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 – 775 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 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.