The Importance of Standardized Shelter Data in Animal Welfare: Regional Initiatives

PANEL DISCUSSION
Rachel O’Connor, Ontario Veterinary College, Shelter Data Working Group
Dr. Toolika Rastogi, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS)
Dr. Vincent Paradis, L'Association vétérinaire québécoise de médecine de refuge (AVQMR)

ABSTRACT
Research from the Ontario Veterinary College identified and analyzed published literature on companion-animal relinquishment. Primary research and reviews and commentaries highlighted the need to improve shelter data collection. The literature supports initiatives to standardize shelter data collection to improve understanding of the reasons for companion animal relinquishment and to measure the impact of interventions. In 2015, the Shelter Data Working Group, an Ontario initiative, was created as an extension of the findings of this research. Stakeholders have been meeting quarterly to identify areas in shelters needing standardization and barriers to implementing standardized data collection, and to develop strategies to overcome barriers.

In this session, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies will describe its annual shelter data collection, which aggregates shelter data from humane societies and SPCAs across Canada. Canadian shelter animal statistics from 2014 will be presented, demonstrating the power of standardized data.

You cannot improve what you don’t measure. The AVQMR has identified the improvement of data collection in Québec shelters as a priority. Since much subjective undocumented data is used to raise public awareness, efforts are drawn in non-optimal directions, false information is diffused and division is created amongst actors who generally share the same views. In all those cases, animals lose. That being said, many barriers prevent shelters from collecting or sharing their data.

A facilitated workshop will follow this panel session, providing participants with an opportunity to identify priority areas to advance shelter data collection and standardization.

Key Learnings:
1. Collecting data at the shelter level is important to assess the impact of shelter programs, such as those that reduce relinquishment, reduce euthanasia and increase adoption outcomes
2. Aggregation of this data at the national level is essential to measure and understand trends in companion animal welfare and responsible animal guardianship in Canadian society
3. The collection of shelter data may pose challenges but also provides invaluable benefits

PRESENTER BIOS

Rachel O’Connor
Rachel completed an MSc degree at the University of Guelph, where her thesis investigated adopter expectations prior to companion animal acquisition. Rachel is currently working as a research technician at the Ontario Veterinary College, on projects surrounding pet overpopulation and veterinary-client communication. She is a member of the Shelter Data Working Group, an Ontario initiative.

Dr. Toolika Rastogi
Policy and Research Manager at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Toolika leads the CFHS’ national shelter statistics program, the National Centre for the Prosecution of Animal Cruelty and companion animal welfare research projects. She represents CFHS on the National Farm Animal Care Council and the Canadian Council on Animal Care. Toolika is also a member of Nature Canada’s Science and Technical Advisory Committee for the Cats and Birds initiative. Toolika holds a PhD in Molecular and Medical Genetics, a postdoctoral certificate in conservation genetics and a Masters degree in Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development Policy.

Dr. Vincent Paradis, DVM
Graduating in 2010 from the Faculté de médecine vétérinaire of the Université of Montréal, Vincent worked for a year-and-a-half in a small animal practice before joining Services Animaliers de la Rive-Sud. He is president of the Association vétérinaire québécoise de médecine de refuge (AVQMR) and volunteered for four years for the Clinique des jeunes de la rue, which provides free veterinary care to the animals of young homeless people.