Steve Zeidman
February 11, 2022

"Our shelter is packed with Pitbulls" is such a familiar comment from individuals working in shelters and rescues throughout the country. When Kristen Hassan from American Pets Alive went on social media asking the question "What percent of dogs entering shelters are Bully breeds?", I was not surprised to see guesses like 70% to 90%. Well, I'm excited to share the actual percentage along with findings from what is one of the largest data sets on shelter dog breeds; including answers to many questions regarding Bully breeds vs. the rest of our dog population.

Before we jump into the data, it is important to know the source of the data and how it's organized. First, we start with 1266 organizations from all 50 US states that have dog intake. The data is broken up into 3 categories:

  • Bully: Any dog with a formal or informal bully breed designation in either the primary or secondary breed fields
  • Mix: This is any dog where "mix" is in the primary breed field, indicating no breed was designated. With the No-Labels movement, I wanted to make sure we looked at this data separately.
  • Other: This is all other dogs with a designated breed that is not bully.

I examined the data from the last three years but since there are only some modest differences, I am going to focus my observations on this blog to 2021 data.

Now, the answer you've been waiting for, "what percent of dogs entering the shelter are bully breeds?". 17%, based on our data. 12% account for Mix and 71% for Other. At this point, I do want to make clear that the data is only as good as the breed identification is. We can debate if this number is correct, but it is the data available as per each shelter's ability to measure so. One not of critical importance I always try to make clear is that it is exceedingly difficult to fix a problem we can't measure. If we think this is wrong, how do we practically categorize the dogs we believe have a unique path in our shelters? Is it size, weight, additional breed categories? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Now whether the true percent is 17% or 80%, we can still find use for this data by comparing it to the other two categories. The first area I want to look at is intake vs. in-shelter population and foster population. While intake is 17%, our population in-shelter is 22% and in foster it is 13%. This is likely not a surprise to many. It is more difficult to find both temporary and permanent placements for "bullies" causing a higher percent to be in the shelter:

The next comparison that builds on population is length of stay v. days in care. These two numbers are similar but for different animals. Length of stay measures the period of time in care for animals that were outcomed, while days in care measures the same period for animals still in care. As you can see, both the average length of stay and median days in care are significantly longer for Bullies.

The final comparison is to look at both the positive and negative outcomes. It is not surprising that Bullies are much more likely to be euthanized. It is also expected to see Bullies less likely to be adopted or transferred. The surprise for me was to see Bullies having a greater return rate. For those that are interested in the no-labels movement, this data is interesting since mix shows higher adoption rate while also showing a lower return to owner rate. I am conscious not to read too much into this because organizations that have implemented no-labels might not perform lost/found services. But it is definitely something that could warrant further study.

I look forward to feedback on this data. Just like we have seen the divergence of trends between dogs and cats, I believe there is a divergence between the "Easy to Place" vs the "Hard to Place" dogs and finding a way to statistically track the difference is critical to measuring our overall success locally and nationally.

It is through this measurement and tracking that we can work together to dissuade misconceptions, provide the best care for animals in need and see more of those animals find loving homes. I'll continue to dig into the data on topics like this and more, sharing my insights and perspective, and as always, welcoming your feedback and questions.

Steve Zeidman
January 14, 2022

2021, like 2020, was a year unlike any other, making innovation so much more important; not just to do better but to address the fast-changing landscape in which we find ourselves. I am proud that Pethealth has partnered with The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement to create the Diane & Bob Hoover Annual Innovation Award. Last month, at The Association leadership conference, we celebrated the 3rd year of this award with two organizations that demonstrated innovation to produce significant, measurable results. In one case, it meant more revenue and in the other, it showed increased efficiency and transparency

The second-place winner was Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC). Like so many other animal welfare organizations, MCACC was forced to severely limit the number of people allowed in the adoption facility throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Since MCACC moved to scheduled adoption appointments, they knew they needed to make sure potential adopters had greater access to information about each pet before their appointment. MCACC quickly rolled out a new adoptable pet website in April 2020. That site provided adopters much more information than they would normally find on other shelters websites. MCACC was committed to providing folks with a complete view of the animal so they could make an informed decision before coming to the shelter. The new site included behavior notes, medical information, information gathered from the finder or previous owner, and any recommendations from our Behavior Team. In addition, the site included the ability for the adopter to download the pet information as a PDF, or to email the information to themselves or another person.

The improved adoptable pet site has led to more potential adopters coming to the shelter already knowing which pets they would like to meet, reducing their wait time and browsing time while in the shelter. Which, in turn, has allowed the staff to serve more potential pet owners. With the integration of the new website, along with their Lost & Found mapping system, MCACC was able to enhance their adoption self-serve kiosks and improve the pet owner experience onsite as well. What is extra innovative, to me, about this is the willingness to share information that many shelters choose to keep private. By sharing this information, they are saving shelter staff time, not having to go into as much detail about each animal with potential adopters. Yes, there is risk but ultimately, MCACC is trusting the public to make informed decisions with all the necessary info at their fingertips.

The first-place winner was Arizona Humane Society (AHS). I truly love this one because they looked at something that so many non-for-profits do, and in the exact same mannerand realized the potential of shifting away from the status-quo. Organizations that receive vehicle donations, liquidate these assets through third party companies that typically sell these vehicles at auction, and share in the revenue. Not only do the shelters have to share the proceeds with thes third parties, but the vehicles are most often sold far below their retail value. What AHS did was registered themselves as a used car dealership. This way they could make a small investment in repairs to the vehicles and then sell them online for full retail value. Even after taking out the investment, marketing and staffing costs, the program more than doubled their revenue. Since the inception of this program, AHS has sold more than 336 vehicles and earned $686,841 in gross revenue.

Great things are happening in the desert, and I am sure there are more amazing innovations happening throughout the animal welfare movement. I hope these two organizations will challenge you and your organization to look at ways to innovate and I hope you apply for the Diane & Bob Hoover Award next year. One more thing - the winners of this award did so not just for implementing innovative programs but also for measuring their respective successes. Well done! For more information about the award and previous winners, check out Diane and Bob Hoover Innovation Award.
Steve Zeidman
November 2, 2021

I'm starting this blog by introducing a brand-new report I call the "Days in Care" report. It looks, specifically, at the animals in a shelter on the last day of the month and calculates the average number of days these animals have been in the care of that shelter. This report includes animals in foster but eliminates animals that have been in care for over one year. In doing so we can balance between organizations with extralong stays, yet account for the fact that foster animals still need services and placements. As you can see with both cats and dogs, animals are being "warehoused" at an alarming rate. Dogs are now staying 18 days longer than they were at the highest point - the start of the pandemic. Cats are particularly interesting; because of their seasonality, we have short stays when intake is high (Summer) while stays can increase dramatically when intake is low (Winter). For September, shelters are at levels more indicative of December which is extremely concerning.

While looking at the situation across animal welfare organizations we might think there are outside forces creating this situation, but that's just not the case. We hit a particularly important milestone in September where both overall intakes and outcomes dropped below 2020 levels. This would normally be a great thing, but it continues to be driven by the significant drop in Transfers both into and out of shelters. While overall intakes dropped year over year by 8.2% for cats and 0.4% for dogs, the drop for transfers was significant at 8.7% for cats and 11.1% for dogs.

With overall intakes down, it is only obvious that outcomes will follow that same trend. The question is always, "Can we expect a positive outcome for these pets?" Unfortunately, it is not a good situation. While transfer out continues to drop, 14.0% for cats and 7.1% for dogs; adoption numbers year over year are about flat, for both cats and dogs.

In exploring the Euthanasia numbers, surprisingly, after running above 2020 levels since April, cats are just below where they were a year ago. Dogs are not so lucky as they continue to be euthanized at a rate above those of 2020.

This is all to simply highlight some of the significant trends I have noticed but I encourage you to take a deeper dive into the data on our data dashboard at This tool is still in beta; however, we are looking forward to officially launching it next month with a new website we can't wait to share.

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