One factor that’s turning out to be very important for No Kill is the simple matter of whether shelters have to report their results to their state government. Sunlight is a disinfectant, and the mere fact of having to report data each year has a positive effect because it reminds shelters that they are accountable to the public. These days no shelter wants to report that it kills 60%, 70%, 80% or more of its intake. This post discusses state reporting requirements briefly and outlines how and why No Kill advocates should make use of this opportunity.
Some states have requirements that shelters must report data, usually by submitting it to the state. Right now we have the following states that have databases of shelter data that are available to the public, and that range from somewhat useful to very useful. Here they are, arranged in approximate order of usefulness:
- Colorado (public access by request)
- Virginia (posted online)
- Michigan (posted online)
- New Jersey (public access by request)
- Florida (posted online, with no penalties for failure to comply)
- North Carolina (posted online)
- Illinois (public access by request)
There are a few other states that have some degree of reporting that falls short of being useful to the average person. For example, New Hampshire has a private consortium of shelters that will make aggregate data available to some people on request, and California posts data on rabies parameters.
State databases are proving crucial to the No Kill movement. Of the communities listed in the right sidebar, fully 114 of the 165 communities were identified through the state databases of Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia. No Kill advocates who live in reporting states use the databases to compare communities and identify local shelters that are doing well and ones that need to improve. No Kill advocates who do not live in reporting states can also use the lists to show their local officials that No Kill can work.
Davyd Smith, a spokesperson for No Kill Colorado, explained the importance of Colorado’s list as follows:
“Individual stories allow us to understand how important it is to care about each individual animal. Broad statistics help us measure what is happening in communities and regions. Colorado is lucky to have mandatory reporting via PACFA (Pet Animal Control Facilities Act). The yearly statistics are extremely useful in trending the state in general, as well as individual organizations and communities. Without the Colorado statistics, we could not see if the state is doing well, nor could we have found individual shelters we needed to reach out to, and in some cases, track to see they were improving. These statewide statistics shown by individual organization, and community, are invaluable tools for No Kill advocates.”
State databases have an additional effect beyond helping No Kill advocates gather data. I don’t think it’s any accident that Colorado, which has the best and most comprehensive reporting requirement, is also the closest thing we have to a No Kill state. The entire state of Colorado had an 89% live release rate for 2013, just a hair’s breadth away from No Kill status. And that was with almost 20,000 cats and dogs transferred in from out of state in 2013, the great majority of whom would have been killed if they had remained in their sending states. Michigan also does very well overall, and Virginia has a higher number of No Kill shelters than one would expect for a southeastern state.
So what is the point of this post other than to give a shout-out to state databases? The point is that any state could do what Colorado, Virginia, Michigan and others are doing. One of the duties that states have (and partially delegate to local government along with police and fire protection), is to protect the public from health threats and nuisances caused by animals. That’s why states and municipalities have leash laws and requirements for rabies vaccinations. Since public animal shelters serve public health and safety purposes, it is completely valid for states to require public shelters, and private organizations that run public shelters, to report their statistics to the state.
This opens up a major opportunity in states that do not have reporting requirements for shelters. No Kill advocates can lobby the state to impose reporting requirements on animal shelters on public health and safety grounds, and point to Colorado’s PACFA as a very successful example of the benefits. PACFA had a sunset provision, and it recently passed the sunset effectiveness test with flying colors and was renewed. This provides advocates with a strong argument to support the value of reporting.
There are lots of initiatives that No Kill advocates try that do not have much chance of success. A state reporting requirement should be a much easier sell. The beauty of state reporting requirements is that they place very little burden on shelters (virtually all shelters have software that can generate the data needed for state reports at the end of the year literally in minutes) and they serve important public purposes of monitoring the workload of shelters and how they are handling that workload. It’s time for the No Kill movement to think strategically and work to get state reporting requirements in place in all 50 states.