply with state law by June 30th of each year to have a license to operate. Thus, Bergen County Animal Shelter should not have had a license to operate for nearly six months in 2018 and should not have a license to operate the shelter as of August 28, 2019.

Bergen County Residents Must Demand Much More

Sadly, Bergen County Animal Shelter continues to fail the animals entrusted in its care. Despite its $2.6 million budget or $970 per dog and cat impounded, Bergen County Animal Shelter continues to kill large numbers of its animals. As you see in the table below, Bergen County Animal Shelter receives more government funding per impounded animal than Austin Animal Center and kills dogs at rates ranging from 4-18 times more than Austin Animal Center. Similarly, Bergen County Animal Shelter kills cats at rates ranging from 3-13 times more than Austin Animal Center. Thus, Bergen County taxpayers are getting ripped off by this failing animal shelter.

Clearly, Bergen County continues to operate a regressive animal shelter. As I discussed previously, Bergen County residents should be outraged that their tax dollars support a high kill shelter that conducts illegal activities and their elected leaders tried to deceive their constituents into believing it was “no kill.” If you live in Bergen County, please contact the following elected representatives and tell them you expect Bergen County to hire a top notch shelter director who will adopt the 11 step No Kill Equation and achieve live release rates well over 95% like Austin, Texas and many other communities have.

  • James Tedesco III, Bergen County Executive: 201-336-730; countyexecutive@co.bergen.nj.us
  • Tracy Silna Zur, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-628; Tracyzur@co.bergen.nj.us
  • Thomas J. Sullivan, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6277; tsullivan@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Joan M. Voss, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6279; jvoss@co.bergen.nj.us
  • Mary J. Amoroso, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6275; mamoroso@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • David L. Ganz, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6280; DavidLGanz@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Germaine M. Ortiz, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6276; gortiz@co.bergen.nj.us 
  • Steven A. Tanelli, Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders: 201-336-6278; STanelli@co.bergen.nj.us 

New Jersey’s Highest Kill Shelters in 2018

Recently, I wrote a blog discussing decreased killing at New Jersey animal shelters in 2018. This blog will explore the 2018 statistics in more detail and assess the current status of the state’s animal shelters.

Most New Jersey animal shelters voluntarily report detailed data to state authorities. Last month, I shared the 2018 summary statistics for New Jersey animal shelters on my Facebook page. Each year, the New Jersey Department of Health requests each licensed animal shelter in the state to submit animal shelter data for the previous year. Animal shelters voluntarily submit this data in the “Shelter/Pound Annual Report.” The New Jersey Department of Health takes these Shelter/Pound Annual Reports and compiles the number of dogs, cats and other animals impounded, redeemed, adopted and euthanized to prepare its Animal Intake and Disposition report. However, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include additional information on how animals were impounded (i.e. strays, owner surrenders, rescued from in-state facilities, rescued from out of state shelters, and cruelty/bite cases/other) and disposed of (i.e. returned to owner, adopted, sent to rescue/another shelter, and died/missing/other outcome). Additionally, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include the number of animals in shelters at the beginning and end of the year as well as the maximum number of animals facilities can hold. Thus, the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports include very important data not found in the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report.

I compiled the data from these reports and analyze the results in this blog. 2018 statistics for each New Jersey animal shelter are listed at this link. You can also view each “Shelter/Pound Annual Report” at this link.

Garbage Data Raises Serious Questions About New Jersey Animal Shelters’ Statistics

Most New Jersey animal shelters do not properly account for their animals. Simple math dictates the number of animals at a facility at the beginning of the year, plus all animals coming in during the year, less all animals leaving for the period, should equal the number of animals a shelter has at the end of the year. Stunningly, 56 out of 92 shelters reporting these dog statistics and 59 out of 91 facilities submitting this cat data failed to get this right. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of these shelters’ reported statistics. 32 of the 56 shelters with flawed dog statistics and 34 of the 59 facilities with incorrect cat statistics should have had more animals at the end of the year than reported. While these errors could have been due to incorrect counts of the number of animals at facilities, these shelters may have not recorded outcomes, such as animals who were killed, died, or went missing. To put it another way, 2,002 cats and dogs should have had outcomes reported and did not. Thus, there is the potential that as many as 2,002 additional dogs and cats were killed, died or went missing from New Jersey animal shelters than were reported in 2018.

Even worse, a number of animal shelters reported having a different number of animals at the end of 2017 and at the beginning of 2018. Obviously, shelters should report the same number of animals at the end of the prior year and the start of the current year. However, 32 of 92 shelters reported different numbers of dogs at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. Similarly, 37 of 91 shelters reported different numbers of cats at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. The worst offenders are listed in the tables below:

Shelters may have failed to classify animals adopted out and sent to rescues properly. Both Paterson Animal Control and Elizabeth Animal Shelter reported no animals were sent to rescues and all dogs and cats leaving their facilities alive were owner reclaims or adoptions. However, intake and disposition records I reviewed at both of these shelters in recent years revealed almost all “adopted” animals are actually rescued. One has to wonder how many other facilities failed to properly classify adoptions and rescues properly. This data is very important as it provides details on the burden rescues and other shelters are taking on from these facilities.

We need better oversight of New Jersey animal shelters’ data reporting. Currently, these statistics are voluntarily reported and most shelters are not taking this seriously. For example, I noticed a large number of reports were submitted many months after the end of the year. This data should be easy to compile since facilities can utilize animal shelter software programs, some of which are free, to do this task. Furthermore, New Jersey animal shelter laws mandate facilities maintain much of the raw data found in the Shelter/Pound Annual Report. Unfortunately, New Jersey Department of Health inspections routinely find shelters do not properly keep records on animals. We need to make the data reporting mandatory for animal shelters as the shelter reform bill, S725, does along with serious penalties for significant errors (especially if deliberate). In order for animal shelters to take data reporting seriously, we may also need to require audits of these reports. Thus, these results show we need stronger laws and the New Jersey Department of Health to play a greater role in ensuring reported animal shelter statistics are in fact accurate.

Despite the errors in these reports, the data provided still reveals important information.

More Animals Losing Their Lives in New Jersey Animal Shelters Than Disclosed in Summary Report

The more detailed data in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports allows one to more critically examine the percentage of locally impounded animals dying in New Jersey’s animal shelters. The following table summarizes my analysis of the kill rate calculated from the New Jersey Department of Health’s summary report and the data reported in the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports.

This year I revised the cat statistics to remove an estimate of the cats St. Hubert’s transfers in and quickly transfers out through its Sister Shelter WayStation program. Previously, I made this adjustment only for dogs. Since St. Hubert’s is effectively acting as a middle man and not holding these animals very long, it makes sense to exclude these dogs and cats from the various kill rate statistics. If I did not exclude these animals, I would understate the dog and cat kill rates due to inflated intakes and outcomes numbers. Therefore, I removed all of St. Hubert’s dogs transferred out from the intake and outcomes figures in the metrics. Since St. Hubert’s primarily uses the Sister Shelter Waystation program to quickly transfer in cats and send them to out of state facilities, I only backed out the cats St. Hubert’s transferred to out of state organizations in the various kill rates. This adjustment increased the dog kill rate (intake) from 5.5 to 6.3% and the cat kill rate (intake) from 16.1% to 16.3%.

The Animal Intake and Disposition report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Health only allows one to calculate the number of animals killed as a percentage of total animals impounded or intake. I prefer calculating the kill rate as a percentage of outcomes rather than intake as this metric directly compares positive and negative outcomes. Using intake may depress the kill rate since shelters can simply hold animals for a long time to the point of overcrowding. Calculating the kill rate based on outcomes rather than intake caused the dog kill rate to increase from 6.3% to 6.4% and the cat kill rate to increase from 16.3% to 16.7%.

To calculate the statewide kill rate, we must also back out transfers from one New Jersey animal shelter to another state facility to avoid counting animals still in the state’s shelter system or registering two outcomes for the same animal (i.e. one New Jersey animal shelter transfers a dog or cat to another state facility which then adopts out the animal). This adjustment increases the dog kill rate from 6.4% to 6.8% and the cat kill rate from 16.7% to 18.0%.

In addition, we should increase the kill rate for animals who died or went missing in shelters. In the past, I’ve labeled this metric the death rate as these animals are likely dead or in a very bad situation. Unfortunately, the Shelter/Pound Annual Report includes animals who died or went missing in the “Other” outcome category. The “Other” category contains positive live releases, such as TNR for cats, at a few shelters. While including the “Other” category in the death rate for most shelters is appropriate (i.e. those facilities that don’t do TNR or don’t include cats released through TNR programs in “Other” outcomes), I’m no longer doing this due to an increasing number of shelters implementing TNR. Instead, I calculated the kill rate by subtracting out “Other” outcomes from total outcomes. If a shelter specifies the number of animals included in “Other” that left the shelter alive, I count this as “Other Live Release” and do not back these amounts out of total outcomes. After making this adjustment, the dog kill rate remained at 6.8% and the cat kill also stayed at 18.0%. For those interested in seeing the estimated death rates, you can find them in the supporting spreadsheet.

Also, many shelters transport easy to adopt animals from out of state which artificially increases live release rates. To properly calculate the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives, we need to adjust for transports. Unfortunately, shelters don’t break out their save rates by local and out of state animals. However, most likely nearly all of the out of state animals (primarily puppies and easy to adopt dogs and cats) make it out of shelters alive. Therefore, I back out the number of out of state transports from total outcomes to estimate the local kill rate. This adjustment increases the New Jersey dog kill rate from 6.8% to 9.2% and the state’s cat kill rate from 18.0 to 19.3%.

Also, I estimate a maximum local kill rate by including the number of unaccounted for animals described in the section above. Making this adjustment increases the maximum potential New Jersey dog kill rate from 9.2 to 12.9% and the maximum potential state cat kill rate from 19.3% to 21.3%.

Some animal shelters quickly return large percentages of their animals to owners. At these shelters, the populations served are typically well-off and animals are licensed and have microchips. To account for the animals facilities actually have to shelter, I calculated a kill rate for non-reclaimed animals and a maximum potential kill rate for non-reclaimed local animals. The non-reclaimed kill rate and maximum potential kill rate for dogs is 9.7% and 21.0%. Non-reclaimed cats had a 20.4% kill rate and a 22.9% maximum potential kill rate. Thus, the percentage of New Jersey animals losing their lives in our state’s animal shelters may be much higher than the state summary report suggests.

Kill Rates Extremely High at a Number of New Jersey Animal Shelters

Dogs and cats are likely to lose their lives at a number of New Jersey animal shelters. Shelters with the highest kill rates for dogs and cats (excluding very low intake facilities) are listed in the following tables:

Thus, both dogs and cats have a very good chance of leaving many New Jersey animal shelters dead rather than alive.

In terms of raw numbers, the following shelters killed the most animals:

Many shelters fail to account for large numbers of their animals. As discussed above, a shelter’s number of animals at the end of the year should be calculated as follows:

Beginning number of animals + animals impounded – animals leaving the shelter

Unfortunately, a large number of shelters take in far more animals than they can explain where they went. Shelters having the highest numbers of unaccounted for dogs and cats are listed in the following tables:

Dog and cat kill rates at many shelters may be even higher if these unaccounted for animals are counted as killed. If we only consider animal shelters which reported transporting few or no animals in 2018, facilities with the highest dog and cat kill rates considering the unaccounted for animals described above are as follows:

Thus, the plight of dogs and cats may be far worse in New Jersey animal shelters when we consider the unaccounted for animals.

Shelters Turn Their Backs on New Jersey’s Animals

New Jersey animal shelters rescue far more dogs from out of state than from other New Jersey animal shelters. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters transferred in 10,131 dogs from out of state animal shelters and only rescued 2,399 dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters. However, St. Hubert’s frequently transfers a substantial number of its transports quickly to its partners in New Jersey and other states. If I back out St. Hubert’s transfers of dogs to out of state organizations, the number of transports decreases from 10,131 dogs to 6,360 dogs. While the state’s local kill rate decreased in 2018, it is likely the local kill rate would have decreased by more if not for the massive number of out of state transports.

While perhaps some shelters, such as Animal Alliance in Lambertville, take animals from nearby New York or Pennsylvania animal control shelters, the overwhelming majority of these dogs most certainly came from down south. In fact, New Jersey animal shelters transported more dogs from out of state than dogs who were killed in New Jersey animal shelters. This number does not include additional out of state dogs transported into New Jersey by rescues operating without a physical facility. Shelters transporting the most dogs from out of state were as follows:

Shelters Do Far Worse with Animals Requiring New Homes

Since dogs reclaimed by their owners typically have licenses and/or microchips and quickly leave the shelter, its informative to look at dogs shelters have to find new homes for. To get a better idea of how organizations are doing with animals they actually have to shelter, I also examined what percentage of non-reclaimed dogs lose their lives at each facility. Shelters with the highest non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows:

Shelters with the highest maximum non-reclaimed dogs kill rates are as follows (excluding facilities that reported transporting many dogs in and taking very few animals in):

Shelters Leave Animal Enclosures Empty While Dogs and Cats Die

New Jersey animal shelters fail to use their space to save animals. Based on the average number of animals at all of New Jersey’s animal shelters at the beginning and the end of 2018, only 62% of dog and 75% of cat capacity was used. Given December is a low intake month, I also increased these populations to an average intake month. This adjustment only raised the dog capacity utilization to 70%. While this adjustment did increase the cat capacity utilization to over 100%, it is highly unlikely this happened in reality. Shelter inspection reports I’ve reviewed often did not reveal significantly larger dog and cat populations in the summer and winter months. This is likely due to the influx of highly adoptable kittens having short lengths of stay and shelters killing cats with empty cages.

Many animal shelters with low kill rates failed to rescue animals with their excess space. Additionally, other shelters used little of their available space and still killed a large percentage of their animals. Some examples after increasing the population (and therefore capacity utilization) based on the adjustment discussed above are as follows:

Thus, many New Jersey animal shelters are killing dogs and cats despite having ample space to house these animals.

New Jersey’s animal shelters continue to fail the state’s animals. The state’s animal shelters only impound 8.6 dogs and cats per 1,000 New Jersey residents. If we just count animals originating from New Jersey, the state’s animal shelters only impound 7.4 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. As a comparison, the average community in the country impounds anywhere from 14 animals per 1,000 residents based on estimates from Animal People Newspaper and No Kill Movement. Despite New Jersey shelters impounding a fraction of the animals other no kill communities take in on a per capita basis, the state’s animal control facilities continue to kill and allow animals to die under their care. Even worse, many of these shelters can’t even properly keep track of how many animals leave their facilities dead or alive. Our state’s animals deserve far better treatment than this. Contact your local city council members and mayor and demand better from the animal shelter serving your community. We can do so much better and it is time our shelters operate this way.

New Jersey Animal Shelters Kill Fewer Animals in 2018, but Some Red Flags Exist

In 2017, New Jersey animal shelter statistics significantly improved. This decrease in killing was driven by decreased animal intake and increased numbers of animals adopted out, sent to rescues and released through TNR programs.

How did New Jersey animal shelters perform in 2018 compared to 2017? What caused these changes? What shelters had positive and negative impacts on the state’s kill rates in 2017?

Killing Decreased Significantly in 2018

The tables below summarize the statewide dog and cat statistics in 2018 and 2017. To see how I calculate the various metrics, please review the footnotes in this link and my blog analyzing the 2015 statistics. You can view the full 2018 statistics here and the 2017 statistics here.

This year I revised the cat statistics to remove an estimate of the cats St. Hubert’s transfers in and quickly transfers out through its Sister Shelter WayStation program. Previously, I made this adjustment only for dogs. Since St. Hubert’s is effectively acting as a middle man and not holding these animals very long, it makes sense to exclude these dogs and cats from the various kill rate statistics below. If I did not exclude these animals, I would understate the dog and cat kill rates due to inflated intakes and outcomes numbers. Therefore, I removed all of St. Hubert’s dogs transferred out from the intake and outcomes figures in the data below. Since St. Hubert’s primarily uses the Sister Shelter Waystation program to quickly transfer in cats and send them to out of state facilities, I only backed out the cats St. Hubert’s transferred to out of state organizations in the data below.

All dog and cat statistics improved in 2018 verses 2017, but at a much slower rate when compared to 2017 verses 2016. The dog kill rates decreased, but at about one half to two thirds the rate those kill rates decreased in 2017 verses 2016. Similarly, the cat kill rates decreased in 2018 verses 2017, but this decrease was only at about 30%-40% of the rate those kill rates decreased in 2017 verses 2016. While we’d like the kill rate decreases in 2018 verses 2017 to equal or exceed the decreases in 2017 verses 2016, the kill rate decreases in 2017 verses 2016 were extraordinarily large. Additionally, as shelters kill fewer animals, the remaining animals become more challenging to save. That being said, this data may suggest shelters need to invest more efforts in programs to get animals out of their facilities alive.

Decreased Intake Results in Fewer Killed Dogs

The statewide dog kill rate decreased due to New Jersey animal shelters taking fewer dogs in. New Jersey animal shelters reported killing 413 fewer dogs (432 dogs if we assume the animals in “Other” outcomes died). However, New Jersey shelters’ live outcomes decreased significantly. Given New Jersey animal shelters fell far short of my dog adoption targets I set for 2017, these results are deeply disappointing. Therefore, New Jersey animal shelters killed fewer dogs due to these facilities taking fewer dogs in rather than saving more dogs.

The following shelters contributed most to the decrease in the statewide dog kill rate.

The table below provides insight as to why these shelters decreased the statewide dog kill rate the most. As you can see, most of the shelters, which are relatively large, had kill rates over 10% in 2017. All the shelters had fewer outcomes primarily due to decreased dog intake. In particular, Associated Humane Societies-Newark’s much lower intake, which may partially be due to its loss of the Newark animal control contract in November 2018, was significant. Since these facilities have above average kill rates, these shelters had a smaller impact on the state’s dog kill rate in 2017. Finally, all these shelters, except for Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center (formerly Camden County Animal Shelter), had lower kill rates in 2018 compared to 2017.

The following table explains why most of these shelters’ kill rates decreased. In the case of Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, it adopted out more dogs. Shelter reform advocates in Hamilton pressured the shelter to improve. However, this facility was hardly doing any adoptions before and still does not adopt out nearly enough dogs. On the other hand, Associated Humane Societies-Newark sent more animals to rescues and other shelters. Like Hamilton Township Animal Shelter, Associated Humane Societies-Newark faced mounting public pressure to do better as a result of numerous negative news stories. The other facilities with decreased kill rates had fewer positive outcomes due to fewer animal outcomes, but the decrease in killing was greater. Thus, these shelters’ kill rates decreased primarily due to having fewer animals come in.

Other Shelters Increased the Statewide Dog Kill Rate

While the statewide dog kill rate dropped in 2018, several shelters partially offset this decrease. Specifically, the following shelters increased the dog kill rate, but this was more than offset by the facilities above.

The following table provides more details on these shelters. Animal Welfare Association, Humane Society of Atlantic County and Monmouth SPCA all reported higher kill rates in 2018 verses 2017. In the cases of Animal Welfare Association and Monmouth SPCA, these shelters kill rates increased from very low levels. On the other hand, Humane Society of Atlantic County’s dog kill rate increased from a shockingly high level for a rescue oriented shelter. While Trenton Animal Shelter and Atlantic County Animal Shelter reported lower dog kill rates in 2018, these shelters’ kill rates are still above the statewide average. Therefore, these shelters increased the statewide dog kill rate since both shelters took in more dogs and represented a greater share of the state’s dog intake in 2018.

The table below explains why several of these shelters’ dog kill rates increased. Monmouth SPCA reported significantly fewer dogs transferred to rescues and other shelters in 2018. On the other hand, Animal Welfare Association reported decreased adoptions. While Humane Society of Atlantic County reported more live outcomes in 2018, the shelter also killed more dogs in 2018. Therefore, Humane Society of Atlantic County’s increased positive incomes were not enough to stop the facility’s kill rate from increasing.

More Cats Leave Shelters Alive

Since Bergen County Animal Shelter included cats it brought in explicitly to TNR (not included in statistics per the Shelter Animals Count methodology) as intake and adopted out in 2018 and 2017, I replaced Bergen County Animal Shelter’s summary data with numbers I obtained via an OPRA request that excluded Bergen County Animal Shelter’s TNR cats. As a result of doing this, the 2018 statewide cat kill rate (outcomes) increased from 16.7% to 17.7% while the 2017 cat kill rate (outcomes) increased from 19.0% to 19.9%.

New Jersey animal shelters killed many fewer cats in 2018 than in 2017. Overall, New Jersey animal shelters killed 719 less cats. If we count cats that died or went missing, even fewer cats would have lost their lives in 2018. While the Shelter/Pound Annual Reports shelters fill out do not include a separate category for animals who died or went missing, shelters include these animals in the “Other” outcomes line. If we take out the cats from “Other” outcomes that certain shelters separately disclosed as TNR, “Other” outcomes (which should mostly represent cats who died or went missing) decreased by 507 cats. Thus, significantly fewer cats lost their lives in New Jersey shelters in 2018.

The decrease in killing was driven by more cats transferred to rescues and other shelters, increased adoptions, more owner reclaims and more cats sent out via TNR programs. Since cat owner reclaims generally are low at most shelters and shelters often classify cats that are impounded and then neutered and released as reclaimed, TNR efforts likely played a role in the higher number of cats returned to owners in 2018. Additionally, shelters that separately disclosed TNR cats (in “Other” outcomes) showed 298 additional cats sent out via these programs in 2018. New Jersey animal shelters adopted out 382 more cats in 2018, but its possible some of these were actually TNR since some shelters include TNR in their adoption figures. The increase in cat transfers was almost entirely due to cats transferred to out of state shelters and rescues. Specifically, 1,688 of the 1,755 increase in cats transferred relate to rescues by out of state organizations. Thus, despite shelters impounding significantly more cats in 2018, the cat kill rate decreased significantly due to increased live outcomes.

The following shelters decreased the statewide cat kill rate the most.

The following table provides insight as to why these shelters decreased the statewide cat kill rate the most. As you can see, the shelters, except for Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center, had kill rates over 25% in 2017 and all reported decreases in those kill rates. All the shelters except for South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center had fewer outcomes primarily due to decreased cat intake. Therefore, these higher kill shelters made up a smaller portion of cat outcomes in the state and that partially decreased the statewide cat kill rate in 2018.

The table below explains why these shelters’ kill rates decreased. All the shelters, except for Franklin Township Animal Shelter and Associated Humane Societies-Tinton Falls, reported increased transfers to shelters and rescues. Interestingly, both South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center reported significantly greater numbers of cats transferred to out of state organizations (South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter: 559 cats; Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center: 1,106 cats) and large decreases in transfers to New Jersey organizations (South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter: 546 cats; Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center: 984 cats). Both Homeward Bound Pet Adoption Center and South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter also reported large increases in cat adoptions which is an excellent sign. On the other hand, most of the other shelters, which already did not adopt out enough cats in 2017, adopted out fewer cats in 2018. Unfortunately, this is a big red flag as high kill shelters almost never become and stay no kill unless they adopt out the bulk of their animals themselves.

Other Shelters Increased the Statewide Cat Kill Rate

While the statewide cat kill rate decreased in 2018, several shelters partially offset this decrease. Specifically, the following facilities increased the cat kill rate, but this was more than offset by the shelters above.

The following table provides more details on these shelters. All the shelters, with the exception of Associated Humane Societies-Newark, had higher cat kill rates in 2018 compared to 2017. In addition, most of the shelters had kill rates of 16% or higher in 2018. Most notably, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat kill rate per its underlying records, which I obtained under an OPRA request and used in this analysis, was significantly higher than the kill rate based on the numbers it reported to the state health department. Phillipsburg Animal Facility did not report numbers in the past and therefore it increased the statewide cat kill rate in 2018. All the other shelters, except for Atlantic County Animal Shelter, also had more outcomes in 2018 than in 2017. Since most of these shelters had kill rates that exceeded the statewide average, increased outcomes at these facilities raised the statewide cat kill rate.

The table below explains why most of these shelters’ kill rates increased. Bergen County Animal Shelter, Atlantic County Animal Shelter and Liberty Humane Society reported fewer cat adoptions and cats transferred. In addition, both Atlantic County Animal Shelter and Liberty Humane Society had fewer owner reclaims. While St. Hubert’s-Madison transferred more cats to rescues and other shelters, its cat adoptions significantly decreased. Therefore, St. Hubert’s increased positive outcomes did not make up for its increased cat intake. Like St. Hubert’s, Vorhees Animal Orphanage’s increased positive outcomes were not great enough to make up for its increased cat intake.

Shelters Impound Less Dogs and More Cats 

The tables below detail the change in dog and cat intake at New Jersey shelters in 2018 verses 2017. Since Bergen County Animal Shelter did not break out the sources of their intake in their underlying records provided to me, I excluded this shelter from the cat intake analysis. As mentioned above, Bergen County Animal Shelter’s cat intake and outcome numbers on its state report are overstated and I used its underlying records in the outcome analysis. However, this shelter did not have a large change in its cat intake. Additionally, I removed all St. Hubert’s transfers out from the out of state dog rescue figures and St. Hubert’s out of state transfers out from its in state cat rescue figures based on the reasoning discussed above.

Overall, New Jersey animal shelters took in 1,427 less dogs during 2018 than in 2017. New Jersey animal shelters took in over 900 fewer stray dogs during 2018 than in 2017. The state’s shelters took 5% fewer dogs in as owner surrenders and 6% fewer stray dogs. While managed intake programs can decrease owner surrenders, they do not affect stray numbers. Therefore, the decrease in stray dog intake may be related to decreased animal control efforts, animal control officers returning dogs to owners in the field (not counted as shelter intake) or simply fewer stray dogs. If ACOs really are not impounding dogs that need help or ones that are a public safety threat, that does not help people or animals. As a result, we should monitor this number in the future and explore why stray dog intake is decreasing.

New Jersey animal shelters rescued far fewer dogs after making the St. Hubert’s adjustment described above. Most concerning, New Jersey animal shelters rescued 19% fewer dogs from other New Jersey animal shelters in 2018. While rescues and out of state shelters picked up some of the slack, it was not enough as overall transfers out decreased in 2018.

On the other hand, New Jersey animal shelters took in nearly 50% more dogs due to cruelty cases, bite cases and other reasons. Trenton Animal Shelter and Burlington County Animal Shelter reported a 231 dog and a 230 dog increase to these other sources of intake. In November 2018, Burlington County Animal Shelter coordinated the handling of a 161 dog hoarding case in Shamong. On August 1, 2018, county prosecutors along with local police took control over animal cruelty law enforcement. While we can’t definitively state this caused the increase in this other category of dog intake, it seems like this may be the case. Typically, other sources of intake in this category, such as bite cases and puppies born in shelters, are not large and do not vary much. Additionally, the 2018 cruelty/bite cases/other figure of 1,504 dogs was significantly higher than any of the amounts recorded over the past five years (937 to 1,293 dogs). Thus, animal advocates should monitor this figure to see how the new animal cruelty law enforcement system is working.

New Jersey animal shelters impounded more cats in 2018 than in 2017. With the exception of a slight decrease in owner surrenders, all other types of cat intake significantly increased. Interestingly, cruelty/bite cases/other also increased, but not as much as for dogs. However, as with dogs, the other types of cat intake in 2018 (1,111 cats) was significantly higher than any of the amounts from 2013 through 2017 (728 to 895 cats) after removing Bergen County Animal Shelter’s other intake figure (this shelter appeared to classify many cats brought in for TNR in this category in several years). As a result, the new animal cruelty law enforcement system may also be driving the significant increase in other types of cat intake.

Advocacy Works

Overall, New Jersey’s 2018 animal shelter statistics are good news. While decreased dog intake was a major driver of the reduced dog kill rates in the state, shelters did achieve higher cat live release rates due to generating more live outcomes.

Clearly, growing animal advocacy efforts are pressuring shelters to improve. Individuals contacting their elected representatives puts pressure on shelters to do better. Similarly, donors communicating their concerns to privately run facilities also makes it difficult for these organizations to not make positive changes. Most importantly, this pressure provides strong incentives to these shelters to work with boots on the ground animal advocates, such as TNR groups, rescues and shelter volunteers. Thus, the synergistic efforts of no kill advocates and people working directly with animals helped drive the state’s improved animal sheltering statistics.

That being said, the reduced positive outcomes for dogs is a troubling sign. If shelters continue to rely too heavily on rescues, they will not save all healthy and treatable dogs. Specifically, New Jersey animal shelters must invest in behavioral programs to treat dogs who need help and do a much better job adopting out dogs. Otherwise, shelters will reach a plateau and not increase their dog live release rates anymore.

Roger Haston’s Ridiculous Kill Shelter Model

Last January, I wrote about Dr. Roger Haston’s “The Future of Animal Welfare” presentation at an Animal Care Centers of NYC sponsored event. Dr. Haston, who was serving as the Chief of Analytics at PetSmart Charities at the time, was giving the same presentation at events held by shelters across the nation. While I acknowledged Roger Haston made some good points, I was deeply disturbed by his anti-pit bull and pro-killing shelter animals views. Furthermore, I addressed a number of problems with the arguments and so-called facts he presented. Subsequently, Animal Farm Foundation wrote a blog refuting many of Dr. Haston’s points and futile attempts to get Dr. Haston to address these. Additionally, Nathan Winograd dismantled Dr. Haston’s pro-killing arguments.

Shortly thereafter, Roger Haston left PetSmart Charities. Currently, Dr. Haston’s Linkedin profile states he is the President of the Institute for Animals. Unfortunately, I could not find anything about this organization. However, Dr. Haston’s Linkedin profile states the following about his position:

Strategy development, though leadership, research and leadership development services for the animal welfare industry. Focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship between people and animals.

Based on this description, it seems Dr. Haston may provide consulting services to animal shelters. Given the views Dr. Haston expressed in his “The Future of Animal Welfare” presentation, it seems kill shelters could look to him for guidance. In other words, kill shelters might look to his analyses as a way to argue against no kill.

What is the analytical basis of Dr. Haston’s anti-no kill views? Does this analysis make sense? Does this analysis match reality?

Haston’s Anti-No Kill Model

While Roger Haston did not present the model he used as the basis for his recent “The Future of Animal Welfare” events, a presentation from several years before may provide this information. In January 2015, when Dr. Haston was the Executive Director of Colorado’s Animal Assistance Foundation, he gave a presentation titled “Beyond Labels: Understanding the True Impact of Live Release Rates and Intake Policies” in a Society of Animal Welfare Administrators webinar. You can view the presentation here and the accompanying slides here.

Dr. Haston uses an interesting and robust statistical method, stochastic modeling, to conduct his analysis. Most animal sheltering data models, such as the one I created, use “deterministic modeling.” Deterministic modeling yields the same results from the inputs or variables included. On the other hand, stochastic modeling, incorporates the varied results an input or variable could have to predict the results generated from those variables. Therefore, in theory stochastic modeling is a powerful statistical tool.

While the deterministic model I use to target New Jersey animal shelter performance (amounts of animals shelters should adopt out, send to rescues and euthanize) is simpler theoretically, I reduce much of the sources of variability and therefore weaknesses of this type of model. For example, I analyze animal intake on a monthly basis, which accounts for higher intake during warmer months, and incorporate the breeds of dogs and ages of animals shelters impound and the overall adoption demand in a region. Furthermore, since I assess past performance, much of the input data I use has no variability at all. Therefore, my model performs quite well when I compare it to the actual benchmark shelters’ performance I use.

In a nutshell, Dr. Haston uses various shelter data estimates to make future projections. For example, he forecasts if a shelter will exceed capacity, what will happen when it exceeds capacity and what the facility’s future financial performance will look like.

Rigged Assumptions Lead to Anti-No Kill Results

Dr. Haston’s model would yield the same general conclusion regardless if he used stochastic or deterministic modeling. Why? He uses excessive animal intake and insufficient shelter capacity, excludes some of the quickest ways animals leave shelters and ignores how shelters would act if they exceeded capacity.

In Dr. Haston’s model, he assumes the shelter takes 3,000 dogs in during the year and the facility can hold 150 dogs at one time. Additionally, he assumes, based on an undisclosed sample of shelters, that different classes of dogs (from most to least adoptable) make up different portions of shelter intake and have varying average lengths of stay.

Using standard animal shelter capacity calculations, which assume animals come in evenly during the year, the shelter would have to on average move its dogs out of the shelter in 18.3 days or less to avoid consistently going over capacity. However, Dr. Haston’s model, which is based on each major class of dog’s average length of stay, shows these dogs would have an average length of stay of 32.0 days. Thus, a less sophisticated model would also show this shelter quickly exceeding capacity.

If there is anything to take away from this blog, this is it. Why? These key assumptions drive Dr. Haston’s subsequent conclusions that no kill animal control shelters severely restrict intake, are filled with animals few or no people want and financially implode.

Under Dr. Haston’s model, a shelter only adopts out or euthanizes an animal under the assumption all dogs are owner surrenders. Obviously, that is not realistic since stray dogs usually are a larger source of dog intake than owner surrenders. In addition, owners sometimes reclaim dogs they previously surrendered.

Typically, owners reclaim lost dogs within a few days since the animals usually have a license and/or a microchip that allows shelters to quickly identify the owner. Therefore, the model yields an excessively long average length of stay since it excludes owner reclaims.

To incorporate owner reclaims into the analysis, I used Tompkins County SPCA’s most recent statistics. Dr. Haston appeared to use Tompkin County SPCA’s adoption length of stay based off his citation of Brown, et al., 2013. While Dr. Haston did not give the full reference of this source, I believe it is this study that takes place mostly at Tompkins County SPCA from 2008-2011 which I use in my own dog analysis. Since I could only find Tompkins County SPCA’s 2018 data, I used this data to compute a revised average length of stay from Dr. Haston’s model based on an assumed 3 days and 32 days average length of stay for owner reclaims and all other outcomes and the percentage owner reclaims made up of total adoptions, total euthanasia and total owner reclaims at Tompkins County SPCA in 2018. A 3 day average length of stay falls into the middle of the range of owner reclaims’ average length of stay I computed from several New Jersey animal control shelters.

After making this adjustment, the model’s average length of stay decreased from 32.0 days to 23.1 days. As a result, the difference between the average length of stay required to avoid exceeding capacity continuously and the model’s average length of stay dropped significantly.

As you will see below, several no kill animal control shelters have dog average lengths of stay around the required average length of stay to avoid perpetual overcrowding implied in Dr. Haston’s model. First, these shelters generally do a better job adopting out dogs than the facility (primarily Tompkins County SPCA from 2008-2011) Dr. Haston used and most likely adopt out dogs quicker. Second, Dr. Haston’s model does not incorporate dogs shelters transfer to rescues. Frequently, shelters can transfer dogs quicker to rescues, especially when the facilities are rescue friendly and make an effort. For example, the Paterson Animal Shelter, which is far from a progressive shelter, transferred a large percentage of all of its dogs as well as pit bull like dogs in 2015 after just seven days on average. Similarly, 2018 Animal Care Centers of NYC data I obtained showed the organization transferred a large number of dogs to rescues in ten days on average. Additionally, my 2017 analysis of Elizabeth Animal Shelter indicated dogs adopted out and transferred to rescues, which mostly were dogs sent to rescues rather than adopted out, spent only 14 days in the shelter. Thus, Dr. Haston’s failure to use role model no kill animal control shelters and dogs sent to rescues in his model makes the model yield inaccurate or skewed results.

Dr. Haston’s failure to include foster homes in his model grossly understates shelter capacity. While most people appreciate the benefits foster programs can have on both the mental and physical health of animals, many don’t realize how much extra capacity these programs can add to a shelter. For example, Dr. Ellen Jefferson provided a goal in a presentation at the 2019 American Pets Alive Conference for animal control shelters to have 3% of their annual dog intake in foster homes at a given point in time. Dr. Jefferson developed this target based on certain no kill animal control shelters’ successful foster programs. Since average length of stay incorporates animals in foster homes, we can add this to the shelter’s dog holding capacity in Dr. Haston’s example. This adjustment increases the shelter’s capacity from 150 dogs to 240 dogs.

As you can see below, the shelter in Dr. Haston’s example will normally have significant excess capacity even without accounting for animals sent to rescues and no kill animal control shelters with stronger adoption programs. While the inherent volatility of dog intake at an animal control shelter, such as a large hoarding case, could temporarily cause capacity concerns, this data shows Dr. Haston’s perpetual overcrowding and related conclusions are simply incorrect.

Real World Data Contradicts Dr. Haston’s Predictions

Dr. Haston’s model predicts a 95% live release rate animal control shelter will have a ridiculously long average length of stay. While his model implies a 32 day average length of stay based on the make-up of dogs brought to the shelter, the model actually predicts an astonishing 90 day average length of stay after one year.

Why does the model predict such a longer average length of stay? Unfortunately, Dr. Haston doesn’t explain whether he is calculating average length of stay for all the animals that came into the shelter during the period or the actual population of dogs in the shelter at a point in time. Assuming Dr. Haston calculated average length of stay of all dogs taken in during the period, which is how shelters typically calculate this metric, the increase in average length of stay from 32 days to 90 days may be due to the shelter exceeding capacity and not accepting all dogs, including many easy to adopt ones. Therefore, the harder to adopt dogs, which take significantly longer to place, will make up a larger portion of the total dog intake and increase the average length of stay.

Even if shelters consistently exceed capacity, which they shouldn’t as explained above, managed admission policies could mitigate that. For example, a managed admission shelter would be more likely to immediately accept an easier to adopt small dog than a larger dog with behavioral issues if the facility was near or at capacity. Therefore, these shelters would have  a much shorter average length of stay than 90 days if these facilities exceeded capacity consistently and restricted intake.

To analyze the Dr. Haston model’s predictions, I compared his model’s key results to actual data from three no kill animal control shelters. These shelters are as follows:

  1. KC Pet Project serving Kansas City, Missouri
  2. Williamson County Animal Shelter serving most of Williamson County, Texas
  3. Lynchburg Humane Society serving Lynchburg, Virginia during the period of my analysis

Due to the lag in non-profit financial data reporting, I had to use 2017 and 2016 data for KC Pet Project and Lynchburg Humane Society, respectively. I listed the links to the data I used in this analysis at the end of this blog.

The average length of stay computed by Dr. Haston’s model vastly exceeds the three no kill animal control shelters’ average lengths of stay. Specifically, Dr. Haston’s model predicts an animal control shelter with a 95% live release rate will have an average length of stay of 90 days while KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society had average lengths of stay of 18 days, 9 days and 19 days. In other words, Dr. Haston’s model predicted average lengths of stay five to ten times longer than these three comparable no kill animal control shelters with the same or higher live release rates. Thus, Dr. Haston’s conclusion that a 95% dog live release rate at an animal control shelter will result in the shelter holding large numbers of animals for extremely long times does not match the reality of well run no kill animal control facilities.

Successful no kill animal control shelters also have significantly lower costs than the amounts Dr. Haston’s model predicts. Dr. Haston’s model appears to only include medical and behavior costs in its “operating costs.” Unfortunately, I don’t have this subset of data for the three no kill animal control shelters. Therefore, I used each organization’s total costs, which would include other costs, such as various fixed and overhead costs, that Dr. Haston’s operating costs do not appear to include. To allocate these costs just to dogs, I used each shelter’s annual intake of dogs and cats as well as an estimate of the per animal cost based on average length of stay from the Maddie’s Fund Financial Management Tool. Even using an apparently broader measure of shelter costs, the estimated total costs per dog at KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society were $406, $287 and $635 compared to the $750 per dog figure Dr. Haston’s model predicted.

Dr. Haston’s model also understates shelter revenue at no kill animal control shelters. Specifically, Dr. Haston only measures adoption revenue. In reality, adoption fees usually fall way short of covering animal care costs. No kill animal control shelters recoup some of these costs through funding received from the governments running or contracting with them. However, no kill organizations, especially private ones, receive significant donations since the public wants to support shelters that save lives. As you can see below, the estimated total revenue per dog (allocated the same way as total costs per dog above) was $381, $453 and $701 at KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society compared to the $176 of adoption revenue per dog Dr. Haston’s model predicted.

The three no kill animal control shelters’ revenue and cost data disprove Dr. Haston’s implicit assertion that no kill leads to financial ruin. Dr. Haston’s model predicted a net loss of around $574 per dog. During the periods presented, both Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society, which received only modest government funding, turned an estimated profit of $166 per dog and $66 per dog, respectively. While KC Pet Project did have an estimated loss of $25 per dog during the year presented, this was an anomaly. Since KC Pet Project was formed in 2011 and began running a no kill animal control shelter shortly thereafter, its net assets increased from $0 to $1,146,550 due to its revenues exceeding its costs over this time period. Thus, Dr. Haston’s model predicting financial ruin at no kill animal control shelters does not match the experience of these three no kill groups.

These three no kill organizations also disprove Dr. Haston’s assertion that a 95% live release rate animal control shelter turns significant numbers of dogs away. According to widely accepted estimates, the average American animal control shelter takes in 14 dogs and cats per 1,000 people. Based on the ASPCA’s estimated total animal shelter intake in the United States, which includes animal control and rescue oriented facilities, approximately half the animals are dogs and half are cats. Therefore, the average American animal control shelter takes in around 7 dogs per 1,000 people. As you can see below, KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society took in 12 dogs per 1,000 people, 8 dogs per 1,000 people and 22 dogs per 1,000 people. In other words, these three shelters received more dogs than the average American animal control shelter. While these three no kill facilities do manage intake at times, its hard to argue they are “turning away” significant numbers of dogs and those dogs are having bad outcomes.

The three no kill animal control shelters also disprove Dr. Haston’s prediction that an animal control shelter with a 95% live release rate will do few adoptions. As you can see below, KC Pet Project, Williamson County Animal Shelter and Lynchburg Humane Society adopted out 6 dogs per 1,000 people, 5 dogs per 1,000 people and 18 dogs per 1,000 people. In other words, these three shelters adopt out around as many or significantly more dogs than the average American animal control shelter takes in let alone adopts out.

Absurd Predictions When Incorporating Rescue Oriented Shelters into the Analysis

Dr. Haston laid out one scenario where a rescue oriented shelter in the community took all dogs in when it had room and the animal control shelter had a 90% live release rate. In a second scenario, Dr. Haston assumed the animal control facility had a 95% live release rate and the rescue oriented shelter in the community did not accept the least adoptable dogs (i.e. the dogs an animal control shelter with an 85% live release rate would kill). In the real world, the rescue oriented shelter’s intake policy almost always is more similar to scenario 2 than scenario 1 since most of these organizations pick and choose which dogs they take in. While some of the qualitative results of the first scenario compared to the second scenario make sense (i.e. the animal control shelter in scenario 2 will have a longer average length of stay and higher operating costs than the animal control facility in scenario 1), the actual model’s results do not match reality.

The table below compares Dr. Haston’s animal control shelter’s predicted results under scenario 2 with successful no kill animal control shelters. All three no kill animal control shelters have selective admission rescue oriented shelters in their areas. Therefore, they are operating in a similar scenario to Dr. Haston’s model. As you can see, Dr. Haston’s model predicts an average length of stay 6-14 times longer than these shelters’ average lengths of stay. Similarly, the no kill animal control shelters pulled in 3-5 times more revenue per dog, incurred 40%-73% lower costs per dog and took in more dogs than Dr. Haston’s model shelter did. Thus, Dr. Haston’s model becomes even more absurd after he incorporates rescue oriented shelters.

So how did Dr. Haston calibrate his model to real world results? He contacted 100 no kill shelters across the country about accepting a large dog with behavioral issues and almost all of the facilities did not agree to take the dog in. Since Dr. Haston did not say which shelters these were, I assume these were selective admission shelters. Given we already know selective admission shelters cherry pick their animals, including those near the three no kill animal control shelters above, this is meaningless.

If that was not bad enough, Dr. Haston used his favorite punching bag, pit bulls, at a regressive shelter to validate his model. In a slide titled “Concentration of Difficult Animals in Open Admission Facilities”, Dr. Haston cited pit bulls making up 45% of dog intake and around 25%-30% of dogs killed at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) as evidence supporting his model’s results. First, Dr. Haston citing pit bulls as “difficult” tells you much about his attitude about these animals. While dogs having a pit bull label do stay longer at shelters, a peer-reviewed scientific study proves removing breed labels significantly reduces pit bulls lengths of stay at shelters. Second, MADACC is a regressive shelter that had 21% of their dogs lose their lives last year and 32% of dogs lose their lives in 2014 (one year after Dr. Haston’s MADACC data goes up to). For example, the Wisconsin Watchdog blog detailed the shelter needlessly killing a “pit bull mix” with a potential adopter waiting in 2014. Does anyone in their right mind think this shelter was doing all it could do five years ago? Thus, the idea that rescue oriented shelters put an unfair burden on animal control shelters and that forces them to kill is absurd.

Dystopian Conclusions

Dr. Haston makes a good point that the live release rate is a key metric, but we must also look at other data as well. I fully agree with this. For this reason, my dog report card blog each year also grades shelters on the number of local animals (which often require more effort to save) these facilities take in and adopt out. Additionally, the no kill and animal welfare movements should also create other metrics of success to ensure shelters follow all parts of the No Kill Equation. That being said, the live release rate will always be extremely important given killing animals is intolerable.

Unfortunately, Dr. Haston repeats the false notion that raising the live release rate from 85% to 95% results in longer lengths of stay, increased costs and refusing animals. While I know some shelters do severely restrict intake in order to raise their live release rates, that is not what well-run no kill animal control shelters do. As the three no kill animal control shelters’ data above showed, large no kill animal control shelters take many dogs in, save around 95% or more of these animals and do so in a financially responsible way. Can a shelter have a shorter average length of stay and lower costs if it settles for an 85% live release rate and quickly kills every challenging dog? Yes, that is likely. However, the three no kill animal control shelters’ data above prove you can still achieve a very short average length of stay and have manageable costs at a 95% or above dog live release rate. Additionally, no kill animal control shelters’ revenue surge when the public realizes these facilities are doing everything possible to save their animals. Thus, Dr. Haston’s thunderous conclusions about doom and gloom for animal control shelters achieving around 95% live release rates are wrong.

Most disturbing, Dr. Haston describes an “optimal” live release rate where killing is not only acceptable, but desirable. In essence, Dr. Haston says we should quickly kill “difficult” animals, such as pit bulls, and take in more easy to adopt dogs. In other words, shelters should operate more like pet stores instead of doing the necessary work to save “difficult” animals. While Dr. Haston doesn’t explicitly state this in his presentation, he did say “we can’t adopt our way out of” the so-called pit bull problem in a presentation he recently gave. Furthermore, Dr. Haston’s 2015 presentation stated saving more lives may mean sacrificing the individual.

Sadly, Dr. Haston’s myopic view need not be true. While shelters will adopt out more easy to adopt dogs all else being equal, all else is not equal. As the no kill movement spreads, the innovative policies will spur positive change in many organizations. As organizations improve, they will responsibly reduce dog intake, increase live outcomes and therefore rescue more at risk animals. By contrast, Dr. Haston’s narrow view only allows shelters to increase adoptions by having easy to adopt animals. That is a recipe for stagnation.

What happens when shelters run out of these easy to adopt animals in the future? Apparently, they may work with “responsible breeders.” According to a recent Animal Farm Foundation Facebook live video (starting at 11:00 minute mark), the 2019 HSUS Animal Expo conference had a session on doing just this. Specifically, shelters would have “responsible breeders” breed desirable dogs for “gold level adopters” since the shelters would be filled with those “difficult” to adopt dogs “nobody wants” like pit bulls. While I can’t say Dr. Haston supports this, it is a logical extension of his kill the “difficult” dogs and adopt out the easy dogs philosophy.

At the end of the day, Dr. Haston’s and many so-called shelter leaders’ anti-no kill views are based on a deeply flawed model. Not only do the model’s conclusions violate basic ethical values, the actual quantitative predictions fall apart when we compare them to well-run no kill animal control shelters. Clearly, no organization should consider this a prediction of what real no kill sheltering looks like. Instead, shelters should consider the model useful if they attempt to implement no kill the wrong way. If that happens, then the model could show what will happen. However, Dr. Haston does not present his model this way and declares no kill/high live release rates a disaster. Sadly, Dr. Haston’s messaging ruins what could be a very good way to illustrate the perils of not implementing no kill the right way. As a result, Dr. Haston’s model will be used by lazy shelter directors to defend the status quo and not improve.

Appendix – No Kill Animal Control Data Used in Comparison to Dr. Haston’s Model

KC Pet Project 2017 Animal Data

KC Pet Project 2016 Dog Average Length of Stay (2017 data not available, but unlikely to differ significantly)

KC Pet Project 2017 Form 990 Tax Return

Williamson County Animal Shelter 2017-2018 Animal Data, Dog Average Length of Stay and Financial Information

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Animal Data

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Dog Average Length of Stay

Lynchburg Humane Society 2016 Form 990 Tax Return

Maddie’s Fund Financial Management Tool to Estimate Cost to Care for Dogs