LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Millions of dogs and cats end up in animal shelters or rescues every year, but there are no comprehensive statistics on how many, how they got there, if they were adopted, if a rescue saved them or if their time ran out and they were euthanized. But a new website is aiming to remedy the lack of data.
Animal welfare workers talked about creating a database for years. Now, four years after the work began, "Shelter Animals Count: The National Database Project" is online.
When enough information is input, "we should have a sense of how dogs and cats move in and out of these rescues and shelters that are dedicated to their care," said Jodi Lytle Buckman, board chair for Shelter Animals Count. Data organization is modeled on the U.S. Census, so comparisons will be possible at the county level, she said.
Until now, individual agencies have used estimates when statistics were needed. As a result, figures often varied from group to group and state to state. Even the precise number of shelters and rescues is not known.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, often cited by The Associated Press, estimates there are 13,600 shelters across the country taking in 7.6 million companion animals a year. Of those, 2.7 million are euthanized, 2.7 million are adopted and 649,000 are returned to their owners (with the other 1.5 million including animals besides cats and dogs, feral animals and other categories).
For every dog or cat relinquished to a shelter by an owner, two strays were brought in, according to ASPCA estimates.
Rescues are usually dedicated to saving one breed and can be operated out of a home, so they are even harder to count than shelters, which are most often run by counties or cities.
The new database at www.shelteranimalscount.org is incorporated as an independent non-profit. Two employees will be hired, one to look at the data and one to recruit shelters and rescues to sign up.
"This database is precisely what the animal welfare world needs to guide good decision-making and help enable a greater understanding of the issues facing rescues and shelters in this country," Buckman said.
The database is funded entirely through grants from board members.
Board members include: Animal Assistance Foundation; Animal Humane Society in Minnesota; the ASPCA; Association of Shelter Veterinarians; Best Friends Animal Society; Humane Society of the Pike's Peak Region; The Humane Society of the United States; Maddie's Fund; National Animal Care & Control Association; National Council on Pet Population; Petco Foundation; PetSmart Charities; Society of Animal Welfare Administrators; University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine; University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine; and Wisconsin Humane Society.