Shelter Survey Reveals Common Perceptions

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The landscape of humane sheltering is pretty diverse.  Organizations can range from very small, volunteer-based groups focused on a specific animals (like guinea pigs) to large, high-volume organizations employing 50 or more employees that may take in all animals presented to it.  This diversity is a strength because it enables our industry to care for animals of all types, ages, personalities, etc.  But this diversity also makes it difficult to develop programs, services, and tools that are useful to a large number of sheltering organizations.

What works in a three person, all-volunteer group that is focused on rescuing cats from foster homes doesn’t always work for a high-volume shelter taking in 30 cats a day, as well as dogs, ferrets, birds, etc.

In order to get a better understanding of trends in our humane sheltering “marketplace”, the Center for Shelter Dogs conducted a survey of Petfinder sheltering members who helped dogs this year.  There were 1,313 responses to the survey, representing 1,264 organizations.  Here are a few tidbits from the survey:

  • 86% of respondents were from private sheltering organizations, vs municipal (only those respondents identifying their organization as public or private were allowed to complete the survey)
  • 54% reported that their organization does not have a physical shelter, supporting the idea that there is a significant presence of what we traditionally call “rescue groups”
  • Organizations with a physical shelter had a higher volume of dog intakes than organizations without a physical shelters, as did organizations with paid employees vs all-volunteer groups
  • 72% of respondents came from organizations registered as a 501(c)(3)
  • 67% reported their organizations made use of foster homes, an encouraging result but one that made us wonder why the other 33% were not using them
  • 59% of respondents came from all-volunteer organizations, again demonstrating the strong presence of rescue groups in the field
  • 84% of respondents from private organizations without a shelter described their organization as all-volunteer, fitting our traditional concept of a “rescue”
  • Although 61% of respondents from private organizations with a shelter employed staff, still 39% described their organization as all-volunteer, which suggests that our idea of “rescue” has evolved since a good portion of shelters are operated by all-volunteer organizations

Although these results cannot be generalized to all sheltering organizations, given that we surveyed only an internet-using population from private or municipal shelter organizations working with dogs, these tidbits reveal some interesting findings as well as confirm some common perceptions.