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Tracking Animals By the Numbers in Pinellas County

Local animal agencies have developed a shared reporting system to help reduce the number of animals euthanized in the county.

The fluffy orange cat at Pinellas County Animal Services purred loudly and persistently. Perhaps it was aware of the fate of some fellow felines in Pinellas County — at least the story told through the numbers.

Cats represented 54 percent of all intakes at several local animal shelters in October. And 69 percent of the cats were euthanized. The numbers come from Humane Society of Pinellas, Pet Pal Animal Shelter, Pinellas County Animal Services and SPCA Tampa Bay, which account for about 80 to 90 percent of the animals received each month, agency representatives said. 

The local animal agencies have worked together over several months to establish a consistent reporting system that will let each agency clearly report animal intake and outcomes each month. Pet Pal just recently decided to join the countywide reporting system, officials said.

The goal of the community-wide approach is to reduce euthanasia by sharing the numbers. Animal agency representatives introduced the new program at a news conference Nov. 14.

“Our three agencies are caring for nearly 30,000 animals in Pinellas County each year,” according to Martha Boden, CEO at SPCA Tampa Bay. “Those who care about animals need to see the countywide figures to understand the magnitude of the challenge, and the many ways to get involved.”

Adapting to the Challenge

More than 75 animals come through the doors of animal agencies each day in Pinellas. The reporting system will be used to help agencies develop and adapt programs and strategies.

The agencies will, for example, explore ways to reduce the number of cats euthanized. Knowing the number of cats coming through the doors versus dogs allows animal agencies to prepare programs and make them more user friendly for people to keep animals, said Pinellas County Animal Services Bureau Director Phil Morgan.

 “It’s vital that as a community we explore all avenues that lead us to better protect the animals that depend on our agencies for their survival,” Morgan said.

The numbers also showed only 14 percent of strays were returned to their owners, which encourages the agencies to continue working on animal tracking programs. Both the SPCA Tampa Bay and the Humane Society of Pinellas offer regular microchip programs, for example.

The new reporting matrix created by the National Federation of Humane Societies shows the number of canines, felines and other species that come through the shelters. The end result is a live release rate. Last month in Pinellas the live release rate for dogs was 70 percent, 47 percent for cats and 66 percent for other species. The release rate numbers exclude owner requested euthanasia.

"By working as a community, we will certainly achieve more and help reduce surrenders and euthanization county-wide," said Sarah Brown, executive director of Humane Society of Pinellas.

The report looks at how the animal got to the shelter, such as strays, owner surrenders and transfers from other shelters. It also examines how animals leave the shelters, such as through adoptions or being returned to their owner, plus tracks other outcomes for animals such as shelter euthanization or died in shelter care.

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