In an effort to be more transparent regarding our operations and data, we are pleased to kick-off a series of informational presentations and articles to help our stakeholders better understand how and why we make certain decisions.  The goal is to develop a more positive and open dialogue with volunteers, supporters, and the public.  This is just one small step we are taking to help improve these relationships.  We hope you find some value in the information presented and welcome feedback and questions!  Please stay tuned for more articles on topics including population management, understanding shelter statistics, and more.

Length of Stay: What Does it Mean and Why Does it Matter?

This February, ACCT Philly saw a record breaking dog live release rate of 89 percent! With fewer kennels due to HVAC construction, we understand it may seem strange that euthanasia numbers have gone down. What we are seeing perfectly illustrates the concept and power of decreased length of stay. Decreasing shelter pets’ length of stay has been a priority for our leadership team since the implementation of humane housing. Housing more pets does not decrease euthanasia numbers, moving them more quickly through the shelter does.

So, what does decreased length of stay mean? Here’s how it works: imagine a shelter with ten kennels. They can house ten dogs. If each dog stays two weeks, then in four weeks, they would have housed 20 dogs total. But what if each dog only stays only one week – the shelter can house 40 dogs during the same time period. By decreasing each dog’s time in the shelter, they increased the number of dogs served without increasing the number of kennels!

During the first six weeks of HVAC, ACCT Philly cut the length of stay (LOS) of dogs by half compared to the same time period last year. Dogs are being adopted from the shelter in six days versus 12 days in 2016. Dogs are being returned to their owners or transferred to rescues faster, too.

So, how did these dogs move through the shelter so quickly? Multiple factors contribute to a decreased length of stay, but the biggest influence is our reduced intake. February 2017 was the first time that ACCT’s monthly intake was below 1,000 animals.  This reduction in intake means a less crowded shelter, yielding enormous benefits.

With fewer pets to care for, staff and volunteers have more time to spend on helping the animals find a live exit or provide enrichment that increases a pet’s adoptability. Increased space gives scared pets more time to acclimate and get out alive. Less crowded living spaces mean animals are less likely to become sick and have to stay for treatment. There are even studies that show that having fewer pets available for adoption is more likely to result in a same-day adoption because adopters aren’t overwhelmed by too many choices. Source: (http://www.aspcapro.org/fewer-makes-for-more).

Reducing intake isn’t the only way to decrease length of stay. We’ve also made operational changes specifically designed to move animals through the shelter more quickly. We have a Population Management team that performs two walk-throughs per day (at a minimum) for both cats and dogs to determine the population make-up and how much space is available. As an open-intake shelter, our population is constantly changing, but having the most clear, up-to-date information regarding space allows managers to make the best possible decisions. Another example is the Intake Team. The team’s focus is processing incoming animals as quickly as possible so the animal can be evaluated and put up for adoption. We also designed new animal intake sheets to gather as much information as possible about a pet. The information we receive from owners allows us to make better and quicker decisions regarding a pet’s path through the shelter (adoption, rescue, foster, euthanasia).

All of these small steps add up, and the result is ACCT Philly has had to euthanize fewer animals. Between February 6 and March 19, 122 fewer dogs were euthanized in comparison of the same time period in 2016. The number of dogs euthanized is half of what it was last year: 117 dogs in 2017 vs. 239 dogs in 2016. These numbers include all dogs euthanized at the shelter.

Please check out this video from the ASPCA that visually represents the concept of decreased length of stay.  We feel it is a great tool to help understand why decreased length of stay is positive for all pets in the shelter! If you’d like to read more about the subject, here is a link to a webinar on the subject.