Steve Zeidman
September 10, 2021

Like many folks, I have a box where I keep items of sentimental value to me. The largest items in that box are these pretty unremarkable shoes that are tightly sealed in a bag. These shoes serve as a reminder of one of the most significant times in my career, and life. As many of you know, I was the IT Director for NYC Animal Care & Control when the tragic events of 9/11 occurred. While I was waiting on equipment to implement our disaster recovery plan, I volunteered to support our field officers.

A few days later we got the call, our team was to provide support to pet owners to retrieve their pets from Battery Park City; a community adjacent to Ground Zero. We were told to assemble our 12 trucks at the Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge. We lined up and were given a police escort across the bridge. Those who know Manhattan, know that the Manhattan bridge ends at Canal Street, a wide boulevard that runs across the island. As we pulled onto the street, we saw the crowds of people with signs and banners. And as we approached, we started to hear them cheering us on, as they recognized our vehicles it got so loud it was deafening. While at the same time, amazing!

As quick as it came, it dissipated and we continued on to the Westside Highway, which was converted to a staging area. There, we received our instructions. Each officer would be matched with an owner and escort them back to their apartment where they would grab their pets and nothing else, we would return to this area and the ASPCA would provide veterinary care as needed. This might seem relatively simple, but these were high rise buildings and there was no power.

I ended up doing 3 runs with pet owners, withal of whom lived above the 20th floor. The final run, retrieving an overweight beagle, who was terrified of stairs, from the 32nd floor really did me in. The owner and I took turns carrying the constantly squirming, 40 lb. guy down to safety.

As you have likely guessed, these are the shoes I wore that day but there’s a bit more to it. As we trekked to each building, we were walking in about a foot deep of ash and debris. When I got home, I wanted to clean them but realized that this ash is connected to the people lost in the towers. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So, I put them in the plastic bag and I have kept that day and the lives lost in my memory ever since.

My experience might be unique but there are similar stories from so many people in the animal welfare movement. In times of crisis, dedicated people put themselves in harm’s way to protect those that can’t protect themselves. As true as this was 20 years ago, it is true today. I can’t wait to hear the stories that come from those on the ground after Hurricane Ida. But to know we are making a difference; we have tracked 892 animals that were evacuated out of Louisiana shelters going to 76 organizations in 22 states. #Proud
Steve Zeidman
August 16, 2021

We are now aware of numerous reports coming from shelters all over the country that animal welfare facilities are facing unprecedented capacity issues. In my last blog, we looked at some of the trends that were worrying me. Unfortunately, the data from July has definitively confirmed the crisis I was concerned about is now a reality. That said, as real as this is, it is interesting to see that these trends follow previous patterns but because we started 2021 with so few animals the percentage impact is much greater.

Before we jump in – you now have the chance to do your own deep dive into our data set - We are launching a beta version of a new interactive data dashboard. I invite you to go to to explore the data yourself.

First, let’s quickly talk about cats. It is clear we are back to the normal seasonal pattern. COVID hit right at the start of “kitten season” in 2020 so it seriously disrupted the pattern, but it rebounded to normal levels in the fall of last yer. So for now, I’ll leave it at that regarding cats.

The critical situation is currently affecting dogs. We have surpassed 2019 population levels. As you can see in the chart below, dogs in physical shelter buildings have reach about equal levels to previous years, but there are additional animals in foster. The good news is that foster starts are up and that’s allowing for foster networks to make room for some of the needed capacity.

Now the question comes back to why are shelters filling up? As we have seen, it is not because of intake. Overall intakes are actually down; this is a great area to explore in the new portal. For example, some intake types are up, but they have been overall balanced by the lack of animals being transferred in.

How is it possible for shelters to reach capacity when intakes are at reasonable levels? The answer is length of stay which has increased by 2 days. The increase of length of stay means that, over time, we are not getting animals placed while a modest increase with intakes is taking place this year . There are those who are blaming adoptions, but the data reflects adoptions were up while intakes were down so the placement average (adoptions divided by total intakes) are reasonable.

The placement issue remains primarily on the continued drop of Transfer, which is now down 13% from 2020 and 31% from 2019. Unfortunately, when length of stay increases and positive outcomes don’t keep pace, the result is an increase of Euthanasia. Although significantly less than 2019, Euthanasia has been up 71% since February.

The two big questions to consider: why is length of stay up and why are transfers down. I noted the same thing in my last blog. However, in seeing more data and talking to so many of you, the assumption is that transfer is causing the length of stay increase or is there something about these dogs that make them "untransferable". Pethealth's commitment has always been, and even more so since the start of this pandemic, is to help and we will continue to make data available quickly to provide our partners the ability to take meaningful action to bring vitality to lives, furry and otherwise.
Steve Zeidman
July 22, 2021

Like so many, we have been getting reports that shelters are getting busy again, now that restrictions are lifting and other aspects of life creep closer to the way they were before the pandemic. What's interesting about this notion is that when we looked at the overall intake and outcome stats, our data didn't seem to match this feedback but when you take a deeper dive, we do see some potential markers for what is being experienced. Here's what we are seeing.

First, the number of animals in care is increasing. For the month of June, population of the shelter for both cat and dog are getting closer to 2019 numbers. Shelters are doing better with long-term foster homes but the trend is definitely looking like we are returning to population sizes closer to those of 2019.

Second, Length of Stay for cats, has surpassed June 2019's number while dogs are closely catching up with 2 months of continued increases. So we are definitely caring for more animals and they are staying longer.

The third interesting item is Foster Starts. These are below both the 2019 and 2020 numbers. We do have more animals in foster care but we are not getting them into foster at the same rate as pre and mid pandemic periods. Again, this is especially true for dogs but also for cats.

The last item is the most surprising to me and one I hope everyone looks at. While overall intake and outcomes are above the 2020 numbers, one intake type and one outcome type are not keeping pace. These are transfer in and transfer out. Both are below pandemic levels. If transport is indeed slowing down, this alone could be causing the overwhelming conditions that so many organizations are discussing.

These data points don't specifically identify the issue but do align with what we are hearing in the field. The big question is "what is driving this?" Looking at this data, it doesn't look like it's being driven by extraordinary intake, as many have perceived. We checked in with many folks, including our friends at ASPCA and the Association, and this is some of what they have seen or heard:

  • Many shelters did not maintain full staff during COVID and are now trying to staff up and retrain (less experience, less knowledge of how to efficiently move animals through the shelter)
  • Large transports that are coming from populations where there is not appropriate pre-transport medical or medical staff to handle at destination.
  • There is a finite number of destinations, and when they were empty, they took more hard-to-place animals that are now still waiting for placement. These animals are causing longer Length of Stay, and some destinations have stopped transport/intake.
  • Animal control shelters and contracted shelters had a backlog of cases that are now coming into the shelter as people go back to work – many of these cannot be moved (court hold, medical, behavior)
  • International transport is still happening while animals in many shelters in the continental US are being euthanized for space for the first time in years
  • Disease being transported and not being managed well so some shelters may be advised to close to intake, hold animals for extended testing, stop adoptions
  • Public returning to work, travel has slowed adoptions, RTO, and the availability of foster homes – so animals wait longer in shelters.
  • Increased costs for veterinary help, emergency clinics closing, and animals being brought to shelter for emergency care.

This is clearly a critical moment in the history of animal welfare, this transition out of the pandemic will determine if we hold the significant gains of 2020 or return to pre-pandemic levels. At Pethealth, we will continue to make data available for the deeper dives that are needed to address this next phase.
Steve Zeidman and Todd Whittington
May 19, 2021

My last update covered misleading stories from last year indicating that there was an increase in adoptions in 2020. While inaccurate stores about adoptions have quieted, there are new stories hitting national and local news outlets. Their latest updates being that the numbers of animals being returned to shelters and surrendered by owners are spiking. While equally sensational, this narrative is also completely untrue.

Looking at April, last year vs. this year, in a vacuum, you might believe you have all the proof you need. But, this was the start of the pandemic and the numbers show that so many shelters drastically reduced both intakes and outcomes as they navigated how to operate amidst shutdowns. As we have been reporting for months, following the initial impact on animal populations in March and April, shelters began to move to a new “normal” with significantly fewer animals from 2019 but following the annual pattern. Additionally, the data shows a drastic difference between cats and dogs. Cat numbers are much closer to those from2019 while dog numbers remain extremely low. See the intake data below:

Each time these stories break, we end up having many conversations with media outlets, national organizations, and our clients yet the stories persist. How do we as a movement make sure the media, and honestly members within our body, understand the larger data landscape before we let anecdotal data define our progress? We have so much to be proud of and much of the work we did in 2020 continues to hold strong in 2021. Our work, and the public, is doing right by animals in need; doing everything possible to keep them in their loving homes ... we need to tell that story and ensure it stays that way!
Steve Zeidman
Mar 17, 2021

Don't be deceived by the fluffy puppies and cuddly kittens in the news. Animal adoptions are not up since before the COVID crisis began. Here's the real story.

We are now a year into the pandemic, and it is amazing to see the transformation of the animal welfare community. The relatively young movement to support keeping pets with their families went from a worthy secondary program to a critical primary strategy to keeping people (our staff and the public) safe. And it has worked, intakes have dropped (32% for dogs and 23% for cats) in this one-year period. Even as it ticks back up a bit, it doesn't look like it will ever return to the numbers of the previous year. To me, the most important number is this: Euthanasia is down 44% in one year. In any other situation, this would be the news story; but somehow it has gotten lost in this crazy year.

While we are acknowledging these victories within our collective, the media (and some big corporations) are missing it. They are solely focused on adoptions. Our data, along with many other data sources, are being misinterpreted leaving the public believe adoptions are up, year over year… we know better! Adoptions are not up – the direct result of there being fewer animals in care. During this time, adoptions actually dropped by 24%.

I can't help but think that we are partly responsible for this myopic view of our movement; adoptions make for wonderful feel-good news stories. Show up to a tv studio with puppies and the public is enamored. But as we have known for many years, we were never going to adopt our way out of pet overpopulation. Spay/neuter, intake diversion programs, and community services are having the impact we believed they would… now that's a story to tell!

Steve Zeidman
Dec 2, 2020

I first got to meet Bob Hoover as a Chameleon client in 1999. My interaction with Bob and the rest of the Chameleon team challenged my interest in animal welfare technology, propelling me to get a master's degree in information technology and ultimately inspiring me to create PetPoint. I feel so lucky to once again be able to work with the Chameleon team and be part of the organization giving out this award.

It was fitting that the first year's winning organization uses Chameleon, but I am particularly excited that this year's winning organization is a PetPoint user. It is El Paso Animal Services and they won the innovation award for creating this pet finder site: It's a great visual tool that makes finding that lost or found pet so easy. I particularly love that this was built using one of the basic API's available in PetPoint.

The interactive map is an amalgamation of Lost/Found pet reports from 311 dispatch, Lost/Found pet reports submitted online and stray pets in their care. The Pet Finder Map has four sections— "Lost Dogs," "Lost Cats," "Found Dogs," and "Found Cats." Once a report is submitted, it will generate a drop pin on the Pet Finder Map under the appropriate section, when clicked it display the pet's photo and information like age, breed, sex, etc. This map provides a comprehensive and easy to use solution for pet finders and owners to reconnect pets with their pet parents at the neighborhood level. This allows the public to reunite animals with their loving families quicker – as opposed to taking the pet across town to the shelter.

From this initiative El Paso has eased burden on the shelter staff while making it easier for the community at large to unite pets, Its led to a 4.6% decrease in intakes (not including Covid impact). This aligns with their goals of supporting animals in the community, reducing the number of pets entering their shelter.

Along with the entire Pethealth family, I want to congratulate the entire El Paso Animal Services team with a special shout out to Adan Parra, Paula Powell, Michele Anderson, and the city's IT team. It was a huge group effort, and the results are fantastic.

Steve Zeidman
Oct 27, 2020

Both before the COVID Crisis, and especially after, Pethealth was asked to share data on the number of animals entering and leaving shelters altered (spayed or neutered). We have finally been able to produce that data and share it with you. For this blog, we will look at the first 9 months of 2020 and compare those to 2019. We also think it is important to break out species (dog/cat) and age (under/over 5 months) while also covering the key intake and outcome types.

For dogs, 26.4% (14.4% for puppy and 30.1% for adult) entered shelters altered for the first 9 months of the year. It barely moved from the same period in 2019, which was26.2% (14.3% for puppy and 30.8% for adult). Looking at the data based on core intake types:
- Owner Surrender increased from 26.6% in 2019 to 27.6% in 2020
- Stray decreased from 13.7% in 2019 to 13.1% in 2020
- Transfer In was generally the same with 34.3% in 2019 and 34.4% in 2020

For cats, 23.8% (10.3% for kitten and 36.6% for adult) entered shelters altered for the first 9 months of the year. And similarly to the dog population, the rate barely moved from the same period in 2019, which was 24.5% (10.8% for kitten and 36.5% for adult). Looking at the data by the core intake types:
- Owner Surrender decreased from 28% in 2019 to 25.8% in 2020
- Stray increased from 10.1% in 2019 to 11% in 2020
- Transfer In increased from 36.5% in 2019 and 37.2% in 2020

For dogs, 58.8% (57.6% for puppy and 59.3% for adult) with live outcomes were altered in the first 9 months of the year. The rate dropped from 2019, which was 60.3% (60.1% for puppy and 60.4% for adult). Looking at the data by the core outcome types:
- Adoptions stayed the same at 77.5% in 2019 and 77.1% in 2020
- RTO decreased from 32.6% to 29.5%
- Transfer Out decreased from 28.6% in 2019 to 26.7% in 2020

For cats, 72.3% (65.8% for kitten and 78.1% for adult) with live outcomes were altered in the first 9 months of the year. The rate dropped slightly from 2019, which was 73.5% (68% for kitten and 77.6% for adult). Looking at the data by the core outcome types:
- Adoptions decreased from 82.2% in 2019 to 81.8% in 2020
- RTO decreased from 48.1% to 45%
- Transfer Out increased from 35.8% in 2019 to 36.3% in 2020

The chart below shows the trending for this year. As you can see, kitten has a seasonal effect but generally dog, cat, and puppy have remained consistent. Also, what this data tells us that the crisis to date, has not showed a significant impact on the altered state of animals entering shelters.

It will be important to keep an eye on populations to see if the pattern continues or if the impact is simply yet to be seen. It is important to note that this data is specifically for sheltered animals. Many organizations run public clinics – these were likely that impacted by closures - that information is not represented in that dataset.

Many folks would have expected the live outcome percent to be significantly greater but we can see that while the adoption rate is relatively good, most RTOs and Transfers are unaltered animals. What I found surprising was the fact that the percent altered was higher for cats versus dogs. I'm curious to why this is the case, I would love to hear from others on their analysis of the data.

Next year, our plan will be to add this data to our monthly reports so that as an industry we can continue to track our progress.